As the holiday season rolls in, food takes center stage at family and friend gatherings. People salivate over the Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas cookies, but dread the New Years resolutions. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Mindy Probst, the outpatient dietitian at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center, says it is possible to enjoy the holiday meals and treats without piling on the pounds.
“Make sure the holiday is one day,” Probst said. “If you overeat one day, that’s not going to set you back. But if you overeat for three weeks after the holiday, that might set you back.”
Following these 10 tips will help you from ruining your goals this holiday season.
1. Keep a realistic perspective on the day.
“Weight loss is probably not a very realistic goal during the holidays,” Probst said. “Weight maintenance is a more realistic goal.”
2. Don’t skip breakfast.
“A lot of times people will try to save up their calorie allowance by skipping meals earlier in the day so they can have more later on,” Probst said. “A lot of times that backfires because once you finally get to the meal you’re so ravenous that you have a harder time controlling your appetite and eating at a slower pace so you can know when you’re satisfied.”
Probst suggests eating foods you won’t get at your Thanksgiving feast for breakfast such as fruits, vegetables, fats and dairy.
3. Control your nibbling.
“A taste here and a nibble there can really add up,” Probst said. She recommends snacking on vegetables or chewing gum to avoid mindlessly putting food in your mouth.
4. Find healthier recipes.
You can still have the dishes you love, but try substituting healthier options. Apple cider vinegar can replace brown sugar and low-fat soups can replace the creamy soups in the green bean casserole. Both eatingwell.com and cookinglight.com have healthy alternative recipes for Thanksgiving dishes.
5. Assess your options before filling your plate.
“There’s usually lots of options,” Probst said. “Rather than starting at one end before you know what’s at the other end, take some time to look over the whole table. Decide what you want a little taste of and what you wouldn’t feel bad passing over and what you would like a full portion of.”
“Rather than starting at one end before you know what’s at the other end, take some time to look over the whole table. Decide what you want a little taste of and what you wouldn’t feel bad passing over and what you would like a full portion of.” —Mindy Probst, outpatient dietitian at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center
6. Portion size and seconds.
Don’t go for seconds.
“Usually if you go back for one thing, you see something else you want and before you know it you might end up with another full plate,” Probst warns.
Instead of returning for seconds when you finish your plate, wait 15 minutes to allow your food to settle and recognize if you are full. Also, use the plate method to help you fill up on less. Fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables, a quarter with grains and a quarter with protein.
7. Eat slowly and savor every bite.
“If you eat more slowly and really savor every bite to taste it, you’re more likely to feel satisfied on a smaller amount of food,” Probst said. “A lot of times those are the things that will eliminate your desire to go get seconds because you’ll feel satisfied on what you’ve taken the first time.”
8. Track your food intake.
“If there is something you’ve been doing as part of your diet, continue tracking everything that you eat,” Probst suggests. “Even though you are likely to go over your goals for the day you are still holding yourself accountable and being aware of what you are eating.”
Don’t beat yourself up if you exceed your calorie count. Holding yourself accountable for the food you eat will help you eat less even if you are exceeding your goal, Probst says.
9. Stay active during the holidays.
With parties and holiday preparation, exercise is usually the first item taken off of our busy schedules. Probst says don’t let that happen. “If you make sure you continue to make time for it, you’re maintaining that healthy habit and not throwing yourself off track for your healthy routine.
10. Be aware of your mindset.
“If you are going to a party and the only thing you are excited about is the food, that’s going to be your main focus for the whole party and you’re probably going to make multiple trips to the food table,” Probst said. “But if you are looking forward to the social interaction and the people you are going to see and the conversations you are going to have, it’s easier to have your food at the beginning and go have the social aspect of the party.”