The holiday season is in full swing, and we all know what that means: Food! Everywhere. Food in all its sugary, buttery, delicious goodness. Normally, I think, “Eat all the things! Worry about it in the New Year!” BUT I’ve been really trying to clean up my diet. I’ve lost about 15 pounds, and I’m just not willing to sacrifice that for holiday goodies this year. However, I’m not willing to entirely forgo my favorite foods this time of year, either. The average American gains 7-10 pounds during this season, and I am determined NOT to be average! So, how do I indulge without overindulging? Here are my top tips!
Ignore sugary beverages in favor of water—at least on days you plan to feast. A 12 ounce can of Coke has 39 grams of sugar. In a month, a can a day equals over 2.5 pounds of sugar consumption. Up the ante to Mt Dew, and you’re consuming 77g of sugar a day, which equals nearly FIVE pounds of sugar a month. A once a day soda habit can add 30 pounds a year (which is WAY more than a piece of pie on Thanksgiving or Christmas can do). Drink water, and have that piece of pie! Water fills you up, which will help you eat less. It helps the body’s hunger mechanism function better as well, so you’ll get the feeling of satisfaction with less food. People tend to mistake thirst for hunger—if you’re feeling hungry, drink water, and wait a few minutes. If you feel satisfied, you weren’t hungry. You were thirsty.
Don’t deprive yourself completely.
My method: Go for the healthier options first. I fill a majority of my plate with veggies, fruits, and lean meats and then go back for one or two spoonfuls of my holiday favorites (mac and cheese, marshmallow sweet potatoes, etc). That way, I’ve gotten some of all of my favorites, but my caloric intake was mostly healthy. A spoonful of mac and cheese is just as satisfying as a plate full if it means I can have something else I love without the guilt.
Don’t starve yourself before big meals.
Once, I thought I would be “healthy” by not eating all day so I could “save” all my calories and carbs for Thanksgiving dinner. At dinner, I was so hungry that I was shaking, and I ate until I was sick. This is not healthy! Allowing myself to get so hungry caused me to eat so fast that my brain didn’t register that my body was full—so I ate WAY more than normal. If you really want to save room for holiday goodies, eat small meals leading up to the main event. Some fruit, hummus and veggies, or even a couple of rice cakes (or whole grain bread) with nut butter will keep you going throughout the day. Trust me. You’ll still have room at dinner.
Monitor your portions.
I will NOT pass up a homemade dessert, and I don’t expect you to either! The key to it is to watch your portions. One serving won’t kill your diet. It’s when you go back for seconds, thirds, and midnight snacks (or when you consider a serving 12 cookies) that it will wreck your progress. We had buttermilk pie at a work function. I knew I didn’t need to eat a whole piece, but I wanted some pie! I limited myself to one bite, and a friend took the rest. That one bite was delicious, and completely satisfied my desire.
Watch what you eat the rest of the time.
The ENTIRE season isn’t one big feast, so be sure to keep an eye on what you eat the rest of the time. This will help keep you on track, and help you recover if you do fall off the wagon a bit. Grilled chicken salads (dressing on the side), a veggie pita, grilled chicken or salmon with a side of brown rice and veggies, or a small steak and baked sweet potato are good options for lunches or dinners. You can usually find any of these items on restaurant menus—which means you don’t have to stay away from the holiday parties at restaurants. Another great trick at restaurants (especially if you want to indulge) is to ask for a to-go box when your food arrives. Immediately pack up half of your meal. Not only do you cut your portion size in half, but you also have lunch or dinner for the next day!