Let’s face it, even with the best intentions; one’s plan to stick to their diet during the holiday season is likely to flop.
After all, there’s all that delicious turkey to gobble, buttery mashed potatoes to inhale, biscuits, gravy, pie, wine and creamy liqueurs – the list goes on and on, but I’m sure you get the picture.
Now, before you give into a season of stretchy pants and accept your fate of falling off the weight-loss wagon, there is hope. Yes, healthy eating during the holidays can be difficult, but it’s certainly not mission impossible.
Before you sit down to break bread with friends and family, make sure you study closely these six simple rules for eating healthy during the holidays.
1. Steer Clear of Seconds At The Dinner Table
Even though you can barely breathe and your waistband is beginning to cut off circulation to your brain, how many times have you gone back to the buffet table in the past for seconds?
While we’re supposed to let our hearts be merry and light this time of year, there’s nothing ‘light’ about many of the traditional fare that graces our plate.
Rather than reach for that second scoop of chestnut stuffing, pour yourself a tall glass of water — not wine–consume it and then relax for five minutes.
Chances are that by pausing, you’ll give your stomach plenty of time to let your brain know you’re stuffed like a Butterball turkey. Seconds will only lead to piling on the pounds, bloating and crashing on the couch early.
2. Portion Control is Paramount
Sure, you could bring along some measuring cups and spoons to your holiday social gathering, but that would be a little award and terribly inconvenient. Instead, all you need to know ahead of time is how to conquer and divide on your dinner plate.
First off, divide your plate in half. Fill in one side with fruits or veggies, leaving the rest for equal parts of starch and protein. That means to town on the salad, green beans and yams (not the decadent dish with marshmallows and butter, just the plain variety). Instead of choosing both mashed potatoes and stuffing, consider just choosing your favourite of the two – even a simple tablespoon of both will allow you to satisfy any cravings without sacrificing your diet.
Just remember, the bigger the plate, the bigger the portions tend to be. If there’s a salad plate on the table that reach for that first to avoid overeating.
3. Be Prepared (For Your Holiday Feasts)
Worried you’re going to eat way too much at one sitting? Well, if you starve yourself all day to save up your caloric intake for your festive fete, you probably will.
Rather than fast for your feast, think about having smaller, healthier snacks during the day (like when you are cooking a large meal). This way, you’ll keep yourself from making some poor decisions once you sit down at the dinner table.
4. Keep those Stretch Pants in the Drawer Where they Belong
They may be comfy and be a staple in your wardrobe, but don’t even think about wearing your comfy sweats, yoga pants or a loose-fitting shirt to your big holiday feast.
Aside from being a big fat fashion faux pas, you’re bound to eat more in your casual attire when there’s no pesky zipper to undo or button to pop. With sweats or Lycra, you can easily eat and eat and eat without feeling uncomfortable. And chances are that if you do blow your diet, you’ll be stuck wearing those bad boys every day after until you’re able to banish that bloat.
5. Bottoms Up
Speaking of bloating… did you know that sometimes, what we think of as hunger is actually thirst? It’s true! Drink plenty of water before, during and after holiday meals to prevent or minimize bloating. You’ll also feel full faster, which will prevent you from eating more than you should.
6. Go Easy on Yourself
Sometimes we have the best of intentions to stick to our healthy eating plan, but that flies straight out the window once the sweet and savoury dishes are placed in front of us. Festive music is playing, children are laughing and the wine is flowing – relax, you’re only human and the holiday season only comes but once a year.
If you were unable to heed any of the aforementioned advice, there’s no need to panic or cry into your pumpkin pie.
The truth of the matter is that reports of holiday weight gain are often over exaggerated. According to a recent study by the New England Journal of Medicine, the average weight gain is only around one pound – not five as often reported in the media.
Of course, that’s no excuse to go buck wild this holiday season, but it’s also sure to come as a relief to the majority whose will power is no match for all the tasty fare they’ll be faced with between Thanksgiving and New Years Eve.
So go ahead, enjoy your big holiday meal. Just remember to plan ahead, hydrate and take your sweet time enjoying every little bite. Don’t forget to hit pause every now and then to let your food digest and to really savour your time spend with loved ones.