By-Meena Ganagani,Practicing Clinical Nutritionist,Mumbai.
Healthy holiday eating is a battle on two fronts, with indulgent food options at home and at parties. Even before the first invitation arrives, it is helpful to set some realistic expectations. The holiday season is almost inevitably caloric and indulgent. In order to enjoy what friends, family and office parties have to offer, as well as lower some diet-related stress, focus on maintaining your weight rather than losing weight. There will be temptations in every direction, and with a little planning, you can indulge in your favorite foods while still eating well. (1)
Tips for holiday eating
- Budget wisely. Do not eat everything at feasts and parties. Be choosy and spend calories judiciously on the foods you love.
- Take 10 before taking seconds. It takes a few minutes for your stomach’s “I’m getting full” signal to get to your brain. After finishing your first helping, take a 10-minute break. Make conversation. Drink some water. Then recheck your appetite. You might realize you are full or want only a small portion of seconds.
- Distance helps the heart stay healthy. At a party, don’t stand next to the food table. That makes it harder to mindlessly reach for food as you talk. If you know you are prone to recreational eating, pop a mint or a stick of gum so you won’t keep reaching for the chips.
- Don’t go out with an empty tank. Before setting out for a party, eat something so you don’t arrive famished. Excellent pre-party snacks combine complex carbohydrates with protein and unsaturated fat, like apple slices with peanut butter or a slice of turkey and cheese on whole-wheat pita bread.
- Drink to your health. A glass of eggnog can set you back 500 calories; wine, beer, and mixed drinks range from 150 to 225 calories. If you drink alcohol, have a glass of water or juice-flavored seltzer in between drinks.
- Avoid alcohol on an empty stomach. Alcohol increases your appetite and diminishes your ability to control what you eat.
- Put on your dancing (or walking) shoes. Dancing is a great way to work off some holiday calories. If you are at a family gathering, suggest a walk before the feast or even between dinner and dessert.
- Make room for veggies. At meals and parties, don’t ignore fruits and vegetables. They make great snacks and even better side or main dishes — unless they’re slathered with creamy sauces or butter.
- Be buffet savvy. At a buffet, wander ’round the food table before putting anything on your plate. By checking out all of your options, you might be less inclined to pile on items one after another.
- Cook from (and for) the heart. To show family and friends that you reallycare about them, be creative with recipes that use less butter, cream, lard, vegetable shortening, and other ingredients rich in saturated fats. Prepare turkey or fish instead of red meat.
- Pay attention to what really matters. Although food is an integral part of the holidays, put the focus on family and friends, laughter and cheer. If balance and moderation are your usual guides, it’s okay to indulge or overeat once in a while.(2)
Try some of these smart substitutions for your favorite holiday meals:
- Instead of butter, use a healthier vegetable oil or substitute equal parts unsweetened applesauce when baking.
- Use a lower-calorie sugar substitute.
- Use low-fat or skim milk instead of whole milk or heavy cream.
- Instead of only white flour, use half white and half whole-wheat flour.
- Instead of adding chocolate chips or candies, use dried fruit, like cranberries or cherries.
- Use extracts like vanilla, almond and peppermint to add flavor, instead of sugar or butter.
- Use vegetable oils or soft margarine instead of butter.
- Use whole-grain breads, rice and pasta instead of white.
- Bake, grill or steam vegetables instead of frying.
- Compare labels of your holiday ingredients, and choose products with lower amounts of sodium and added sugars.
- Use spices, fresh herbs and citrus juice to flavor foods and drinks instead of excess salt and added sugars.(3)
Things to consider
It can be easy to fall into the trap of overeating healthy foods. You might think that because the food is good for you, you can eat more of it. But be aware of portion sizes. Getting too much of a good thing can be just as bad as eating something unhealthy. (4)