Surviving the Holidays – Tips from a Dietitian

Holiday Feast photo credit: flickr by ChatChowTV

Holiday Feast photo credit: flickr by ChatChowTV

Hello, All!

*deep breath*  Here we go…the Holidays.  Did you know that the average person puts on SEVEN pounds between Halloween and New Years?  There are so many things stacked up against us during this season.

First, there’s temptation.  Let’s face it, during the holidays, that little red guy that hangs out over our shoulder wins out almost every time, am I right?  At parties (oh the parties!), we submit to consuming waaay more food and booze than we ever would under non-festive conditions.  Plus, holiday foods = comfort foods = mega calories.  There’s candy everywhere you turn – at home, the office, the post office, the bank, in your kid’s pocket…And holiday marketing is just cruel (anybody want a Hershey’s Kiss or twelve?).

Also, we tend to be less active due to the discomfort from overeating, the cooler/rainier weather, and the emotional drain that the holidays have on us.  Incidentally, our altered emotional states – stressed, depressed, fatigued – often impel us to eat more as well.  Double whammy.

So, how do we navigate through this season without becoming part of the statistic?  Well…first and foremost, plan ahead. 

1)      Always keep a healthy snack on hand – a cereal bar, almonds, yogurt – for when temptation strikes.

2)      Choose your parties.  If you’re worried that you’ll have a hard time resisting temptation, limit your opportunities to be tempted!

3)      For the parties that you do choose to attend:

a.       Eat before you go.  Remember, fiber and protein will hold you over the longest.

b.      Bring a nutritious dish to share.  Salads and veggie trays are always a good idea.  Or, bring a healthier version of some of your favorites.  I’ve attached my recipe Roasted Sweet Potato Medallions with Apple-Cranberry Relish which makes a great substitute for the high-calorie, butter-laden, marshmallow-topped sweet potato casserole.  And, it can serve as a finger food at parties!

c.       Set limitations for yourself, and be specific.  For instance, I will fill half of my plate with vegetables.  I will not sample every dessert on the table; only the _____ (insert favorite treat here).

d.      Be prepared to say “NO!”  When coming up with a game plan, we tend to assume that we will only have to stand up to ourselves when faced with temptation.  However, well-meaning friends and family can be the biggest threat to our will power. If you’re comfortable with it, let your loved ones know what your plans are ahead of time. Then, visualize someone offering you one of your limitations and practice saying “no thank you.”  If they care, they’ll understand.

At the holiday gathering:

1)      Don’t mingle by the food!

2)      Fill up on fruits, veggies, lean meats, nuts and crackers.  And watch the dip intake!

3)      Be mindful of your alcohol consumption.

a.       Alcohol adds empty calories!  Stick to clear liquor/club soda, light beer and non-sweet wine.

b.      Alcohol lowers your inhibitions → Plans go out the window!

c.       Drink before your meal or during; not both.

d.      When mingling, keep a club soda in hand.  Hosts won’t offer refills, and it’s much harder to eat when you’re already holding something.

4)      Skip foods that you can eat throughout the year, i.e. mashed potatoes, rolls, etc.

5)      Cut back portions.  Just a taste will often do the trick!

6)      Don’t deprive yourself!  If you don’t allow yourself any treats, you’re more likely to splurge the next chance you get.

Bonus Tips:

1)      Avoid temptation.  Don’t bring things home with you (leftovers, candy, etc.)!

2)      Be realistic about your goals.  You may be setting yourself up for failure if you expect to lose weight this season.  Look at your social obligations and evaluate the reasonability of your goals.

3)      Weigh yourself weekly for a reality check!

4)      Remind yourself:  Dieting is NO fun!  It’s much harder to undo damage than to prevent.

5)      Forgive yourself and move on.  If you do find yourself overindulging, avoid the tailspin of a defeatist mentality.  Yes, you broke your plans.  This does not make you a bad eater!  If you had one bad meal/day, be “good” for the next four and you’ll be on track 80% of the time!  (Doesn’t that sound nicer than “I blew it?”)

Happiest of Holidays to you all!

Molly Seys, RD, LD
Clinical Registered Dietitian
Methodist Texsan Hospital

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