For those of us who have been trying to eat healthy or trim off some excess weight, the holiday season is a precarious time of year. After making it a point to eat nutritious and healthful foods for the last several months, the looming specter of office parties, traditional holiday meals, and a never-ending supply of treats can spell doom for even the most dedicated dieter.
But don’t be discouraged; before you throw in the towel and surrender your diet to the temptation of Grandma’s shortbread cookies, loads of roast beef and turkey, and the holiday donuts your cubicle mate insists on bringing to work, keep the following pointers in mind.
With a little bit of willpower and some planning, you can enjoy the season without packing on unwanted pounds.
1. Look for the healthiest alternatives
Whenever you are doing the cooking or baking, choose healthy and low-cal alternatives; use dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate, eliminate some of the sugar from recipes, and use full-flavored seasonings rather than butter or oil. Substitute low-fat broth for butter and cream in mashed potatoes, or go for baked potatoes instead.
When you eat out, allow yourself to indulge in small amounts of your favorite holiday treats, but don’t fill up on them. Snack on fresh fruits and raw vegetables with low-fat dressing, or grab a handful of nuts. Substitute cranberry sauce, mustard, or fresh salsa for gravy, and avoid dishes prepared with cream sauces or cheese.
2. Use a smaller plate
This might sound overly simple, but it actually works. If you choose a salad or dessert plate, rather than a dinner plate, you can fill it up with smaller portions. Your eyes will see a full plate and trick your stomach into thinking you have more food than you really do, so you do not feel like you are depriving yourself.
3. Drink plenty of water
Drinking a full glass of water before a meal helps you to feel full and prevents overeating. Enjoy water while you eat, as well – soft drinks add a significant number of calories to your meal without providing any healthy nutrients.
4. Don’t skip meals
Instead of fasting all day before the big party, eat sensible, healthy meals. When you get to the party, you will be less tempted to gorge yourself on unhealthy foods. Fill up with fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and avoid items with a high percentage of animal fat.
5. Stand clear of the buffet
While attending holiday parties, select a snack or two, then engage in a conversation with people who are not standing right next to the buffet table. Your attention will be focused on the conversation, and you will not be in a position to continue noshing while you socialize.
6. Wait five minutes before reaching for seconds
No matter how good your mom’s meatballs taste, stop eating after the first helping. Wait at least five minutes before you grab the serving bowl again, even if you still feel hungry; it takes several minutes for your stomach to send the message to your brain that it is full. Spend the time catching up with friends and loved ones at the table.
7. Go easy on the alcohol
Holiday parties give us lots of chances to imbibe, and there is more than one reason to take it slow. Besides causing that post-party hangover, too much booze can wreak havoc on your waistline. When you do take a nip or two, stick to red wine, light beers, or cocktails without lots of added sugar or cream. Skip on the eggnog, and don’t have more than two drinks per day.
8. Brush your teeth
You heard right. As strange as it may sound, brushing right after a meal can put an immediate end to any desire to snack on leftovers. Before you head to the kitchen for cleanup, or sit down for an after-dinner drink and accompanying munchies, make a pit-stop to the bathroom and brush up.
9. Stick to your regular exercise routine
Exercise keeps your metabolism running smoothly and helps you cope if you do overindulge just a bit. Grab a friend or the dog and get outside for a brisk walk after lunch. Stay on track during the holidaysto not struggle once the holiday season is over.
10. Take some time to de-stress.
The stress of trying to get everything done to make the holiday season special can take a toll on your diet and lead to overeating. Take some time every day to engage in a relaxing activity, away from the rush and noise. You will enjoy the festivities more and feel less compelled to hit the cookie jar.
These 10 tips should keep you lean and happy throughout the holidays and come new year’s, even more happy that you stuck to your program.