Photo Credit: Peter Kaminski with creative commons license
The holidays are all about celebrations; family and friends getting together to eat, drink, and be merry. While all this social interaction is wonderful, tantalizing arrays of holiday foods can derail the diet of even the most disciplined.
To fight the temptation and keep your healthy diet goals, you need a plan…one that includes a little indulgence without blowing your diet – and your cholesterol levels – out of the water. Here are ten solid strategies for healthy holiday eating.
1. Don’t skip meals. Most of us tend to eat lightly on a day when we’re anticipating a big meal later. That’s a great way to ensure a binge. To avoid overindulgence, eat normal meals with plenty of filling fiber. Before the party, have a heart-healthy salad or some veggies with light dip. Food will be less important if you don’t go in hungry.
2. Wear form-fitting clothes. Instead of choosing stretchy or loose clothes that will expand when you do, choose an outfit that’s tight and body-hugging. You’ll be more conscious of what you’re eating if you’re trying to stand up straight and suck in your stomach.
3. Drink plenty of calorie-free non-alcoholic beverages. A glass of sparkling water in your dominant hand offers two advantages: It will save you from embarrassing drunken hijinks holiday parties are famous for, and makes it more difficult to balance a plate and eat.
4. Have a social mission. If you’re attending a work party, your mission might be to meet and greet people to add to your network, something that’s difficult to do if you’re hovering over the buffet gorging on pecan tarts. If it’s a family party, make it your mission to get to know the young relatives or pay extra attention to older relatives. Ask about family history. They’ll love the attention and you might learn some fascinating things.
5. Get physical. If there are games or dancing, join in. If the party is huge, in a large venue, keep moving. Take a walk around the grounds and introduce yourself to new people.
6. Avoid sloppy food. One of the worst offenders in the diet war is sauce. Gravy, barbecue sauce, dressings, caramel sauce, syrup…they all add lots of extra calories with little or no nutritional value. Don’t add extra. If you can’t resist sweet and sour meatballs, go for it, but let the excess sauce drip off and don’t slop on extra.
7. Get your rest. In 2011, Columbia University did a study about the connection between sleep and diet. They found that men who get significantly less than 7 hours of sleep eat an average of 263 more calories than men who get a good night’s sleep, and women ate an additional 329 calories more. What’s more, they found that the extra calories consumed by sleep-deprived people came from poor eating choices, like fast food and ice cream. The holidays can be pretty hectic, but finding time for a good night’s sleep could save you from consuming an unnecessary meal and keep you on track for healthy holiday eating.
8. Start wisely. Chances are, you’ll consume the most food first. Make sure you fill that first plate with healthy choices. Filling up on low-cal crudités, salads, or seafood dishes is a great way to avoid going crazy on sweets and baked goods. Skip ordinary stuff (do you really need a dinner roll? Croutons?) and save the empty carbs for the good stuff.
9. Limit your choices. At the buffet, pick just a few things. Many of us clean our plates as a matter of childhood training (children in Africa are starving, so you have to clean your plate!). If you know your habit is to eat everything on your plate every time, pick just a couple of items and don’t pile on. You can go back and get more, but you may find something more interesting to do and save yourself from excess.
10. Nibble. Take small bites and chew slowly. Take a sip of your drink between bites. Eating more slowly allows you to savor your food and makes you feel full before you’re overstuffed.
When it’s all over, don’t forget cholesterol testing. Holiday food is notoriously unhealthy, full of delicious fat, sugar, and empty calories. After the lights come down and the champagne corks are retrieved from the chandelier, make sure you haven’t accidentally skyrocketed your cholesterol levels with a simple blood test. If your cholesterol has gone up, no need to worry. You can get it back under control with a good diet and plenty of exercise, things that are probably on your New Year’s resolution list anyway.