6 Steps to (Mostly) Healthy Holiday Eating

The steps are put together in the order in which people often go through their holiday evening, starting with drinks and moving through the evening.

  1. Don’t let liquids fool you
  2.  Work the room
  3. Get your plate right
  4. Be slow
  5. Enjoy yourself
  6. Stay active

Here are some details about each one: 

 1. Don’t let liquids fool you         

  • Make your first drink water (don’t gulp good booze because you’re thirsty).
  • Don’t waste your calorie space on soda, juice or bad, overly sweet mixed drinks, save it for the filling, satisfying holiday foods you love.
  • Know how much you're drinking: one alcoholic drink = 12 oz beer (1.5 cups), 5 oz wine (a little more than 1/2 cup), and 1.5 oz liquor. 
  • The lightest calorie alcoholic options are wine at around 100 calories per 5 oz glass or light beer at about 110 calories per 12 oz.
  • Choose smaller glasses because it looks like you're getting more than if you put the same amount in a larger glass.

2. Work the room

  • When socializing at a cocktail-style event, don’t stand within grabbing distance of the food. You can eat a lot without even noticing how good it is if you’re talking and grabbing at the same time·
  • Buffets are easy places to overindulge, so it’s best to have a plan: survey first, so you know what you want the most and you don’t end up with a plate pile because you keep finding things you want more at the end.

3. Get your plate right 

  • You should fill your plate 1/2 full of veggies, ¼ full of protein (like turkey or ham) and ¼ full of starch like rice, pasta, bread, corn, peas, winter squash, potatoes.
  • If you fill your plate right, the fiber in all the veggies will fill you up and keep you from eating too many calories of the heavier foods.
  • It’s important to start practicing before the holidays: make sure there are always some veggies on your plate, and then work your way towards 1/2 your plate. Before thanksgiving comes, try having at least one dinner with a plate like this.
  • They’ve done some really interesting research on willpower and found that it acts as if a limited resource is expended in the process, so that if you spend all day resisting the M+Ms at work, and there’s a plate of brownies on your counter when you get home, you don’t have enough willpower left to resist them. 
  • Steps like "getting your plate right" will help you eat healthfully without having to use your willpower so you have some left when you get to the table full of pies and you want to stick to a reasonable amount.

4. Be slow

  • Don’t starve yourself before a big holiday dinner; you can’t help eating too fast when you’re really hungry and you won't truly enjoy your food.
  • Each plate should take at least 20 minutes to finish- that’s how long it will take your brain to get the message from your stomach that you’re full.
  • Since most people don’t time their meals, you can always take a 10 minute break in between plates- that helps give your body time to get the "I'm full" message.
  • Only do one thing at a time: don’t keep a full fork poised and ready to go while you’re chewing. Put your utensil down each time you put something in your mouth- this helps to slow your pace automatically.
  • Take small bites: no bigger than the top joint of your thumb.

5. Enjoy yourself

  1. Eating shouldn’t be an additional stressor: it’s the holidays, you’re allowed to have some dessert, but don’t have a bad cookie just because you started eating it. Toss it quietly in the trash and go for the good stuff that will really satisfy.
  2. You can’t really gain 10 lbs over Thanksgiving, you have to eat an extra 3500 kcals above the amount you usually eat to gain even 1 lb of real weight.
  3. Quick weight gain during holidays is usually water retention due to high sodium foods (sodium acts like a sponge in your body and holds in the water).

6. Stay active

  • If you have a normal exercise routine, you might not be able to keep it up over the holidays, but take the opportunity to go out walking with family or friends.
  • If you don’t have a normal exercise routine, there’s no better way to get started than with good company.
  • Exercise helps manage stress, which often accompanies the holiday season 

It’s important to remember that even if you mess up on some of these steps and gain some weight during the holidays, these tips can help you lose it again, so don’t throw them out just because the holiday season is over.



Posted on November 21, 2013 .