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Holiday Eating Plans

Will you greet January feeling good about how you traversed the round of holiday parties and traditions, or will you be frantically trying to get those extra pounds off in a hurry?

If you wait until January to deal with holiday weight gain, you will likely feel frustrated and overwhelmed by how to begin. Instead, consider putting strategies in place before the holidays hit full swing.

You will invariably come face to face with a cascade of diet plans in the new year. It’s better to think about weight-loss strategies as doing things differently and not as a “diet” — often considered a four-letter word for people. Instead of dieting, think of it more as simply making choices, which is much less formidable. With that in mind, consider these tips:

Breakfast first. Eating breakfast will ensure you are less likely to overeat throughout the day. Before a holiday shopping trip or heading out to work, eat a healthy, satisfying breakfast. Lean protein, like skim milk or plant milk for vegans, with high-fiber granola is quick and filling. If you have time, make an egg white omelet with diced veggies like red bell pepper, spinach and mushrooms, sprinkled with cheese. Keep refined carbs — bagels and muffins — to a minimum. If you eat those, cut them in half since they are typically equivalent to two or even three servings, boosting your sugar and fat consumption. If you or your kids typically eat high-sugar kid cereals, which are like eating a candy bar with added vitamins, mix half the kids cereal with a non-sugary cereal to cut the carbs.

Make a plan. When you know you’ll be eating away from home and don’t know what your options will be, eat a simple salad, bowl of soup or apple ahead of time to curb your appetite. On busy days, plan ahead to find a healthy option for a quick bite.

Drink to your health. Drink one or two glasses of water or a hot cup of tea before going to a party or buffet to quench your thirst and fill up. Moderate your consumption of alcohol, which is laden with calories and can also break down your defenses when it comes to less healthy snack options. Punch is made with fruit juices, which means added sugar and calories on top of the alcohol. Make every other drink sparkling water, tea or coffee.

Where to start. When you arrive at the party featuring a buffet or munchies, it’s easy to get caught up in conversations and eat mindlessly. Before you know it you’re stuffed with no idea how much you’ve eaten. Be in charge of what goes in your mouth. First enjoy foods that fill you up without filling you out. Choose foods high in water and fiber like fruit and veggies. If you bring a veggie or fruit plate to share, make a savory or fruit-flavored yogurt dip to go with it.

Trick yourself. Hold your glass in your dominant hand, making it harder to mindlessly grab for the bowl of munchies. Position yourself away from food and focus on conversation with friends and family instead. Slow it down: wait 20 minutes before going for seconds to give your tummy time to signal your brain that it is not as hungry.

Eat protein. Try heart-healthy, calorie-dense nuts, but limit yourself to a handful. Bring a big bowl of peel-and-eat shrimp to the party. The guests will love it and you have to work for the food. Lean protein options such as chicken breast, beef or pork kabobs and fish are all great options.

Focus on best choices. Do a drive-by at buffets. Check out all the options before deciding what you will eat and stick to that decision. Go easy on dishes with sauces, gravies, butter and whipped cream, which are little more than calories and fat. Spicy dishes are a good choice because you are less likely to eat too much. It is easy to overeat high-carb munchies — pretzels and chips — because they are quickly digested. Save high-fat, high-sugar, high-calorie options for when your appetite has waned and you’re likely to eat less. Give yourself a treat for making smart choices. Enjoy that one thing you really love — in moderation, of course.

Write it down. Record what you’re eating. There are apps that make this easy for smart phone users. Remember that mood as well as hunger can trigger eating. Holidays are especially stressful, and comfort foods may be more appealing. With every minute at a premium you might find yourself eating ice cream out of the carton in front of the fridge. Dashboard dining may replace regular meal times as you scurry from place to place. Instead of berating yourself, write down everything, including sampling your home-made creations, to make yourself accountable. Look over what you recorded to see if and where you went off track.

Remember that tomorrow is another day. Pat yourself on the back for what you feel good about. Then look at what you might do differently next time. With a commitment to avoid overindulgence you’ll greet January with a smile.

(Denver Post – December 19, 2011)

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