Monday, December 23, 2013

Seven Savvy Tips for Healthy Holiday Eating

As my husband and I made the long drive to Mississippi yesterday from Texas, we were discussing how we needed to make an effort to get some physical activity in amongst the casseroles, cocktails, and conversation that would be surrounding us this holiday season. Talking about this made me remember that I had written a newspaper article for my college newspaper during my nutrition internship days about tips for healthy holiday eating.  In the words of my sister, "I will plagiarize myself and share it with you below." 

      The Holidays are a time filled with joy and togetherness.  However, for many of us they are also filled with food, and lots of it.  I asked some of my friends and family if they usually found themselves eating more during the holidays than other times of the year, and unanimously they said yes .  Regrettably, even with my study and knowledge of nutrition and portion control, I often tend to eat more during the holidays than I do at other times of the year. 
         The food on our tables is in such abundance during the holiday season that one might think this was our last meal.  Especially in the South, the tradition of family, fellowship, and feasting is ever prevalent in our society.  So, it is very difficult for us to discipline ourselves when it comes to food because it is all many of us have ever known. 
         Fortunately, there are ways for us to avoid overeating and still find our stomachs full.  Plus, just think of how exciting it will be when the New Year rolls around to still be able to fit in those same pre-holiday season jeans.  Not only will we look good, we will feel good for being in control of our lifestyle.  Here are some tips for Healthy Holiday Eating that I hope you will use this holiday season:

1.  Remember that THIS IS NOT YOUR LAST MEAL.  With this being said, try not to skip meals.  When this happens, we tend to eat one or two huge meals that are so high in calories they overcompensate for the missed meal or two.  It is better to eat three small meals a day and have one or two small snacks instead of overindulging yourself in one huge meal. 

2.  Watch your portion sizes.  You can do this by only getting foods that you like, or even some that you don’t get to have at other times of the year.  Try to balance the portions.  For example, don’t have all meat and mashed potatoes.  Try to get ¼ of your plate to be meat, ¼ to be a starch, and the other ½ to be vegetables, cranberry sauce, fruit etc. 

3.  Chew your food slowly and make conversation at the table.  There is no rush to see who can finish first-even if you have five minutes to see the next football game kickoff!  Enjoy your time with your family.  Give thanks for your blessings, laugh, and conversate with one another during this special time of year.  It takes the body twenty minutes to feel full, so give yourself time to eat and enjoy the food.  If you do this, you will feel satiated and may not want seconds, or thirds, or fourths!

4.  Try not to focus on the food so much.  Food is an important part of the holidays, especially in our culture, but it is not the most important part.  Focus on family bonding, relaxing, giving, or whatever else is of importance to you this holiday season.  Play games, volunteer to help those less fortunate, or curl up with a nice book to relieve your stress.  Just try to avoid curling up with a book and a big slice of pumpkin pie! 

5.  Don’t snack all day on appetizers and still indulge in the main course and dessert.  Try to avoid snacking mindlessly, as in snacking out of habit or boredom, and then don’t overdo it on the main course, or on dessert.  There are always plenty of leftovers, so remember that it’s not a race to see who can eat the most food!

6.  Continue to exercise or move around during the holidays.  Whether it be cleaning the house or bundling up to take a nice walk through downtown, still try to be active and move about.  The holidays are a relaxing time, but can also be an active time that provides enjoyment too. 

7. Finally, don’t beat yourself up if you do happen to overindulge in the holiday foods.  Just motivate yourself to follow these tips and try and do better at one of the next holiday parties or gatherings because most of us will have several opportunities to do better. 

I hope this holiday season finds you well-rested and well-fed, just not over fed.  Keep in mind these tips and try and put them into practice at the many holiday parties and festivities that will be coming your way.  Don't worry if you don't get to try everything that first go-round-I am almost certain that there will be plenty of leftovers on most of our tables all the way into the New Year!

May your days be merry and bright this season,


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