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Surviving the Holidays without Sacrificing Nutrition

November 24, 2015

It’s that time again... holiday season. The question on everyone’s minds is: how do you maintain your nutritional health during this time of overindulgent eating, parties, and family gatherings with an abundance of delicious food? Here are a few tips on surviving this wonderful time of the year without feeling like a stuffed turkey afterwards:

  1. Turkey doesn’t make you tired. Most people think that it’s the turkey that causes the inevitable drowsiness after a holiday meal. In fact, it is the large amount of carbohydrate foods consumed in one short period of time that raises levels of serotonin and cause drowsiness. Carbohydrate foods – macaroni and cheese, candied sweet potatoes/yams, corn, green bean casserole topping, stuffing, biscuits, cranberry sauce, and mashed potatoes (just to name a few) – can all easily be eaten at once if you are not paying close attention. If you fall asleep after your meal, all those calories you just ate can contribute to weight gain and elevated blood sugar levels.
  2. Watch your Portions. Sure, you can’t expect to avoid your grandmother’s pumpkin pie or your great aunt’s signature dish. But there has to be a limit on how much you can eat at once if you are not trying to wear that pie around your waist for the next few months. You can choose two courses of action: (1) select a meat, a starch, and a vegetable that you LOVE and simply enjoy those foods OR (2) take very small portions of everything to “build your plate.” Always forgo second (or third) helpings and skip the side plate used for additional food (and calories). Whatever you do, remember the MyPlate method of portion control (1/4 plate meat, 1/4 plate starch, 1/2 plate vegetables and fruits).
  3. Be Skimpy with Desserts. You’ve had your full plate of food and you feel good about your choices. Now here come the pies, cookies, cakes, parfaits, and chocolates. Something sweet sounds great right about now, doesn’t it? Go for it… just choose a small sliver of pie or cake, 1-2 cookies, or a small tablespoon of that Nilla wafer cookie parfait you wait all year to eat. There is nothing wrong with enjoying something sweet, but keep it reasonable and in small amounts.
  4. Limit Alcohol. Alcoholic drinks hide a lot of sneaky calories. Mixers and alcohol all contain calories – even tonic water – so refrain from drinking too much. 2 servings per day – for men and women – is considered a reasonable amount. 1 serving = 5 oz. wine, 12 oz. beer, 1 shot of hard liquor. Drinking excess alcohol can also reduce your inhibitions (which can cause you to go for that second helping you never intended to) and also negatively impact how you metabolize the food you eat.
  5. The Party never ends. You have been invited to a number of holiday parties and gatherings, all with its own smorgasbord, completely separate from the holiday itself. Choose to (1) say “no” to a few AND/OR (2) consider these parties times of complete moderation (see #2) and select one food group (meat, starch, vegetable) to enjoy. Your presence will be appreciated no matter what you eat!
  6. Enjoy! Remember that this is a time of family, friends, and gratitude. Socializing comes with food, but it doesn’t have to be the center of your world. Mingle, have a drink or two, and watch what you eat. By the end of the year, you will have avoided the inevitable weight gain that comes with the holiday season. That is something to really be thankful for.
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