‘Tis the season for family, festivity, and food – lots of food. Temptations are everywhere, and parties and travel disrupt daily routines. What’s more, it all goes on for weeks! It’s that time of year that our taste buds love but waistlines and routines hate: the holidays.
The holiday season is all about celebrating, togetherness, and indulging – in moderation. So, pass the eggnog and let’s tackle navigating holiday food spreads, hectic schedules, and sidelined gym routines.
- Eat before drinking and celebrating.
Skipping breakfast or lunch in order to “save your appetite” probably isn’t the best weight-maintenance tactic. While the jury’s still out on how important breakfast truly is, not eating until the afternoon may lead to binging later on (read: four slices of pumpkin pie). Our advice? Stick to a reasonably sized breakfast with plenty of protein, which will keep you fuller longer and temper the urge to over eat later.
- Eat and chew slowly.
Eating slowly may not be easy when appetizer options are endless, but it pays off to pace yourself. The quicker we eat, the less time the body has to register fullness. So slow down and take a second to savor each bite of baked brie or scoop of spiced nuts.
- Serve meals restaurant-style.
When you sit down for the main event, leave food in the kitchen (away from reach) rather than display a basket full of piping hot rolls, multiple casseroles, and an entire turkey directly on the table. When you’ve cleaned your plate, take a breather, and then decide if you really want seconds. Changing up the environment–in this case, by leaving food near the stove–can help reduce overall food intake.
- Use smaller plates.
Plate sizes have expanded significantly over the years. Whenever possible, choose the smaller salad plate (8-10 inches) instead of a tray-like one (12 inches or more). Using smaller plates can make us feel fuller with less food. The brain associates a big white space on the plate with less food (and smaller plates generally require smaller portions).
- Sneak in the veggies.
Munching on vegetables has long been recognized as a way to protect against obesity. Mix puréed veggies (like pumpkin) into baked goods or casseroles or sneak them into pasta or potato dishes. Adding veggies increases fiber, which helps make us fuller.
- Just say no.
Though your relatives may encourage overeating by shoving seconds onto a cleaned plate, it’s OK to respectfully decline. “I’m full” or “I’m taking a break” should be enough for friends and family members to back off (and give you time to decide if you’d really like more).
- Wait before grabbing seconds.
Like we’ve mentioned, the quicker we eat a meal, the less time we give our bodies to register fullness. Since it takes about 20 minutes for the brain to get the message that dinner’s been served, it’s best to go for a walk or chat with friends before dishing up seconds.
8.Take it easy on the white stuff.
Simple carbs are often the white stuff–white bread and refined sugars (like those in soda and candy). These foods provide energy, but often lack the same nutrients as complex carbohydrates (which are found in starchy foods, such as legumes, potatoes, corn, and whole grains). While some simple carbs can be good for us (a.k.a the kind found in fruit and low fat dairy products), in general, the body breaks down simple carbs more quickly than the complex kind, which creates a spike in blood sugar (insulin) that can leave us feeling hungrier, faster. Stick to whole grains (whole-grain bread, brown rice, or quinoa) and stay full on healthy proteins.
- Beware of booze.
Not only does alcohol add unnecessary calories to your diet, but getting boozy has another effect on us, too. Drinking can make us lose our inhibitions around food and start eating irresponsibly. Take it easy with the bubbly before you start saying things like, “Eh, what’s one more cookie?”
- Cave into cravings.
Finally, a suggestion we can all get behind. It’s smart to acknowledge a few cravings instead of pushing them away completely. Caving to a craving–as long as it’s in moderation–can curb the desire to go at it like a kid in a candy store. Forbidding a specific food or food group during the holiday season may only make it more attractive.
- Dream a little.
Still want more of that apple pie after a couple of bites? Try thinking of your favorite holiday activity, like opening presents, watching Christmas movies, or playing in the snow. Research shows that daydreaming about pleasant activities or distracting yourself with just about any activity can reduce the intensity of food cravings.