Everyone wants to enjoy the season, so it’s easy to overindulge in food without even knowing it. Try these tips to keep things balanced.
By Lisa Hastings, registered dietitian at Texas Children’s Hospital
On average, Americans gain at least 1-2 pounds during the holidays. Although this may not seem like a lot, this weight can add up and lead to being overweight in the long run. There’s no need to get in a panic and spin in the equally unhealthy, opposite direction of starvation. Simply being mindful and sensible goes a long way toward keeping your eating habits healthy. Try to follow a few of these simple tips.
- Be realistic. Don’t try to lose weight during the holidays; instead, plan to maintain your current weight.
- Make holiday shopping a workout. Do not fight for the closest parking spot. Instead, park on the opposite side of the lot. Take the stairs instead of the escalators or elevators when shopping at the mall. Eat at home before you shop and pack some healthy snacks with you to avoid food court temptations.
- Plate your food wisely. Scan the food table before you serve your plate. Try filling half of your plate with fruits and vegetables first, and fill the rest with your favorites. Aim for eating only one plate.
- Be mindful of what you eat. Eating in a social situation can prevent you from paying attention to the amount of food you’re eating and how fast you’re eating it. Slow down and enjoy the taste of the food. Consider skipping foods that are not your absolute favorites to reduce calories.
- Don’t skip meals. Skipping meals may cause you to overeat at holiday celebrations. Eat a balanced breakfast with sources of protein (such as eggs, low-fat yogurt and lean meats) to stay full until your next meal. Before any parties, eat a light snack, such as fruit or a handful of nuts, to curb your appetite.
- Watch what you drink. Hot cocoa and pumpkin spice lattes may be tempting during the winter season but should be limited because they have a lot of sugar. Aim for no more than one a week. To cut back on extra drink calories, order them “skinny,” which replaces the whipped cream and whole milk with non-fat milk.
- Exercise: Plan to exercise during the holidays. A 30-minute, brisk walk every day can keep off the extra pounds!
What about the Children?
- Five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day is the recommended amount for children, but according to The National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), in 2011 only 15 percent of children ate vegetables three or more times per day.
- To ensure your children get plenty of nutrition during the holidays, make their favorite fruits and vegetables more available. Prepare a ready-to-eat tray of their favorite fruits and vegetables with a healthy dip, such as low fat yogurt or humus. Make holiday-flavored fruit smoothies (with cinnamon or peppermint). Count down every day until the holiday with a fruit filled treat.
- Allow your children to help you cook healthy meals; they may be more willing to eat foods which they have helped prepare.
Modify Holiday Recipes
- Mashed potatoes: Use skim milk, chicken broth, garlic or garlic powder, and parmesan cheese instead of whole milk and butter.
- Pumpkin pie: Consider serving the pumpkin pie without the crust to reduce calories and fat. Substitute heavy cream with evaporated skim milk or light cream in your recipe. Pumpkin is a good source of beta-carotene so the pumpkin filling will be a tasty, yet healthy treat.
- Turkey: Instead of covering your turkey with butter to make it taste good, keep the skin on while cooking and use a little bit of lemon juice. Once the turkey is cooked, remove the skin. These changes will get rid of unwanted calories but the turkey will still be juicy and tasty!