By Olivia DeFrances, Staff Writer
So Thanksgiving has come and gone, and while stuffing your face seemed a good idea at the moment, you might have woken up from your food coma with just a twinge of regret. Well, here’ s the rub: you can still attend all of those holiday parties and eat healthy and in moderation, so you never have to deal with the 5 to 10 pounds that most people gain over the holiday season (and never shed—yes, it’s been proven). Here’s how to eat healthy during this holiday season without depriving yourself:
Eat appetizers, but go for the good ones:
Eating fruits or vegetables before your meal can curb overeating at meal time, which is an especially good thing given how rich many holiday meals are. Just don’t reach for chips and dip! Go for the veggies for the same satisfactory crunch. Or have some fruit from a fruit and cheese platter. Have just a chunk or two of cheese or a few tablespoons of hummus to score some extra protein that will help keep you satisfied so that you aren’t ravenous at meal time.
Know portion sizes:
Many people are clueless as to what a proper portion size is. For starchy sides such as mashed potatoes or rice pilaf, it’s half a cup, or about the size of your fist. For meats, most dieticians recommend a portion about the size of your palm, or roughly three to 4 ounces. Go heavy on the veggies, as long as you choose ones that aren’t swimming in butter. A healthy portion of vegetables should be about one cup. Use the plate eyeballing rule to keep your meal balanced: half of your plate should consist of fruits and vegetables, a quarter proteins and a quarter starchy foods like a roll and some potatoes.
If you’re hosting, find some ways to slim down your favorite dishes:
Instead of loading up your green beans with butter, saute them with a little bit of olive oil and lemon juice. Use fat free condensed milk when making your pumpkin pie. Sub low fat dairy for regular. Try a new dish that’s high in nutritional value—like mashed parsnip. It’s got the same comforting feel of mashed potatoes with about half the calories. Add interesting new spices that will be sure to wow your family and friends and your pallet—foods with new and unique flavors help us to process them better and feel full longer. Plus, you score bonus antioxidants. Try cinnamon or ginger in deserts or invade your spice cabinets for flavorful ways to dress up your main dishes. Spicy chipotle rubbed roast beef? Lemon pepper green beans? Cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla sweet potatoes? Yum. Cooking Light’s Holiday Page has more delicious and healthy recipes than you could ever want.
Watch your drinks:
Many people do not think about the calories that their drinks have. But an 8 ounce glass of soda can pack up to 120 calories. Those holiday lattes and hot chocolates can have up to 300. A standard 12 ounce beer has between 120 and 150, and a glass of wine 90 to 110. So limit yourself to one drink and go for water, or water down your drinks or have a lighter version. Normally diet versions of drinks aren’t recommended for daily life because of chemical additives that can negatively affect your health. While you should generally avoid these types of drinks, going for the diet coke if you know you’re having several glasses might be smarter at a party—it’s only one night. Better, have coffee or tea with low-fat milk and Splenda. Both have almost zero calories yet are warm and satisfying. Keep a few packets of sweetener on hand.
Stick to a workout schedule, or at least work out in sneaky ways:
Sign up for a holiday fun run. It’s great motivation and nothing gets you feeling like a kid on Christmas more than running around in an elf costume. Go to dance parties. Dancing is one of the best calorie burning activities out there, and you won’t even notice you’re working out because you’re having so much fun on the floor. Schedule a cute winter date with your love interest. Ice skating or snow shoeing are both a good workout and exceptionally romantic. Bonus: cuddling with a hot mug of tea after. Going holiday shopping? Park far away from the mall or walk to the nearest boutiques—you’ll get a work out and a fun day out. Make plans to meet up with a friend at the gym, and you’re way less likely to bail. Keep some fun winter outdoor gear on hand so you can never use the excuse that it’s too cold, or motivate yourself with a hot bath afterward. All of these are fun ways to keep in shape during this holiday season.
Let yourself indulge!:
If you pick one favorite food to indulge in, it will likely satisfy your cravings and keep you from loading up on all that food that’s good but not heavenly good later on. If you focus really hard on avoiding foods that you love, you’re likely to be thinking about them so much that you’ll break down at some point and just binge. Aqnd you’ll have worried so much about eating them that you don’t get the same satisfaction as you would have if you had just had what you wanted and been done with it.
The main idea of the holidays is to relax. So trust some basic common sense nutritional values, and everything else should turn out fine. Don’t obsess about food. Just keep a healthy balance in your life, and you will have a happy and successful holiday season.