Holiday food can bring on anxiety or joy, depending on your mind set. But sweet treats and heavy meals can be landmines when it comes to your health. Yet no one wants to feel deprived during the holiday season, the most wonderful time of the year.
Fear not. There are reasonable ways to eat your way through the holidays in a healthy fashion. Follow these simple rules to make it through the season:
Rule 1: Eat what you love and leave what you like.
Instead of piling your plate with a little bit of everything, take inventory of what foods you really love and infrequently have available. Focus on these foods, while leaving the rest.
Rule 2: Eat light to heavy.
Start with a glass of water, then a broth based soup or salad, then the lean protein. This way you’re eating foods in their most digestible order. And by the time you reach dessert, a few bites and you will have had enough.
Rule 3: Go to social gatherings to gather, not eat.
You go to social functions to visit with friends and family, so do just that. Consider ‘pre-eating’ foods with protein and vegetables to keep your appetite in check. This way you can socialize with people you may not see as often without a mouthful of food.
Rule 4: Nix the guilt.
Feeling guilty after indulging on foods you usually avoid often leads to other unhealthy food choices. Plan the indulgence and enjoy. Then get back on track with your normal eating routine, immediately.
Rule 5: Alternate your bubbly with sparkling water
On average, most adults consume about 100 calories a day from alcoholic beverages. Alternating between an alcoholic beverage and a zero-calorie sparkler can help you avoid ‘pouring’ on the pounds. Sparkling water is festive while providing hydration to ward off a hangover. It also helps keep you full, therefore you’ll eat less at the party.
Rule 6: Don’t be fooled by the health halo.
Eating too much healthy food can also lead to weight gain. Also be mindful of ‘calorie swapping.’ If you’re dipping veggies or pureeing them into a creamy soup, then you may as well eat the ice cream. In which case, acknowledge it, enjoy it and then move on. Also keep an eye on your portions.
Rule 7: Maintain your exercise schedule.
The holidays bring a lot of preparation, shopping and partying which leaves us short on time. Exercise is often the first thing that falls by the wayside. It is important to keep this as a priority, especially since you may be adding a few more indulgences into your diet than usual.
Rule 8: Drink half your weight in ounces of water.
It is easy to confuse thirst with hunger, leading to mindless snacking that never satisfies. To make sure you are staying hydrated, drink half your body weight in ounces of water. For instance, if you weigh 160 pounds, you would need 80 ounces per day. Add fruit slices or pomegranate seeds to be festive and for flavor.
Ring in the New Year on your best foot by staying focused on healthy eating and exercise during the holiday season.
Ann Caldwell and Maureen Shackelford, nutritionists and registered dietitians at Anne Arundel Medical Center. To reach them call 443-481-5555.
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