Plan Healthy Eating For Your Holiday Season
By Jenny Spude & Claire Thompson, UW-Extension Educators
As we bundle up to enjoy the crisp air of winter, our sensations also include warm, comforting foods that accompany the holiday season. Coffee cakes, baked casseroles, fruit pies and sweet treats arrive in food carriers at every social event and work place. Culinary creations shared with friends and family are part of the glue that brings us together and keeps us happy in the coldest winter months. This is also the time of the year that presents opportunities to overindulge and make unhealthy food choices.
The reality is that average folks gain one pound during the holiday season. You may thinking, “Well, that’s not so bad”. Over time, gaining a pound a year adds up. Research shows that for most people it’s easier to prevent weight gain in the first place, than to lose weight later on. Since the holiday season will arrive every year, it is important to be thoughtful of how you will maintain your health during the holiday eating season. Here are 10 planning tips for healthy holiday eating:
- Eat a snack before leaving home to attend holiday get-togethers, such as a handful of nuts, string cheese, veggies or an apple. It is extremely difficult to make a healthy food choice when you are ravishingly hungry – especially when every food item looks irresistible!
- If the party is potluck style, bring your latest favorite, healthy choice. Your friends will appreciate sampling and having another idea for their families as well. Not a cook? Consider buying hummus and adding fresh veggies or a yogurt and fruit parfait.
- Keep your portion sizes small. Research proves that eating from a smaller sized plate will help you eat less. When given the option of a large 9-inch or 12-inch plate or a small “dessert/appetizer” plate that is 6 inches always choose the 6-inch plate.
- Fill your plate half full with fruits or vegetables.
- Stay on the other side of the room. What better way to avoid needless holiday calories than by avoiding the dessert table altogether? Many party-goers simply consume more food because of their location to it. For example, are you eating the honey roasted peanuts because they are a favorite holiday treat or simply because they were at the table that you joined? If something tempting is nearby, move yourself, move the food or move your mind.
- Sip slowly. Many holiday concoctions are packed with calories. You don’t have to give them up but it’s wise on a number of different levels to SIP SLOWLY. Try consuming a glass of fruit infused water between high-calorie beverages. You will save yourself calories and stay hydrated throughout the event. Consider volunteering to serve as the designated driver.
- Focus on special foods. Select a few items that are traditional holiday foods and allow yourself to savor their flavor. For everything else, why not just pass? Typical party fare like a cheese and sausage tray can be enjoyed any time of year.
- Eat only what you want to. “Please eat the last piece so I don’t have to put it away” is a common refrain at some households. Those additional calories begin to add up! Is that last portion “worth” the hour run that it would take to burn off the calories? Be honest with “food pushers” in your life by saying, “Thanks but I’ve had my fill, you all can enjoy it tomorrow.”
- Keep exercise a regular part of every day, including the holidays. Research shows folks who are less active, gain the most holiday weight. Consider adding simple activities to your daily routine, including taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking in the furthest parking spot from your destination or instead of a card game in between meals go outside for a walk.
- Be mindful and enjoy your food. Party hosts and cooks will feel more appreciated if you eat slowly and consider the time and thought that went into their culinary creation. Go out of your way to notice the seasoning selection and dish presentation. Take a moment to appreciate the good work of others in growing and preparing the food.
Notice that you have people around you to share this moment of delicious and healthy eating.
Make this holiday season one that you will remember because of the connections you made with friends and family. Continue healthy eating habits into the New Year and over the years you will appreciate your dedication to a lifetime of healthy eating habits.