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Holiday Eating

Posted: December 6, 2011

Holiday time is here again. And so are the joys and challenges of healthy holiday eating. When I attend a holiday gathering, I often find myself standing right beside the food table to be close to the goodies. I end up eating more than I need and thus am uncomfortable later in the evening.

A lot of social time during the holidays is spent around the table eating as we visit with family and friends. The holidays are cluttered with opportunities to overeat.  There are big family dinners, office parties, neighborhood open houses and even taste-testing the products of your own culinary efforts.

Most people say that their good intentions of eating healthily around the holidays are compromised by three particular things:  parties, with appetizers and drinks; sweets, all of the delicious cookies, candies, pies and cakes; and big family dinners, where they stuff themselves. It is possible to make holiday dining healthier just by trying some of the following holiday eating strategies.

First, plan ahead.  Think about the parties and events you will be attending.  Put them on your calendar as a reminder of those days you will be eating heavier.  On these days, eat lightly at other meals to balance the calories and fat in your party food.  Next, eat before you go rather than going to the party hungry.  Have a low-calorie snack such as a bowl of cereal, low fat crackers, string cheese, low-fat yogurt, a piece of fruit, half a sandwich or even large glass of milk.  This snack will curb your appetite and hopefully keep you from overeating.  Drinking a full glass of water also can take the edge off of your appetite. Next, be choosy.  Choose foods you truly love rather than wasting precious calories on something you really don’t enjoy.  Skip the food you can have anytime and concentrate on seasonal favorites.  If you really crave something sweet or high in fat, have it.  Satisfy your craving in moderation, and don’t hate yourself afterward.  Next, watch your portion sizes.  You can sample about everything if you keep the serving size small.  Keep the number of appetizers you eat to a minimum by limiting your choices to a particular kind or a certain amount. Go easy on second helpings.  If you do want more, ask for more vegetables, grain dishes or bread. 

Slow down. Be the last to start and the last to finish.  Enjoy the conversation and always leave something on your plate.  Try dividing the evening into one-hour increments, only eating a certain amount during each one-hour period. Be assertive. If you don’t want something, graciously decline.  “I couldn’t eat another bite” is a polite response.  Proximity to food can also make a difference.  Socialize away from the bar or buffet table. You may think twice about crossing the room for a second plateful.  Keep things in perspective.  If you happen to eat more than you intended, keep a positive attitude.  Tomorrow is another day. Get active. Make sure that moderate exercise is a regular part of your holiday schedule.  It can help you burn off extra calories, tone your muscles, and work off some holiday stresses and strains. 

As you, your friends and family celebrate the upcoming holidays, eat, drink and be merry with healthy holiday eating habits.  Happy Holidays!!

Written by Nancy Routch, RD, LDN