By Jeanne Baxter, RD, CD, Clinical Dietitian, Columbia St. Mary’s
The holidays are a wonderful time of the year, filled with friends and family and celebrations of all kinds. But they can also wreak havoc on a carefully thought out diet plan. No one should be expected to refrain completely from the holiday indulgences, but with a few simple tips, you can keep those extra pounds off while enjoying your holiday season to its fullest.
Many people think that by skipping a meal before a big holiday party or dinner, they’re giving themselves extra leeway to indulge. In reality, skipping that meal will only increase the temptation to overeat. It’s best to maintain your normal eating schedule, and maybe even add a light snack of raw vegetables or a piece of fruit a couple hours before – this will help prevent your appetite from running wild.
Another tip is to stop eating when you’re satisfied. The best way to accomplish this is to focus on portion size. Using a smaller plate, choose only the foods you really want. Chew slowly and savor the flavor – you’ll eat less and enjoy the food more. This is called “mindful eating.” Often we take seconds because something tastes good, not because we are still hungry. Another mindful eating approach is “Think First, Taste Next.” The idea is first think, “Do I really like this?” Then take a taste and ask yourself, “Is it as good as I thought?” If not, don’t eat more.
As always, be wary of beverages. Everyone knows alcohol can increase your appetite and diminish your self-control. But non-alcoholic beverages often have a lot of sugar and calories, as well. Go ahead and enjoy a cup or two of egg nog or hot apple cider, but then switch to water or other calorie-free drinks.
At the same time, nobody is perfect. If you do overeat at one meal, don’t get too down on yourself. Just return to healthy eating at the next meal. One meal, no matter how large or indulgent, won’t completely derail any nutrition plan.
It’s also possible to make your favorite holiday dishes with low-fat and low-calorie alternatives while still retaining all those warm, familiar flavors. You can use a gravy separator (or just a refrigerator and a spoon) to remove a great deal of the fat from meat juices. For dressing, substituting some of the bread with additional onions, celery, dried cranberries or apples will cut back on the calories while adding some vitamins and nutrients. Simply removing the skin from your turkey will save about 11 grams of saturated fat. Instead of whole milk and butter for your mashed potatoes, try skim milk or chicken stock and olive oil.
It’s the holiday season and everyone likes to enjoy some different and likely higher calorie foods. There’s nothing wrong with that. Just try and focus on controlling how much of those foods you choose to eat. Be moderate in your choices and consider setting a goal of simply maintaining your weight through the holidays. Trying to lose weight at this time of the year can increase your stress level, and that is not good for your health either. Also, stay committed to your exercise routine. This will raise energy levels and help maintain a healthy weight.
Jeanne Baxter is a clinical dietitian at Columbia St. Mary’s. For more information, please call 414-585-1363.
This article appeared in the Thursday, December 10, issue of The Ozaukee News Graphic.