Now is not the time to try and “diet” or lose weight – its just not realistic. But you can work on maintaining your weight and come out of the holidays not feeling as stuffed as your Thanksgiving turkey!
Eating Healthy in General (including during the holidays)
- Eat 3 meals a day and small snacks
- Eat balanced meals (always include a variety of food groups including fruits, vegetables, fish, lean meat, poultry, whole grains, cereals and low-fat dairy products)
- Make better food choices (trade off: pretzels vs. chips, vegetable sides vs. fries, mustard or light mayo vs. regular mayo/salad dressings, grilled or broiled meat vs. breaded or fried)
- Load up on veggies (tired of salads? Pile up on sandwiches or stuff into potatoes, rice or pasta casseroles)
- Drink non-calorie beverages (substitute water and diet soda for regular soda; or choose Crystal light, sugar-free Kool-aid, unsweetened tea or use artificial sweetener if necessary – it could save you close to 300 calories for every 20 ounces)
- Enjoy small amounts of foods you love (completely omitting foods/depriving yourself of foods you really like might cause you to overeat those same foods or give up on healthy eating all together – so treat yourself once in a while – moderation is key! Trading off is key!)
- Increase physical activity (it’s critical – make the time!)
- Center entertainment around non-food events, such as ice skating, renting a holiday movie, or singing carols
- Offer to bring a favorite low-calorie dish to holiday parties, so you know there will be at least one “safe” item available.
- Arrive fashionably late and stand far away from buffets so you’re not tempted to nibble constantly. Instead, indulge in conversation.
- Eat something before going to an event with alcohol. The effects of alcohol are felt much more quickly on an empty stomach and can lead to overeating and overdrinking (calories in alcohol and mixers).
- Try to drink one glass of water before each glass of an alcoholic beverage.
- Don’t skip meals in anticipation of a feast later in the day – you’ll only be more vulnerable to overindulging on typically higher calorie foods.
Coping with the Hustle and Bustle
- To avoid indulging in high-fat fast food when your days become hectic, pre-plan several quick, healthy meals and have them readily available for reheating (can buy Tupperware in grocery store that goes freezer to microwave)
- Keep freezer stocked with precut frozen vegetables to quickly add to a meal. Filling half your plate with veggies can cut the calories and fat in that meal nearly in half! Just watch the toppings for the veggies – season with vinegar, herbs, spices instead of butter, bacon or cheese sauces
- If you must stop for fast food, choose grilled chicken sandwiches – hold the mayo, or a small hamburger (not loaded or double meat), and order a garden salad or baked potato instead of fries. Top potato with salsa or 1 Tbsp sour cream, ask for the low calorie dressing for the salad). Deli sandwiches are not always low fat, but Subway does offer several that are. Choose lean deli meats such as turkey, chicken, and roast beef. Leave off cheese, olives, mayo, oil. Instead, add veggies, mustard or other low fat dressing.
- Lots of gas stations are now stocked with fruit choices – bananas and apples are easy to find. Choose those for quick snack instead of candy bar, chips, or cheese-filled crackers.
- Keep a small cooler in your car, load it with bottled water, light yogurt, fruit, bite-size veggie sticks, low fat salad dressing, string cheese with no more than 5 grams of fat, even a healthy sandwich made at home. This is really great if you have small children too who might get hungry and irritable during a long day of shopping.
- Its hard to eat healthy when faced with Aunt Terry’s famous apple pies and Grandma’s amazing double chocolate chunk cookies – just remember that eating too much over the holidays can result in low energy levels, not to mention weight gain.
- The key is moderation – by balancing high-fat treats with some healthy ones, you can keep energy levels high and weight low.
- A big mistake many people make around the holidays is completely abandoning their usual eating habits (“I’ll get back on track New Years…”). It’s normal to indulge a little, but be sure to get some variety in your diet during this time.
- If you eat a sugary dessert tonight, try a healthy fruit salad after your next meal.
- Don’t try to completely cut out high-fat holiday favorites like eggnog and holiday cookies. Instead, choose small portions and fill your plate with lower fat choices, such as fruit, baked squash, pumpkin, and whole wheat rolls.
- Seek out lower fat, lower calorie treats to prepare.
- Dried fruit is colorful and sweet – add it to cookies and breads instead of chocolate and nuts.
- Old-fashioned Chex Mix? Why bake it with butter? Mix cereal, dried fruit, pretzels and sprinkle with herbs and spices if desired– it’s ready to eat!
- Modify the current recipe you are using – use half the amount of sugar called for (use brown sugar for more intense flavor), use 1% milk instead of whole, 2 egg whites instead of 1 whole egg, applesauce or pumpkin instead of oil, and evaporated skim milk instead of whole cream.
