By: Alison Licquia MS, RDN, CD
The temperature is quickly falling and the smell of pumpkin spice is in the air. ‘Tis the season for family, festivities and food, lots and lots of food. Temptation is everywhere, just waiting to throw a wrench in our daily routines. So how can we be successful in sticking with our diet plans or healthy lifestyles this holiday season? Allow me to provide some guidance. Here are 5 healthy eating tips to help you survive the holidays:
1. Holiday-Proof Your Plan
You may not be able to control what food you’re served, and it’s almost inevitable that you’ll see other people eating a lot of tempting treats. That’s ok. Make sure you have a plan:
• Eat close to your usual times to keep your blood sugar steady. If your meal is served later than normal, eat a small snack at your usual mealtime and eat a little less when dinner is served.
• Have those holiday party invites started filling your mailbox? Offer to bring a healthy dish along.
• If the desserts look divine and you just can’t resist, cut back on other carbs (like potatoes and bread) during the meal.
• Don’t skip meals to save up for a feast. You’ll find yourself really hungry and more likely to overeat.
• If you slip up, DON’T WORRY! Get right back to healthy eating with your next meal.
2. Outsmart the Buffet
The options will be delicious and plenty! Be strong and making healthier choices will be easier:
• Have a small plate of the foods you like best and then move away from the buffet table.
• Start with vegetables to take the edge off your appetite.
• Eat slowly. Did you know it takes at least 20 minutes for your brain to realize you’re full?
• Avoid or limit alcohol. If you do have an alcoholic drink, have it with food.
3. Fit in Favorites
No food is on the naughty list. Choose the dishes you really love and can’t get any other time of year, like Aunt Dorothy’s famous apple pie. Slow down and savor a small serving.
4. Keep Moving
With so much noise and commotion that surround the holidays, physical activity can get drowned out easily. But being active is your secret holiday weapon; it can help make up for eating more than usual and reduce stress during this most stressful time of year. Get moving with friends and family, like a game of flag football before the feast or a leisurely walk afterward.
5. Get your Zzz’s
Many times, the holidays mean spending time with friends and family that you haven’t seen in a while. That usually means staying up past your normal bedtime. Sleep loss can make it harder to control your blood sugar, and sleep deprivation tends to lead to eating more and preferring high-fat, high-sugar food. Aim for 7 to 8 hours per night to guard against mindless eating.
But most of all, remember what the season is about – celebrating and connecting with the people you care about. When you focus more on the fun, it’s easier to focus less on the food.