Holiday Eating 101

img_2567The holiday season is filled with treats galore and heaping plates of holiday goodness. Generally, people seem to feel two ways about the aftermath of holiday eating: 1. you can leave overstuffed and bloated, full of regret, or 2. you pass up your favorite holiday treats, so while your jeans still fit nicely, your heart is sad and you’re fixated on not eating that truffle while you had the chance.

Well, I got good news for you, the holidays don’t have to end this way. You can have your gingerbread man/woman/child (#politicallycorrect), and eat it too.

Do this to enjoy those special holiday treats and not have to buy new jeans:

1. Holiday eating is a marathon, not a sprint. When faced with the holiday buffet, take a lap to first gather intel on the available food. Did Aunt Patty make her famous sweet potato pie this year? What are the protein options? What kind of veggies are up for grabs? How many desserts are we talking about? Once you scan the foods, we can start talking strategy.

Put the veggies on your plate first. Like the MyPlate guidelines, make those veggies about half of your plate. Veggies are filled with nutrients and fiber, so choosing mainly veggies will ensure you’re still giving your body proper fuel, while the fiber helps take up stomach space to prevent overeating.

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Next, aim for 1 animal protein source (pick between the chicken, ham, steak, etc.) and serve yourself a portion about the size of a deck of cards. Choosing only 1 animal protein and sticking to a serving size will help lower the chance of eating too much saturated fat at the holiday feast.

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Give yourself 30 minutes before helping yourself to seconds. Holiday time is filled with lots of conversations, which can distract you from realizing when you’re full. Let yourself enjoy talking to the people around you before filling up on more food. Chances are, you’ll end up forgoing seconds, so you’ll be able to enjoy dessert more.

Before you know it, it’s time for the grand finale: the dessert bar. Similar to dinner, take an inventory of what’s available. If you’re more of a sampler, take a sliver of the different desserts to get a taste of each without going overboard. If you want a more substantial bite, pick one of your absolute favorites and serve yourself a portion. Or, if you want two desserts, serve yourself a half portion of each.

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2. Eat in slow-mo. Savor each bite of your food and take the time to notice the flavors in each dish. Eating slowly makes the dining experience more memorable, plus you begin to pick out seasonings and textures you may have missed if you had just shoveled food in your mouth. Slowing down your eating gives your body more time to send fullness cues to let you know when it’s time to stop eating. Best of all, you’ll have more time between bites to partake in conversation.

3. Drink responsibly. Holidays can certainly be boozy and alcohol is a sneaky one. Drinking can cause you to easily overeat, since your inhibitions are lowered and alcohol messes with your hunger cues. Plus, alcohol calories don’t come for free. Stick to 1 drink if you’re a lady and 2 drinks if you’re a fella. When it’s time for the main course, drink water between bites to let the food take center stage and to prevent over-drinking during mealtime. Also, taking a break to drink water helps prevent dehydration and can increase feelings of fullness.

4. Get moving. Propose a walk before the meal (or after) to get your body moving. Walking is an easy way to sneak in some activity without having to change into gym clothes and take a shower after. Taking a nature break gives you time to re-charge and prompts some of the best talks with those around you. Even more reason to get outside :).

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5. Enjoy! Laugh, chat, bond, and chill with those around you. The holidays come only once a year, and for many this is the one time to hang out with certain people. Let the focus be on those around you and not solely on your plate. Over-indulging on occasion is perfectly okay. One meal will not cause you to gain 10 pounds. Listen to your body and resume normal eating after the feast with some activity you love and you’ll be just fine :).

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Eat Responsibly!

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What is your favorite holiday food?

What are your holiday eating tips and tricks?

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