Tis The Season…To Eat And Be Merry
The holidays are coming! It’s almost December and I bet most people are struggling between making a New Year’s resolution to eat healthier in some capacity and tallying up the calories of all the food they will eat over Christmas. I myself have made quite the few New Year’s resolutions…lose 5 pounds, go to the gym 3 days a week, stop eating takeout…they usually have something to do with eating!
Do you already have your resolution in mind? Have you been diagnosed with a health condition? Are you getting married? Maybe you just want to get healthier?! It all counts, no matter what your reason is you need to stay focused and on track. So why not make your resolution early! Why early? Well, what is Christmas if it doesn’t involve parties and potlucks and whiskers on kittens (the Christmas spirit has me singing a lot of Christmas carols…I apologize). So how do we avoid over-eating or gaining that holiday weight? It’s simple. Indulge!
A lot of people will eat their way through the holidays and worry about the excess weight after the fact but for some people this isn’t an option. Maybe you’re diabetic or have a heart condition. You need to learn to navigate the buffet table with finesse! So I weighed in with the experts and asked some fellow Dietitians what their tips and tricks for the holidays might be. Let’s see what they all said.
- “Alternate water with alcohol and sip slowly! Occupies the time of drinking with family and friends without the repercussions” Alcohol has a lot of extra calories…despite if you decide to drink it with water. Even pure vodka has calories and alcohol calories are not burned efficiently like food calories.
- “If it’s a potluck/supper thing, bring a salad or a veggie tray and aim for a plate with half vegetables. Wait 20 min after finishing before going back for seconds” Everyone brings treats, so don’t worry, you will still be able to indulge but you are providing at least 1 healthy option for everyone. Fill half your plate with some veggies and fruit and the other half with delicious treats. Wait to get seconds so your body and mind have a chance to communicate that you have just thoroughly indulged…and bonus you don’t get the overstuffed feeling that comes with eating too much too quickly!
- “Scout out the buffet/dessert table and go for a moderate portion of your absolute favourite indulgences instead of trying everything” Before you pick up your plate, check out the table and see which treats you like best. Everyone makes a nacho dip so maybe wait to sample dip at the party where you know your great aunt is making her famous dip and try a different treat instead!
- “I try to only eat my #1 fave foods that I can only get at holidays and skip yummy foods I can get any time of year. Ex: I’d pick a homemade “grandma bun” and skip mashed potatoes, pick a jam jam cookie and skip a cinnamon bun. I also learned to firmly say “no thank you” when everyone is just trying to feed you more, but you’re already full (Grandma!!). At first I felt so rude saying no to Grandma, and I felt like I had to explain why I didn’t want any more, but I found a firm “no thanks, I’ve had enough” usually works best and doesn’t cause her to look worried for too long”
- “I eat ALL of my favourite holiday foods and I try all of the new ones too (including beer). It’s awesome and I can’t wait! My clothes always seem to shrink a bit over the holidays and I’m OK with that! I don’t skip meals to save up for extra calories at parties because that makes me too hungry/cranky. I make sure my kids see me eating all of these foods at meal and snack times and hopefully they’re open to trying new things too” Sampling all the treats is also a healthy eating style. Feeling stressed about it isn’t. Don’t be afraid to let yourself go. Stress can cause physiological body processes that actually aid in excess fat storage! And don’t forget about the kids. They watch everything. Let them know it’s ok to have a treat. Start their minds early with healthy eating relationships with food.
- “We don’t leave the sweet nor salty treats out 24/7 over the holidays. Rather, we bring out the salty treats as appetizers before dinner, and a tray of sweets after lunch or supper. Once we’ve all enjoyed what we want, they get put away again. Helps to limit the mindless grazing – out of site, out of mind” Almost everyone has the fancy treat dishes that they keep out over Christmas (above reaching distance of little children and animals of course) but a great idea is to keep the dishes tucked away in the cupboard and only bring them out at certain times like after dinner and when company is visiting.
- “On Christmas Day we always break apart the eating by going outside for a family walk (dogs included)! When we get back to the house, a hot cup of tea and some raw veggies are offered (the other treats are put away until supper)” Add some physical activity into the mix, whether it’s a walk or an all-out family snow ball fight.
- “Permission to eat and listen to my body… stomach, mouth and heart hunger. Guess what sometime I overindulge but I don’t beat myself… no one’s perfect” Holidays are a special occasion with special food. You shouldn’t deprive yourself. If you are craving a cookie, have one. You won’t be satisfied until you eat it and you might eat double the amount of food trying to stop the craving!
So many great tips! I like indulging myself but I also have integrated each of these tips into my eating behaviors. If there are 3 or 4 different cookies and they all look amazing I am going to eat them, but if I know I have another party coming up I might limit myself to some of the other things I try like dips, chips and other food I can get all year long.
What is the biggest take home message? Allow yourself to relax and enjoy food. If you have made a New Year’s goal for yourself to eat healthy, enjoying some treats over the holidays isn’t derailing your progress, it’s part of the process. Having a treat and “falling off the wagon” isn’t a failure. It’s an expectation! We are humans with eyes, ears, noses, stomachs and brains. All of which work in concert to let us know that something is delicious and we have to eat it. So eat it. Enjoy it but eat your veggies too!
Adrianna Smallwood, Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Expert