Curb Your Holiday Eating Cravings

What food are you eyeing at your holiday party?

What food are you eyeing at your holiday party?
Image: Microsoft Office

There will be cake.  Pie.  Butter-loaded mashed potatoes.  Juicy ham (or Tofurky).  Cheese and crackers.  Wine.  And then all of the free holiday food at work.  Holiday parties.  Times when you feel, “oh what the hell, it’s the holidays!”  Holiday eating cravings will be there, but you have a choice.  Will you be like the average American who gains a pound during the holiday season (and never loses it)?  Or will you be different?

A colleague recently asked me if it’s ok to indulge on the holidays.  I replied, it’s probably fine – as long as you remember that there are only 3 real holi”days”: Thanksgiving, Hanukkah/Christmas/Kwanzaa and New Years’.  *Note: I’m assuming Hanukkah isn’t being celebrated with a doughnut-laden party every night.

We run into problems when we extend those three days to the other 30 to 35 days remaining in the year.  Over the past week I’ve collected three great resources that can help you curb holiday eating cravings during those other 30+ days, enjoy!

1. A brief 2 minute video I made for Hospital for Special Surgery about Tips for Enjoying Holiday Foods without Sabotaging Your Health 

2. An article I wrote for Food Network’s Healthy Eats blog on Three Ways to Tame Your Sweet Tooth

3. From Six Simple Tips to Help Prevent Holiday Weight Gain.  While some of the recommendations are a little unusual, I really like the ideas of:

  • Keeping a proactive food diary – Writing what you will eat each day rather than what you just ate.  In effect, you’re planning.
  • Staying active – Exercise can regulate appetite for some people and it’s hard to be eating when you’re exercising.
  • Eating when you’re hungry – Rather than restricting yourself before or after a big holiday meal and throwing your eating habits and hormones out of whack, stay steady.  In other words, don’t skip your usual healthy breakfast and lunch in anticipation of a holiday dinner.  The foods at the holiday dinner are likely much more calorie dense, so if you gorge, you’re probably going to end up eating more than if you just had breakfast and lunch as usual.

A couple indulgent meals will not throw off 10 to 11 months of healthy habits – unless you let those meals extend into the rest of the month.  It’s your choice – be happy, be healthy!

P.S. If you have any additional tips that have worked for you during the holidays, please share so you can help the other readers of Death of the Diet!

Thanksgiving: Food…and Habits for Thought

Avoid Being Stuffed, Like the Bird.

Avoid Being Stuffed, Like the Bird.
From: Microsoft Images

Why does giving thanks have to lead to food comas and indigestion?  While Thanksgiving dates back to a group of European settlers and Native Americans feasting over a plentiful harvest at Plymouth in 1621, most harvesting performed these days involves a bit less manual labor.  Rather, we’re driving over to the local supermarket and filling our carts with turkeys, pumpkin pie and the ingredients for mashed potatoes and stuffing.

Our modern interpretation has evolved into a celebration of family, friends and…lots of food.  Consider the holiday’s common nickname: Turkey Day.  In many ways it seems that the true meaning of Thanksgiving has been lost somewhere between the hors d’oeuvres, the gut-busting dinner buffet and the proliferation of pies for dessert.  This year, let’s give thanks to our health and finish the day feeling light and energetic by following some of the following tips:

Make Nutritious Nudges – If you control the day’s menu, make healthy options available.  Have crudite with appetizers.  Make a big salad with dinner.  Offer fruit as part of dessert.  Or make healthier tweaks to recipes.  Bake instead of fry.  Use less butter in the mashed potatoes.  Use more spices (zero calories).

Here are a few links for more ideas:

Portion Your Plate – When faced with a buffet, it’s amazing how quickly our eyes can become bigger than our stomach.  It takes 15 to 20 minutes to know that you’re full…plenty of time to have seconds and not realize you’re full.  And then you’re stuffed.

So, use smaller dishes and pile them up with fruits and veggies.  Don’t use a plate with appetizers so every time you want something, you have to actually get it.  Use a salad plate with dinner; research shows that we tend to eat less when we have less in front of us.  Then give yourself 15 minutes before getting seconds to give your body a chance to catch up.  If you’re still hungry, get more.  Finally, load up half your plate with veggies or fruit each time you go up, as they will typically be lower in calories and more filling due to their water and fiber content.

Indulge Wisely – It’s important to be sensible on food-focused holidays, which also means allowing ourselves to enjoy the foods that we rarely have otherwise.  For me, that’s sweet potato casserole with marshmallows, mmm.

The key is to choose the indulgences you really enjoy and only have those.  In other words, if you love the home-made pumpkin pie, have a slice (maybe not the entire pie).  If the stuffing is heavenly, enjoy a serving!  Just consider whether it’s also worth having the cheese and crackers with the appetizers, second helpings of mashed potatoes and trying all of the desserts on the table.  If the day loses meaning to you without having a particular food, then have it.  If it doesn’t, then leave it.

Stay Active – We can give our body a great head start toward digesting those Thanksgiving calories by exercising that morning.  Go to the gym or go for a jog.  You can even take it a step further by changing the focus of Thanksgiving from football and food to another activity, such as playing board games, charades, or even touch football outside with the family!  We tend to eat when we have nothing else to do.  Do something else.

Get Back on the Horse – Even with the best laid plans, stuff happens.  One unhealthy decision or day of eating doesn’t ruin our health or fitness…but allowing ourselves to continue those actions for the rest of month or year might.  So rather than feeling guilty or defeated, acknowledge your unintended indulgences (hopefully you enjoyed them), know that they don’t happen every day unless you let them and redouble your focus to healthier eating and staying active as soon as you can.

If you’re hosting, give away all your unwanted, calorie-laden leftovers.  If you’re visiting, don’t take home any leftovers, unless it’s salad.  If the host and visitors are both reading this article, good luck!

Choose the tip that most applies to your situation, make a change, and enjoy a happy, healthy Turkey Day!  I personally give thanks for feedback, so please leave a comment below and let me know what tip(s) worked for you, and which didn’t.

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