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Healthy Eating and the Holidays: A Buffet Battle Plan

Category: Parents & Kids Magazine November 2010 Issue

Parents Kids Family Mississippi Eating Healthy on the Holidays

Are the holidays a perfect excuse to make like a turkey and gobble everything in sight? Put the drumstick down and check out these tips for a tasty, yet trim, holiday season.

 

Family holiday dinners. Neighborhood cookie exchanges. Office parties. Friend-filled potlucks. The holiday season is chock full of

cheery temptations that may be hard to resist. But before you go stuffing your face with stocking stuffers, check out our tips for successfully surviving the holidays without stacking on the pounds.  You’ll thank us later (especially when bikini season rolls back around).

Maintain Your Normal Habits - Are you a saver? You know, one of those people who skips meals during the holidays thinking that you’re ‘saving’ calories for later. Guess what? Chances are you’re setting yourself up for overindulging on high caloric party items later, says Rebecca Dority, a registered dietician and instructor at Texas Christian University. “In a nut shell,” she says, “never go to a party hungry.”

The same advice holds true for your workout routine. Dority recommends maintaining or even increasing your exercise during the holidays. “This will obviously help to burn some of the extra calories that are consumed,” she says. Continuing to exercise will also help you feel better even if you overeat. Avoiding a fitness routine and eating too much can create a dangerous spiral: you feel bad about yourself, therefore you eat more. Finding a balance between both should keep you from feeling that you blew it.

Step Away From the Food Table - Seriously. One look at a buffet and most of us have ”All-You-Can-Eat” signs flashing in our eyes. But try not to view a buffet as the last meal you’ll eat on earth. Follow these steps for navigating the food table.

One, survey the food that is available and make a mental list of your choices before you start putting food on a plate. “This prevents you from filling up your plate at the beginning of the table on things that you may not really care about and missing out on something that you really wanted,” says Dority. “This generally means that you’ll go back to get the thing you really wanted, which means extra calories were consumed for no reason.”

Two, use a plate and take smaller portions. Putting food on a plate prevents you from losing track of what you’ve actually chosen to eat or consumed. And it helps remind you how much food you’ve taken. “If you want a bite of something, just take your bite and don’t worry about cleaning your plate,” says Olivia Mayer, a registered dietician from California. Don’t feel bad about tossing out food.

Three, do not stand near the food! Dority and Mayer agree that the best thing you can do after you’ve made your food choices is to mingle. “We go to parties to socialize, so take your plate into another room,” says Dority. “If you stand next to the table you are likely to mindlessly grab more food.”

As Mayer puts it, remember the true meaning of holiday gatherings has more to do with the ones we love than the foods we love. “It’s to enjoy the company of family and friends in the spirit of the season,” she says.

Choose Foods That Will Help You Lose -  This is where common sense kicks in. Try to first fill your plate with veggies, fruit, whole grain crackers with healthy spreads like guacamole or hummus, and a few pieces of cheese, and then leave room for one or two bite-size sweet treats. If you’ve made smart choices with your initial party picks, don’t deny yourself a yummy (albeit small) dessert. You deserve it.

However, beware of beverages filled with empty calories. “Watch your alcohol and egg nog intake,” says Mayer, adding, “Those are sneaky calories that can add up really fast on top of your food goodies.”

Know Yourself - Soldiers don’t go into battle unprepared, and neither should you. The fight against over-consuming can feel just like a battle for some of us, but if you recognize your eating patterns before heading to the buffet, you’ll be better off. Mayer recommends identifying your weaknesses (are you a sucker for stuffing?) and understanding how you like to eat (big meal versus several small meals). Knowing these patterns can give you insight into how you typically react at holiday gatherings. Then you can create a plan you’re not only comfortable with, but confident you’ll be able to stick to.

Nevertheless, slip ups are bound to happen. After all, holiday treats only come around once a year. But don’t beat yourself up if you feel like you failed. “Remember, everything in moderation is fine,” Mayer says. “Including moderation!”

About the Author: Patricia Carlson is a freelance writer from Minnesota. Follow her on Twitter @pattycfreelance.

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