The holiday season can be a challenging time to make healthy food choices. With all the office parties, family celebrations, and abundance of cake, cookies, and pies, it is easy to see why the typical American gains weight between Thanksgiving and the New Year.
With food as the center piece for most holiday celebrations and social events, it is very hard to avoid, but with a little preparation and planning, you can still enjoy spreading the holiday cheer without spreading your waistline.
Don’t go to a party hungry.
The hungrier you are, the faster you will eat. It is important to eat your typical breakfast, lunch, and snacks on the day of the party to avoid being famished when you arrive and therefore overeat.
Substitute traditional foods with healthy alternatives.
Most of the traditional holiday meals can be prepared in a healthier manner. For example, try our Low Carb Pumpkin Casserole (link to recipe) as an alternative to pumpkin pie.
Watch out for holiday spirits.
Alcoholic beverages can contain from 150 to 450 calories a glass. Limit your drinks to 1-2 glasses. The lower calorie, lower carb choices are dry wine, Bloody Mary’s, or spirits with diet mixers. Alcohol has 7 calories per gram (fat has 9 and protein has 4) and then is stored in the body as extra belly fat. Individuals who are overweight can gain weight more quickly when consuming alcohol.
Up Your Exercise.
Yes, you can bond with family over bread and wine, but you can also bond through a brisk walk or bike ride. Try to plan some holiday events around fitness such as entering the family into a 5K Holiday Fun Run, or walk together, or enroll in a fitness class together.
Know what parties are you going to attend, what food you will be tempted by, what personal stressful triggers may drive you to eat, and make a plan on how you will deal with those situations. It is much easier to deal with difficult social eating situations if you already have a plan.
Practice conscious eating.
Most people tend to eat beyond their body’s physical hunger at holiday events simply because the food is there, it is good, and everyone else is doing it! To avoid over-eating, make one plate of food of the items you really want to eat. Sit down, and eat slowly. Chew and saver each bite. Set your fork down between bites and take your time. When you are finished eating, pop in a mint or a piece of gum to keep your mouth occupied and prevent having seconds.
Bring your own healthy dish to the party.
If you are not sure what you can eat when you get there, bring the food with you. Offering to bring a dish puts you in control. At least you know there is one healthy item on hand.