Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Holidays
Holiday eating strategies
Food, food, everywhere you turn there’s more food!
“To avoid over-indulging, you’ll need some proven tips to reduce the potential for the average holiday-season weight gain of five pounds,” says Susan Mills-Gray, nutrition and health specialist with University of Missouri Extension.
“For years, people have been told to drink lots of water before going to a holiday event, but honestly, that just doesn’t work for most of us,” she adds.
These updated tips can bring success as you face the holiday feasts in the weeks to come.
- Be realistic — don’t focus on losing weight during the
holidays. Focus on maintaining your current weight. You
can get back on track with weight loss when the diet danger
zones of November and December have passed. Also, don’t let
yourself justify binge eating during the holidays because you
expect to restrict food after January 1. Plan in advance to
eat a little more when you face holiday temptations. This way
you can enjoy treats more often, and you’ll be less likely to
- Don’t go to a holiday event hungry. It is not a good
idea to starve yourself all day so that you can indulge at one
meal. We just eat more and faster when we’re hungry. You need
to eat healthy throughout the day to keep glucose levels stable
and to boost metabolism; this will work to reduce hunger for
an evening event. Choose a high-protein snack before an event
such as an apple with peanut butter, yogurt, unsalted almonds
or walnuts, hardboiled egg or nonfat mozzarella cheese.
- Watch your portions. Treat yourself to a nice drink,
sweets or creamy dips without guilt, but keep portion sizes
under control. This is a great way to sample different foods.
Commit to the mantra “small plate, no piling.”
- Survey party buffets before filling plate. Decide
what you’re going to eat in advance, and make only one trip
to the buffet. Make a small plate that is ½ vegetables, ¼ lean
meat and ¼ starches.
- Avoid recreational eating. It takes about 30 minutes
for the message that it’s full to get from the stomach to the
brain. During this time you can pile on the calories from “social
eating” — food is there, and everyone else is eating. Enjoy
your choices and then wait at least 30 minutes before deciding
if you would like a bit more.
- Make sure whatever you’re offered is splurge-worthy.
We all have some favorites that we look forward to during this
time of year. Why waste calories on foods you can have anytime
(chips, salted mixed nuts, dip, etc)? Try rating food options
on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 is best) and have a bit more of the
foods that are truly special and unique to the season.
- Make a conscious choice to limit high-fat items.
If it’s creamy, fried or cheese-filled, it’s going to be loaded
with calories. Commit to tasting portions. Low-fat, high-fiber
foods allow you to eat a larger amount for fewer calories and
not feel deprived.
- Use strong, intense mints or gum. These
dull the taste buds and also trigger satiety messages to the
brain. So use one when you arrive and use it again when you
find yourself wanting to nibble.
- Choose alcoholic beverages wisely. Alcohol is high
in calories — liquors, sweet wines and sweet mixed drinks may
contain up to 450 calories per six ounces! Calories from alcohol
tend to be stored in the abdomen. Also, alcohol can lessen inhibitions
and induce overeating. If you choose to drink, select light
wines and beers, and use non-alcoholic mixers such as water
and diet soda. Ask for your drink in a tall, slender glass —
you actually receive less while giving the illusion of more!
- Go easy on eggnog and punch. Many holiday beverages
are packed with calories. Choose calorie-free water or diet
sodas to help fill your stomach and keep you hydrated.
- Maintain perspective. Overeating one day won’t make or break your eating plan. It certainly won’t make you gain weight. It takes days and days of overeating to gain weight. If you do overindulge, don’t just give up. Plan to get back on track the next day. There are going to be a few bumps on the road to healthier eating and we have to acknowledge this to avoid guilt and despair.
For more information, contact your local University of Missouri Extension Center or contact Susan Mills-Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last update: Wednesday, December 11, 2013