Uh Oh. We are smack dab in the middle of the Holidays and you know what that brings - sugar-coated desserts, too much food, and rich goodies. Basically enough fat, sugar, salt, and cholesterol to block the arteries of every one of Santa's elves, not to mention the extra calories that can pack on the extra pounds for both you and your kids. While the rumor that we gain 7 pounds during the holidays is way too high, the one pound we do gain tends to stay put throughout the year, according to a study from the National Institutes of Health. Taken over 20 holidays, that could amount to a lot of single pounds adding up. And, that's a problem for both the adults and the kids. Elizabeth Somer, Registered Dietitian and author of Eat Your Way to Happiness shared tips to help you enjoy the festivities without gaining the weight.
1) Decide what occasions and foods are really special to you and plan those into your holiday schedule. Decide to attend only the most valuable parties; you don't have to say "yes" to every invitation. Once you're in the door, sample foods that are special or unique to the holidays and bypass the everyday goodies. You can eat a handful of nuts or a chocolate chip cookie anytime, but a thin slice of pumpkin pie or a special appetizer only comes around once a year.
2) Remember, it's the first bite that counts; after the fifth Christmas cookie or the fourth gulp of egg nog, they all taste the same. So, take a sample, don't pig out, and savor the flavor and the company. If you find yourself overeating at a party, try to disengage and get away from the food. Taking a tour of the house, admiring the decorations, or stepping outside may be all you need to break the overeating cycle.
3) Don't be too nice. It's one thing if you eat the fudge because you genuinely love it, but quite another if you eat the fruit cake because you don't want to hurt someone's feelings. The fruit cake also is a waste of calories, since you probably won't even enjoy it. You need to practice defending your food turf. Before a social event, rehearse how you will handle offers for food you don't want. You can just say 'no' or ask for a doggie bag. In the latter case, you can recycle the food for a gift basket or can take it to tomorrow's office party.
4) Have a plan. A vague intention not to overeat leaves you wide open to every whim and temptation. Instead, decide ahead of time exactly what you will and won't do, then stick with it. For example, faced with the prospect of a cocktail party, plan to taste 5 interesting hors d'oeuvres while munching mostly on the raw vegetables and fresh fruit. Or, eat whatever you want, but serve half your typical portion. That means sitting down with yourself and deciding ahead of time what you will and won't eat. Maybe you'll decide to avoid some items, such as the whipped cream on the pie or the egg nog, while setting a limit on favorite foods. You can have those traditional foods that make the holidays special, like the potato latka or the mincemeat pie at a family get together, just keep the total day around 2000 calories, rather than blowing out at 4000 calories.. You also can establish a trade off system where you decide to have 3 pieces of a co-worker's homemade fudge at the office party this afternoon in exchange for avoiding desserts for the next three days.
5) Side step stumbling blocks. Stand somewhere other than by the buffet table, visit with people who are not eating, and cover your plate with your napkin to signal you're done.
6) Listen to your body and eat when you're hungry, not because the food is there or other people are eating. Eat slowly and stop when you are comfortably full. Eat consciously. You'll save 100s of calories if you don't graze unconsciously, eat while cleaning up the kitchen, or nibble while talking. While fatigue, emotions, expectations, and stress are high during the holidays, eating more than you want or need won't bring you closer to a friend, calmer at a party, or more energetic.
7) Watch out for the alcohol. You definitely need a plan regarding alcohol. Alcohol disinhibits a person so that once you start drinking you are likely to eat more. Even one light beer or one wine spritzer can topple your willpower. Steering clear of alcohol also has some added bonuses. For one thing, you'll save 100s of calories. Switch from light beer or wine to sparkling water and you'll save 100+ calories, grab a diet cola instead of a mug of egg nog and you'll save up to 300 calories, and sip on iced tea instead of hot buttered rum and you've banked up to 400 calories. A frosty pina colada can pack up to 465 calories, that's the calorie load of a double cheeseburger. Teetotalers also may have more fun. Don't drink and you'll be amazed how much you'll learn about your friends and co-workers who are drinking.
8) Do you skip holiday parties because you are afraid you'll overeat? If you don't go to the parties, you're likely to feel isolated and excluded, and those feelings will send you to the refrigerator. In this case, you must give up the dieting mentality and learn to feed herself on demand, when you're hungry, and with the foods that your body craves. One way to learn this is to arrive at a party pleasantly hungry, knowing you're going to eat something, and giving yourself permission to enjoy the food and the company.
9) Keep your eating schedule on track. Many people skip meals in an effort to save calories this time of year. This plan backfires and inevitably increases cravings and lowers resistance later in the day, which can lead to overeating at holiday festivities. Instead, keep yourself on schedule by stocking the kitchen with low-fat munchables and eating a nutritious light breakfast and lunch the day of a social event.
10) It goes without saying: most holiday parties have a selection of low-fat options. Take your time at the buffet table to check out the offerings. Then fill the plate with fresh vegetables, melon slices or other fresh fruit, salads with low-fat dressing, and lean slices of meat. That way you can have small samplings of the higher-fat festive foods, but won't be tempted to overdo it.
Of course, you also need to put this food thing in perspective. The greatest gift at the holidays isn't the buffet table, the fruitcake, or the champagne, it's the conversations, the comraderie, and the laughter enjoyed with friends and family. So when possible, plan parties around holiday activities that nourish your soul and build memories, but that don't call for food, such as carolling, tree trimming get-togethers, skating or sledding, or strolling with friends through the neighborhood to see the decorations.