It’s holiday time, and we’re all excited about the rich, seasonal cuisine that awaits us at every holiday party and gathering. If you’re like me, you’re also dreading the rich seasonal meals, because even the most disciplined dieter will buckle in the presence of the festive pastries, puddings, pies and pasta dishes we’ll encounter throughout the month of December.
We love spending time with good friends and family, and carbs just seem to be an integral part of the yuletide experience. The average individual gains between one and two pounds over the holidays, which doesn’t seem like much at the time, but pounds add up. There is also the universal conviction that the holidays give us carte blanche to eat up and enjoy! So how do you enjoy the holiday season without waking up on January 2nd, 10 pounds heavier? We have some simple tips that might help you:
1._Do not starve yourself all day in preparation for the feast you’re anticipating at the party tonight. You already know that showing up for a party brimming with holiday fare is a one-way ticket to pig out. If you arrive starved, you will overindulge and set your weight loss (or weight maintenance) program way back. Eat healthily during the day, keep your appetite satisfied, and you won’t arrive hungry. This should keep you on your best behavior all evening.
2._Eat a small, healthy and satisfying meal before you head out the door, and reward yourself with a small portion of something decadent at the party. Hunger triggers the brain’s craving for carbs, so half the battle is not allowing yourself to arrive famished. Fill up on protein and veggies during the day, and you’ll find it easier to control yourself in the face of pies, stuffing and honey glazed ham.
3._Make a conscious effort to catch yourself when your eyes get bigger you’re your stomach. Eating small servings is not only easy on your diet, it’s easy on your budget too. Do not let your eyes get bigger than your stomach—or your wallet for that matter. Limit your serving sizes, and keep the servings you put on your plate small, especially when you’re having high carb dishes like pasta, breads, stuffing and dessert. If you load up your plate, you’re more likely to clean it because it’s in front of you. You can always get more later, but you will probably find yourself satisfied with smaller portions.
4._A good way to keep track of your carb consumption is using the “plate method.” Fill half of your plate with low carb, non-starchy veggies, ¼ with grains-based food, and ¼ with lean protein. Keep in mind that even fruit and veggies can be loaded with carbs, so don’t overdo. Have a small portion of fruit to cleanse your palate and satisfy your sweet tooth. Parents would be doing their children a great service by teaching them the plate method and make it your routine/ Good eating habits start early, and it’s a great way for the whole family to learn more about carbs, proteins, sugars and the quality of your meals.
5._The art of portion control is your best tool for avoiding holiday excess. It’s hard to “eyeball” appropriate portion sizes, so the rule of thumb is keeping your portions palm-sized. If you’re on a weight loss program, one portion of carbs should be the size of your hand. If you’re maintaining your weight, women should eat two to three portions per meal max, and men should keep it to three to four portions. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll find yourself exercising portion control without even thinking about it!
6._If you have your choice, select fruit over cake, a sweet potato over pie, and keep your bread consumption to a bare minimum. Whole grain pasta is a good substitute for bread; top it off with a bit of marinara and some bits of chicken and you won’t feel deprived.
7._Keep visualizing yourself at your goal weight and it will be easier to bypass that rich eggnog, Christmas cookies and—the worst offender when it comes to weight loss or weight maintenance—alcohol.
8._Don’t carry on conversations and eat at the same time.. Hanging out by the buffet and catching up with old friends makes it easy to munch on appetizers without even realizing how much you are eating.