The holiday season is upon us. Many people approach this time of year with a bit of anxiety.
If you’ve been watching your diet and trying to maintain healthy habits, this is a time when it would be easy to let go and lapse back into unhealthy eating patterns.
Food is plentiful and abundant and hectic schedules make exercise difficult.
However, if you approach the holidays with a realistic mindset, and give yourself permission to indulge just a bit, you can still enjoy the holiday festivities, and will enter the new year feeling good about yourself.
The holidays are a time of joy and celebration. Food is an integral part of this part of the year.
Give yourself permission to enjoy special foods and the events that surround them.
Moderation is the key word, rather than overindulgence.
Prioritize your special holiday foods and make a point to enjoy those that aren’t normally available other times of the year.
Then perhaps it is easier to forgo those items that aren’t so special, such as chips and dip, cheese and crackers, cocktail nuts, cookies and candy.
You can easily shave off a few hundred calories by avoiding those ordinary “filler foods.”
When eating at home, take extra care to plan and eat healthful meals, knowing that you will most likely be eating a few not-so-healthful foods elsewhere throughout the season.
Use small plates at parties and gatherings. A little bit of food looks like a lot of food on a small plate.
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Choose a small dessert plate at a holiday buffet rather than a dinner plate. Stick to a one-trip limit, and don’t even consider going back for seconds.
Before you even start putting food on your plate, survey the options and make your choices rather than just starting at the beginning of the food line and working your way down.
At home, eat meals on small plates as well. An easy visual to use is to fill half of your dinner plate with vegetables, one-quarter with lean meat, and one-quarter with a whole grain.
Nutrition landmines are everywhere during the holiday season! Calories, fat, saturated fat, sodium and sugar are abundant in many typical holiday foods.
You name the vice, it’s right there waiting for you. Awareness is the key here.
Don’t allow yourself to mindlessly pop a half dozen holiday cookies in your mouth. Set a reasonable limit and stick to it.
There are lots of options for healthy holiday fare. When it’s your turn to bring a dish, make something healthy such as an assortment of colorful veggies arranged in a wreath shape with a low-fat dip made from plain Greek yogurt and dry ranch dressing mix; boiled shrimp with cocktail sauce; unsalted raw nuts such as cashews and pecans; and wine spritzers made with half wine and half seltzer, club soda or sparkling mineral water.
Avoid stocking your pantry with holiday sweets and treats, and limit baking to a minimum. If it’s staring you in the face at home, it’s hard to resist.
Don’t neglect exercise during the holidays. Set up a realistic holiday exercise schedule. Write it down on your calendar and treat it just like any other appointment, giving it equal priority.
Be realistic about planning, and set up a schedule that will work for you. Most people who stick to a regular exercise schedule during the holidays wake up the morning of Jan. 2 weighing the same as they did the day before Thanksgiving. That’s motivation enough for me!
Things may come up that interfere with your plan, so give yourself a weekly goal to put in at least 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise.
That way if you miss a scheduled exercise session during the week you can make it up another time before the end of the week.
It is possible to get through the holidays without gaining weight or relapsing back into unhealthy patterns. The key is to be realistic, and avoid that “all or nothing” mentality.
Allow yourself a few worthy indulgences and enjoy those special holiday foods in moderation.
Susie Bond is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian/Nutritionist with Health First Pro-Health & Fitness Center. Contact her at susie.bond @health-first.org.