Thanksgiving is upon us! Typically thought of as the day of “football and the fatty feast”, it’s also that time of year – you know the stretch from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day featuring endless buffets and tempting carb-laden goodies. There’s no reason you can’t “have your pie and be healthy too!” But, a few important tips may be the key to help you make it through this blissful time of year.
Holiday weight gain (and frankly indigestion) tends to be related more to “how” we eat rather than “what” we eat. Yes, eating a bunch of highly palatable food doesn’t help with weight management, but throw in alcohol, dieting, busyness and stress and you have a perfect recipe for over-eating. (Read more about this) So, how can you make sure you are able to successfully enjoy your holiday parties, time with family and friends and manage your weight at the same time?
1. Set yourself up for success. Eating less all day to “save up” for the Thanksgiving feast or holiday party is not helpful. Skipping meals/snacks usually affects productivity, causes poor concentration, more difficulty with problem solving, and increased fatigue. It can also lead to overeating at the next meal or snack, such as at the holiday party or gathering. Take time to enjoy a bowl of soup, yogurt, or veggies and hummus at your regular meal or snack and come to the meal hungry but not ravenous!
2. Take a plate and practice portion control. Many individuals often graze or “pick” at the foods when cooking in the kitchen or standing by the buffet or appetizer table. By the end of the event (or before the meal even begins), you’re stuffed and wonder why. Sit down and have a snack if you’re hungry when cooking. Learn to indulge intelligently at the buffet by first scanning the table to figure out which foods will be most satisfying for you. Make a plate balanced with some protein, veggies and fruit and whole grains. For example, make 1/4 your plate protein (i.e. turkey); 1/2 your plate fruit and vegetables (i.e. green beans and cranberry salad); and 1/4 your plate whole grain carbohydrates, (i.e. stuffing). I know, I know, I know…what about the hot dinner rolls or mashed potatoes and gravy? My recommendation is to enjoy your favorite foods while eating mindfully. When you portion your plate with moderate amounts of food, eat slowly, savor every bite, and then stop when you are comfortably full, you will feel better! Remind yourself that you can have a serving of the sweet potato casserole at the next meal or enjoy the piece of pie at your next snack.
3. Location, Location, Location. When you realize you are not hungry, step away from the food. Try to sit or stand away from the food table and near supportive people to decrease the urge to mindlessly eat. Take time to enjoy the folks you are celebrating the season with – participate in conversation, listen to stories, learn something new about a friend or relative. Most important, try to relax and have fun.
4. Drink water. This is often the most common mistake people make. On average, women and men need 2.7 and 3.4 liters of water per day, respectively. This does not include additional fluid needs for activity. Also, with the hustle and bustle on the day of a party may lead to decrease fluid intake. Thirst is often mistaken for hunger and can lead to overeating. Try to drink small amounts of water frequently throughout the day – and at your holiday party – with added limes, lemons, or cucumbers for extra flavor. An added benefit for some can be decreased headaches by avoiding dehydration.
5. Move your body! Take time to include moderate, enjoyable movement in your day. Ideally 30 to 60 minutes of some cardio and strength training activity is recommended daily. If you already have an exercise routine, try and stay with it. You may also want to include less frenzied activity such as a yoga class or a peaceful leisure walk under the stars. To include the family (and unplug), consider walking together after a holiday meal; ice skating at a local park; going to a good museum or the zoo instead of sitting around.
Remember: Don’t over-think healthy eating. Keep food in it’s place and you will do great!