Twelve Tips for Smart Holiday Eating

Steeped in tradition of eggnog, pecan pie, and pumpkin lattes, the holidays are here.  Many Americans are fearful of these celebrated months-fearful of the damage that they may do to their waistlines.  Take solace in the fact that true body fat loss or gain occurs over time, not in one day—and barely in one week. However, you can do damage--especially in one month. 

If your lifestyle includes regular exercise and mostly nutrient dense, whole, unprocessed foods, without excessive carbs, the extra flavors of the holidays don’t have to wreak havoc with your body.  Yes, that may seem like a big “if”.

Perhaps, the biggest damage one can do over the holidays is regarding their behavior--getting your mindset out of sync. For many people, hunger cues are thrown off in their body because of metabolic dysfunction, including changes in hormones, insulin, leptin and ghrelin.  This holiday,  help your hormones maintain better function by not flipping that switch; you know---the all or nothing switch--when you say, I'll start January 2.  Keep the course with your healthy patterns--just be cautious.  One key strategy to surviving these weeks and making it to Jan 1 without a 10 plus weight gain is portion control—boring portion control.   Calorie and carb overload  of low nutrient and processed foods that our body can more easily store as fat is what causes fat gain, especially if you don’t keep to your exercise regime.  Be your own person and don't succumb to peer pressure-- do what's right for you! (Tip #3).   The good part is that no food is really off limits during the holiday.  But do yourself a favor and go for quality.  Choose, smaller amounts of tasty, high quality foods.

Perhaps the easiest behavior you can do throughout the holidays is to keep exercising. The metabolic adaptions and mood benefits your body gains from regular exercise give you a profound advantage compared to not exercising. Not exercising through the holidays is like walking through the jungle without a machete. There are no guarantees of protection but at least you give yourself a fighting chance. Plus, maintaining exercise makes for one less New Year’s resolution.

Try These 12 Survival Tips For A Healthy Holiday Season

1. Be realistic about your expectations.  Don’t strive for weight loss, but try to avoid weight gain (unless needed). Aim for maintenance.

2. Prioritize your tastes. Instead of eating everything, indulge in small portions of foods that you may not eat often and ones that you truly enjoy.  Usually, the first few bites of a food provide the most pleasure. Yes, there are exceptions but when trying to control portions–really savor those first few bites and then be done. The latter bites usually contribute more to GI distress.

3. Careful of peer pressure.  Don’t eat just because everyone else is eating-unless of course you’re seated at someone’s dinner table, who has labored for hours. Make your own choices and be your own person.

4.  Avoid the feast or famine mentality, especially on party days.  Saving calories for the big feast will only make you hungrier and risk overeating. However, avoid grazing. Our GI tracts like to have some rest time between eating—at least 90 minutes.  And some research suggests fat burning occurs better when we are not constantly feeding ourselves.

5. Return to healthy eating for the meals and days between your parties and holidays. Avoid all or nothing mentality i.e.  Diet starts January 2.

6. Beware of marketing tricks that tempt the consumer. Those holiday bags of chocolates/candy with colorful wrapping seem enticing but taste no different and are no less available than in the “off” season.

7.  Do maintain enjoyable traditions.  No need to replace every heirloom recipe, with something that barely resembles it.  Go for quality ingredients.

8.   Make a meal of appetizers and desserts. Shrimp cocktail or stuffed mushrooms, veggies and small slice of pumpkin pie is a nutrient dense meal. 

9.  Preserve Protein.  Aim for  2-6 oz at all meals.  Protein protects us in many ways, including weight management. Don’t skimp through the holidays.

10.  Limit alcohol. Alcohol not only lowers inhibitions but it can be high in calories and leave you dehydrated. 

11.  Count all liquid calories.  Calories in beverages can easily exceed your daily requirements.  Dilute drinks with club soda or seltzer or add  lots of real lemon or lime. Even diluted, hot apple cider is tasty.

12.  Focus on fitness. Keep your sights on your exercise goals and not the cheese dip.  Studies show that people make better food choices on the days that they exercise.

Merry Christmas and Happy and Safe Holidays to All!


Holiday Cheer

Use this chart to help choose liquids wisely.

Beverage                               Calories

Mixed drink, 5-1/2 fl. oz                                              160 

Rum, gin, vodka, whiskey: 90% proof, 1 oz                110

“After dinner liquor” 2 oz                                           240

Coffee liquer drink (4 oz cream and 1 oz. liquor)      392

White wine, a4 oz                                                       80

Red wine, 4 oz                                                            85

Eggnog, 4 fl oz                                                           170

Eggnog with 1 oz alcohol                                           268

Beer, 12 oz                                                                 146

Lite beer, 12 oz                                                          100

Nonalcoholic beer, 12 oz                                          60-100

Spakling cooler, 12 fl. oz                                           215

Hot apple cider, 8 oz                                                 128

Tonic water, 12 oz                                                      125

regular soda, 12 oz                                                  150-190

Club Soda and diet soda, 8 oz                                   0