I’m coming into the holidays at a disadvantage.
I’m usually active, out and about in the warm months and relatively paunch-free entering the holidays.
This year? Not so much. I’ve already acquired my late-winter pounds and the holiday food and beverage season is just now entering full swing. I don’t want to have to buy a batch of bigger pants post-holidays, but I do love a few pieces of bourbon cake this time of year, and maybe a glass or two of mulled wine.
What to do?
I need a game plan to get me through the Christmas feast and the seasonal treats, and I bet you do, too. So, I’ve sought out some expert help, in the form of Valerie Rakes, outpatient dietitian at Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital, and Nick Fischetti, a nutritionist with the Virginia Commonwealth University Health System. Here are some of their tips to help you stay on top of your diet game this holiday season.
Do you have an office party on the schedule, or a neighborhood or church get-together? Help yourself avoid temptation and over-indulging on the nibbles with a pre-event snack, a little something that will make you feel full, says Fischetti.
Eat something about 90 minutes beforehand, so you’ll feel full. Rakes recommends a high-protein snack, which will keep you feeling full for longer than a high-carb snack does. She suggests a snack along the lines of a handful of nuts and a piece of fruit or raw veggies and hummus.
Once you arrive at the party or gathering, scout out the fare. Don’t just nibble as you go; use a plate. It’s easy to eat way more than you intend if you’re mindlessly munching, according to Rakes.
Look for the healthy stuff and put that on your plate first, so it’s harder to load up on the goodies. Portion sizes are key, so pick the smaller plate, and the smallest cup available for your drink, Fischetti says. Use a salad plate instead of a dinner plate.
Fruits and veggies should account for about two-thirds of the food on your plate. The fiber will fill you up. Try to keep the high fat dips to a minimum, says Rakes.
Adult beverages are diet busters, packing about 7 calories per gram. That's about 100 calories in 12 ounces of light beer, 140 calories in a regular beer, and about 100 calories in a glass of wine (5 ounces) or a shot of vodka (1 1/2 ounces). Try to lighten the caloric load by going with low or no calorie mixers, such as club soda or a diet drink instead of going for the margarita or daiquiri. If you’re out for a long evening or for New Year’s Eve, try to alternate each adult beverage with a non-alcoholic potable.
Slow and steady should be your watchwords for the evening. It takes your brain about 20 minutes to get the message from the stomach that it’s full, so have a seat and savor each bite to give your brain time to catch up with your body before heading back for seconds.
At the dessert table, indulge, but keep the portion size sensible. Split that pecan pie with a friend or family member.
If basketball or a bowl game is on the agenda for the evening, try to avoid mindless grazing. You eat more when distracted, so just say no to the snack bowl on the table in front of the couch. Put the food in another room so you have to get up and away from the tube to eat.
Throughout the holidays, and the year, for that matter, don’t skip meals. You may think you’re cutting calories, but Rakes says you’re just setting yourself up to become overly hungry and you're likely to over-eat later to compensate.
Try to work in a workout, or at least a good walk to work off any over-indulgence.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but you don’t want to eliminate fats from your diet. Rakes says that moderate amounts of fat (35 to 65 grams or so) will help you feel full and keep you from over-indulging in carbs.
Finally, enjoy yourself. Eat dishes that you like, have a drink or two, just do so in moderation. It’s not punishment; it’s just being sensible. Be realistic: Don’t try to lose weight over the holidays, just do what you can to maintain where you are.
Enjoy your favorite foods for the holidays; just don’t go overboard with the chocolate syrup and soda.