- All those treats you made were for the kids or grandkids or holiday visitors right? – So why did you end up eating most of them? Many times we eat food just because it is there. Bake a few family favorites if you need to, but not so many that you have full tins of them all around the house. Portion them out into decorative gift bags or in small stockings to give away.
- Nibbling on treats off of coworkers’ desks can add up to lots of calories. Don’t bring in any to sit on your desk. Ask a co-worker to place out of sight. Or provide a big bowl in a common area for treats to be stored so that they are not always in your eyesight tempting you. Have to have one? Then just have one – pick your favorite and chew it slowly. Savor it and make those calories count!
- Despite what the apron says – Christmas calories do count! So do the calories in raw ingredients – keep that in mind next time you are tempted to “sample” what you are fixing.
Holiday Meals – At home and at somebody else’s home
- Use a 1-10 rating system during holiday feasts. Rate each food that is passed on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 – not appealing and 10 – WOW my favorite! Eat only 9s and 10s. Pass up the rest – it’s not worth the extra calories.
- If at your own house, make a wide variety of tasty but nutritious selections, have several vegetable choices. Sprinkle hot vegetables with dill or other herbs for flavor instead of adding a butter or cheese sauce.
- Use low fat canned cream soup in recipes, such as the traditional green bean casserole.
- Don’t stuff the turkey with dressing, as it absorbs much of the fat. Bake it in a covered casserole instead. Add fruits (apples, raisins, dried cranberries) instead of sausage to your stuffing.
- Sauté onions in only a small bit of oil, use fat-free cooking spray or defatted chicken or turkey broth for additional moisture.
- Roast your meats on a rack or grill them so the fat drips away.
- Use a fat separator for the roasting pan juices or put juice in fridge overnight and then skim off the fat that’s risen to the top before making gravy.
- Use pineapple and/or orange juice thickened with cornstarch to make glazes for carrots and sweet potatoes instead of butter.
- Mash potatoes with evaporated skim milk and chicken broth – nobody will even notice you didn’t add butter!
- When reducing fat in a recipe, add more spices than the recipes suggest – it can have all the flavor of a high fat dish this way.
- Make just one dessert so that you aren’t tempted to sample all of them.
- If at somebody else’s house, offer to bring a favorite low-calorie dish or two so that you know there will be at least one “safe” food to fill up your plate with.
- Begin the meal with a salad (beware of high-fat ingredients and dressings). You’ll eat less during dinner.
- Drink water or other non-calorie beverage with your meals. And drink a full glass after your first plate before considering going back for seconds.
- Use all fruit spreads on rolls vs. butter or skip the rolls due to so many other “bread” items (stuffing, sweet potatoes, whipped potatoes, etc). Don’t let Aunt Mary force feed you 2nd and 3rd helpings of her famous warm sourdough bread – take your time enjoying the first slice – make it last the whole meal.
- More than one dessert to tempt you? Choose your favorite (use the scale) and take a small slice instead of trying to sample them all. If it’s a pie you can reduce the calories by just eating the filling and leaving the high fat crust behind.
- When you are done eating – leave the table! Suggest the conversation be continued in another room so you aren’t tempted to keep nibbling.
- Remember that the holiday meal is a special occasion. The meal after it is not! Resume normal eating habits the very next meal – instead of setting yourself up for a pattern of overindulgence.
- Cookies, candies, etc? Freeze for later use or bag up and give away (take to nursing homes, shut-ins, homeless shelters, etc. Not sure where to take it? Ask your church or community center for a list of potentials. (Bring them into work? Not a good idea – you all work together! Plus they’ll still be within your reach, and now not just at home but at work too!)
- They can be a good thing by saving you on meal prep time. Baked chicken and turkey go great on sandwiches. Remove the skin and top sandwich with mustard or light mayo instead of regular mayo. Leave off the cheese, but pile high with assorted fresh vegetables (onions and green peppers, carrots, lettuce, tomato, cucumber).
- High-calorie leftovers? When it’s a meal just for your family, limit the amount of high-calorie foods prepared so that you won’t have any leftovers. Having dinner or party guests? Make a to-go plate of leftovers and insist they each take a plate home with them (make it a deal breaker before inviting them over). Wrap with colorful plastic wrap for a more festive gift-giving feel.
- Do your best to maintain your exercise routine during the holidays. If you can’t get to the gym or you don’t have enough time to do your usual activities, take a brisk walk around the block, shovel snow, or rake leaves.
- Keeping yourself active will also help reduce holiday stress and keep your energy levels high.
- After your holiday dinner go for a walk! Get the whole family in on the action – this way you can maintain conversations while burning off some of the calories you just ate. Added benefit that you are away from tempting leftovers to nibble on. Walk around the neighborhood to look at holiday lights or go to a nearby park if you need extra help getting motivated (or others motivated) for that walk!