By Linda Means, Clinical Nutrition Manager, BHMC-Little Rock
While you are celebrating the holidays this season, your body could be quietly sending you a message. The period between Thanksgiving and Christmas can be a disaster for your best intentions to eat healthy.
The best way to prevent post-holiday remorse is to develop strategies ahead of time. This doesn’t mean to deprive yourself or your family of holiday favorites –– it just means you have to be aware of how much and how frequently you indulge.
For many dieters, the holidays are a time for simply giving up. Many people just resign themselves to packing on extra pounds, hoping to lose it again in the new year.
The key to eating right even in the holiday season is taking control. Regardless of your menu, practicing portion control is key to weight/health control.
A “serving” is the amount of food recommended by nutrition experts. “Portion” is the amount of a food you choose to eat at any one time — typically more than recommended during the holiday season.
The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics offers these tips to help visualize proper serving and portion sizes:
- 3 oz. meat = size of a deck of cards
- 1 teaspoon butter = size of one dice
- 1 cup of pasta = size of a baseball
- 1 oz. cheese = size of four stacked dice
- ½ cup fruit = size of a tennis ball
At holiday feasts, it’s OK to serve traditional fare and even desserts — but try to shift the spotlight to fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts.
- Serve salad as a first course including tri-colored veggies and healthy oils as dressing.
- Make vegetable side dishes the co-star of the main course. Roasting veggies brings out the natural sweetness while retaining more nutrients than boiling. (These items add vitamin A, potassium, dietary fiber. and vitamin C.)
- Baked potatoes or sweet potatoes bring plenty of nutrition. Adding butter, salt, and sugar after cooking allows you to monitor added calories as opposed to the traditional casseroles.
- The main course usually includes turkey, which can be a healthy choice. Skinless turkey provides more protein (23-26 grams per 3 ounces) than other meats. Turkey is also a good source of iron, zinc, potassium, phosphorus, and B vitamins. It also has less than 1.5 grams saturated fat per 3 ounces. Try to skip the fried turkey and those injected with “solutions,” which are basically salt.
- What you drink with your holiday meals also counts. It is estimated that Americans consume 22 percent of their daily calories in liquid form. Calories from beverages don’t fill you up like solid food, so a drink with calories will leave plenty of room for a big meal. A glass of wine contains about 120 calories, so several glasses can add up fast. Try some sparkling or flavored water with a spritz of wine to slash the calories.
- Stick with your normal meal schedule on party day. Before you go, eat a healthy, high-fiber meal or snack such as raw vegetables, nuts, or fruit to take the edge off your appetite.
- Stand at least arm’s length away from the buffet table and bowls of snacks. Multiple research studies have shown that proximity to food determines the tendency to over consume.
Jennifer Sacheck, an associate professor at the Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, offers these tips for keeping active during the holidays:
- Don’t blame it on the weather.
- Plan an activity with family such as yoga, weight lifting, or a trip to the gym.
- Keep your regular exercise plan to look and feel good about yourself.
- Park further away than usual. Mall walking is also a good idea.
- Put fitness gifts on your wish list.
- Consider adding cooking supplies like non-stick pans, salad spinner, blender, or food sealer to your gift list.
Maintaining control of your food and fitness during the holiday season will allow you to begin 2017 without the post-holiday guilt weighing you down.
Make this the year your new year’s resolution is something other than “losing my holiday weight gain.”