Because of all the celebrating going on, we tend to feel that we have a license to overindulge packing on the pounds in the process.
Every year we see the same old headlines proclaiming that the average American gains 5 to 7 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, yet few data support this statement. In fact, the New England Journal of Medicine reported that in this particular six-week period we gain only about 1 pound. That doesn’t seem so bad, right?
The truth is, it doesn’t really matter whether it’s 1 pound, 5 pounds or even 7 pounds, because it’s still important to be conscious of what we eat, even during the holidays.
Here’s the logic: If we could avoid unhealthy eating during this six-week period, we wouldn’t have to struggle as much during the rest of the year.
I know I’ve been less focused on my own super-healthy eating over the the last few years, and I actually rebooted my eating program two days ago. Yes, in the middle of the holidays. I figured this would be the best time to start thinking about eating better — it’s my holiday gift to myself. Not just to lose weight, but to feel better each day, because good food insures that I’m not lethargic, tired or cranky. Haven’t you heard? Food does impact your mood.
Here is how you can have a much better holiday season.
Indulge mindfully: Think about what you’re eating you might even enjoy it more. Choose foods that are naturally low in fat and sugar, such as roast turkey and non-starchy vegetables. Be wary of holiday fare, such as ham, duck, stuffing, potato pancakes, cookies, cakes and candy, many (depends on how prepared) can be high in calories and low on nutrients.
Make sure it's splurgeworthy: If it’s not great, pass. Make sure that everything you eat is worth it. Even if you’ve already taken a bite of an unhealthy food, if it’s not great, leave it. I know food waste is a real issue, but you also need to take care of your health and well being.
Everything in moderation: You can still enjoy your traditional high-calorie and high fat/sugar favorites just consider eating smaller portions.
Patience is a virtue: You can eat a huge meal in 10 to 15 minutes, but it takes 15 to 20 minutes for your brain to get the message that you’re full. So slow down and take the time to really enjoy what you’re eating.
Substitute: Replace high calorie, low nutrient foods with lower calorie high nutrient foods (e.g. eat veggies and fruit, instead of breads and cakes). Also go for lean meats and poultry.
Eat and plan ahead: We all like to “save up” by starving ourselves all day before a big meal not a good idea. To avoid binging when you do sit down for that holiday dinner, eat small meals throughout the day so that you’re not starving. Additionally, you should plan ahead. For example, if you know you’re going to want dessert, cut back your meal portions or make sure to have a low-calorie option ready, such as fruit.
Easy on the alcohol: Alcohol decreases inhibitions potentially causing you to eat more plus it’s loaded with calories. If you’re going to drink, try sticking with wine or beer and stay away from exotic fruity cocktails or fancy coffee drinks.
Eat with your mouth shut: Engage in conversation to help keep your eating at a healthy pace. The more you talk the less you’re likely to eat. Remember, your mom always told you not to talk with your mouth full!
Charles Platkin is a nutrition and public health advocate and founder of DietDetective.com.