It may be easy to overdo special foods during the holidays, but it is still possible to eat healthily during the season.
The road to better health
Whether you’re sitting around the family dinner table or eating endlessly at a party, the holidays mean food. A lot of food. It may be difficult to avoid overdoing it, but it is possible. If you are a host or attending a party, try these tips to stay healthy during the holidays.
If you are a host:
- Shop smart. Grocery stores can be trapped, both intentionally and unintentionally. Try shopping outside of regular business hours. Instead of rushing outside and grabbing the first things you see to get out of the crowd, you can take the time to read the labels and make healthier food choices. Also, try to choose items from the outer perimeter of the store. Here are all the most nutritious foods.
- Focus on fruits and vegetables. Whether you are preparing snacks or a complete meal, increase the amount of fruits and vegetables in your meals. Cook them in ways that celebrate their natural flavors, instead of hiding them under heavy sauces or glazes. Healthy exchange: Swap cream of mushroom soup and fried onions for a green bean casserole. Instead, toss fresh beans with olive oil, garlic and sea salt and bake them in the oven for a light, healthy, crunchy side dish.
- Make your recipes easier. Reduce fat and calories without losing flavor by making some of these substitutes:
- Replace 1 egg with 2 egg whites to lower cholesterol.
- Instead of oil, margarine or butter in baked goods, replace apple puree to reduce fat.
- Always use non-fat versions of creamy ingredients such as yogurt, sour cream or whipped topping.
- Use low-fat cheeses in pots and salads.
If you are a guest at a dinner or party
- Eat regularly. Don’t eat less on the day of a big party so you have “places” to eat much later. Eat small, regular meals throughout the day. This will prevent you from starving and overeating during the event.
- Eat before you go. If you are worried about resisting delicious but unhealthy foods at the event, eat a nutritious breakfast before you leave. It will suppress your appetite and prevent you from overeating.
- Use a small plate. Research shows that we tend to fill our plates, regardless of their size. Choose a small plate and you will not be able to put so much on it.
- Just start. Fill your plate with vegetables, fruits, green salads and lean meats. If you see a delicious side dish that is high in calories, take a small portion. You can come back later if you are still hungry. It is likely that once you are full of all this healthy food, you will not be very hungry. You will be able to better withstand the stews and sauces that looked so good in the beginning.
- Wait 10 minutes. After eating your small plate of healthy options, wait 10 minutes. This will give your brain the time it takes to tell you if your stomach is full. Often after this time our hunger will be satisfied.
- Limit alcohol consumption. When you arrive at the party, start with a low-calorie, soft drink, such as soda or diet soda. This will help quench your thirst. Alternate alcoholic and soft drinks throughout the night.
- When eating, eat carefully. Enjoy every bite. Place the fork between the bites. Focus on the taste and enjoy what you eat.
- Communicate away from food. If you are standing and talking at a party, do it away from food. You are less likely to see something irresistible.
- Find activities that do not involve food. Take a walk. Gather family members and walk around the neighborhood. Play soccer in the yard or engage others in a board game. Distract yourself from food.
Aspects to be considered
It can be easy to fall into the trap of overeating with healthy foods. You may think that because food is good for you, you can eat more. But keep in mind the portion size. Eating too much good can be just as bad as eating something unhealthy.
When to see a doctor
Your doctor can help you determine if you are a healthy weight and what steps to take to reach a healthy weight, even with the upcoming holidays.
Questions to your doctor
- What can I do before the holidays that will help me eat better when the time comes?
- What are good foods to eat during the holidays?
- How can I change my habits so that I don’t overeat?
- How can I change my recipes to make them healthier?
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides an overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and for more information on this topic.
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