Healthy Holiday eating tips from SRMC

SALEM -The holiday season can be a challenge for anyone trying to eat responsibly. With a little forethought and planning, however, you can still enjoy your favorite foods of the season.

Food is generally the center of many social gatherings especially around the holidays. There are usually special dishes or meals prepared that we look forward to all year that symbolize holiday traditions and memories. Even though the “holiday” is one day, we tend to celebrate the entire “holiday season” from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, which means lots of parties, sweets, and over-indulging in those special dishes. It is possible to eat healthy during this time of year while still enjoying holiday treats.

Holiday Eating Tips

— Don’t Go to a Party Hungry

We often eat faster and more when we are hungry. Arriving at a party on an empty stomach usually leads to poor food choices and overeating. Never “save up” your calories in advance by not eating. Instead try to have a light, nutritious snack before you leave the house, such as fruit and nuts or Greek yogurt. You’ll still be hungry enough to enjoy the holiday foods, but not so hungry that you overdo it.

— Use Recipe Substitutions

The majority of holiday recipes use calorie dense ingredients such as whole milk, butter, heavy cream, etc.

Making swaps for certain ingredients can cut down on the heaviness and calorie content of many classic dishes. For example, use skim milk instead of whole milk, use non-fat yogurt in place of sour cream, or buy no salt added broth in place of regular broth. This can help cut down on many hidden calories.

— Everything in Moderation

It is okay to enjoy both mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes, however only put a small serving of each on your plate. We generally do not pay attention to serving sizes during the holiday season because we are consuming foods we enjoy that we do not get all the time. Having a taste of all the foods ensures we can have all our favorites.

— Balance Your Plate

A good rule of thumb is to use about half your plate for non-starchy vegetables (green beans, asparagus), 1/4 proteins, and the other 1/4 starch (potatoes, corn, stuffing, ect). Then, wait about 10 minutes after eating. If you still crave those high-calories, high-sugar content foods, chances are that you will eat them in smaller amounts. Wasted calories can also play a role in extra food consumption. Only eat the foods you really want. Pass up other items on the menu for that special dish you look forward to all year long. Don’t waste your calories on party munchies like chips or peanuts.

— Slow Down

When people overeat, they tend to do so in binges, such as eating a large amount of food over a short period of time. Slowing down to chew your food will help you eat less. It can also be helpful at parties to not stand in the kitchen or near the snack/dessert table. This will keep you from snacking while you socialize.

It takes about 20 minutes for your body to signal that it’s feeling full.

— Drink Plenty of Water

What you drink during the holidays can add significant calories. Drink water in place of soda or sweetened beverages during the parties. Drinking water throughout the night can also help fill you up. Our bodies cannot tell the difference between thirst and hunger. Remember that many holiday drinks are loaded with high empty-calories:

— Eggnog = 350 calories for 1 cup, before adding alcohol

— Martini = 160 calories for 4 ounces

— Wine = 100 calories for 5 ounces

— Christmas ale = 225 calories per bottle

— Be Realistic

Don’t try to diet during the holidays, just aim to maintain your present weight. The holiday season is the most difficult time of the year to lose weight. Focus on maintaining your weight over the holidays by controlling food portion sizes, making healthier choices and getting regular physical activity.

— Get Moving

Ramping up your exercise regime is a great way to burn off some of those extra calories before the extra pounds can appear. Make a goal to achieve a certain number of exercise sessions or work out minutes during the holidays. If you don’t have access to a gym or equipment, some suggestions could be yoga or body weight exercises in the home.

— Sleep and Stress

The holidays are an especially busy and stressful time of year, with shopping, cooking, and entertaining demands that may result in a lack of sleep. High levels of stress and low amounts of sleep are proven to make a person gain weight because they put strain on your adrenal system, which leads to insulin sensitivity, increased hunger and more rapid aging. If you feel stressed and are sleeping less than seven hours a night, your body is more likely to hold onto its store of fat.

— Get Back on Track

If you do indulge in some holiday overeating, don’t panic. The best thing to do is to get back on schedule as soon as possible. Go to bed and get up at the usual times, eat regular meals, go exercise and try not to overindulge the rest of the week.

The holiday season doesn’t represent just one day of overeating. Food and celebrations go hand in hand, so try to follow your plan throughout the season and avoid those extra holiday pounds.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)