Putting the “big” meal aside, most extra holiday calories don’t come from the “day of” holiday meal but from unrelenting nibbling over the long holiday season.
Here are 15 workable tips to help you handle holiday food. Choose and use what will work best for you and your lifestyle.
1. You’re the one in charge of choosing what, when, and where you eat. Make the best choice for you — not for someone else. Eat what you want not what you think you should. Give yourself permission to NOT eat something just because it’s tradition.
2. To make good choices you need to inform yourself. If 12 ounces of eggnog has 500 calories and 12 ounces of beer has around 150 and you like them both, which would you choose?
3. Don’t feel obliged to eat what your partner, parent, neighbor, or sibling is having – and don’t let them make you feel guilty if you don’t. What you choose to eat should be what you like, want, and is special to you — not someone else.
4. Say “no thank you” to rolls, mashed potatoes, and ice cream. You can have them any time of the year. Spend your extra calories on something special.
5. Practice portion and plant control. Pile your plate high with lower-calorie vegetables and be stingy with portions of the more calorically dense, fatty, and sugary foods. Eat high volume, lower calorie foods (like vegetables and clear soups) first – they’ll fill you up leaving less room for the other stuff.
6. Be attentive to mindless noshing. For some reason we don’t seem to mentally process the random nibbles and calories from the treats on the receptionist’s desk, the office party hors d’oeuvres, the nibbles off of a child’s plate, or the holiday cake in the snack room. If the food is in front of you it’s hard not to indulge. See it = eat it.
7. Don’t deprive yourself of your favorite holiday foods3. Give yourself permission to eat the holiday treats that you really want – just not the whole platter. A good strategy is to decide on one fantastic treat a day and stick to your decision. Do it ahead of time and commit to your choice so you don’t find yourself wavering in the face of temptation.
8. Let this be your mantra: no seconds. Double-decking the food on your plate isn’t such a great idea, either. Choose your food, fill your plate, and that’s it.
9. Pick the smallest plates, bowls, and glasses you can to help you feel full even when you’re eating less. The smaller the plate, the less food that can go on it. You probably won’t even notice the difference because your eyes and brain are registering “full plate.” The same optical illusion applies to glasses. Choose taller ones instead of shorter fat ones to help cut down on liquid calories.
10. Don’t feel obliged to eat out of courtesy because you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. Get over it – the calories are going into your mouth, not someone else’s. Avoid food pushers who insist on trying to get you to eat more. Have some polite excuses ready to use. You’re the one who will be stepping on the scale or zipping up your jeans the next day – not them.
11. Don’t go to a party hungry, thirsty, or tired — it sets you up for overindulging. Our bodies have a tough time differentiating between thirst and hunger and we often make poor decisions when we’re tired. Before going out have a small healthy snack that‘s around 150 calories and has protein and fiber — like fat-free yogurt and fruit, a serving (not a couple of handfuls) of nuts, or a small piece of cheese and fruit. When you get to the party or dinner you won’t be as likely to attack the hors d’oeuvres or the breadbasket.
12. Forget about grazing. Take a plate — or even a napkin for hors d’oeuvres — put food on it and eat it. Lots of little nibbles add up to lots of big calories. Noshing is mindless eating.
13. Sit with your back to a buffet table – and as far away as possible – so temptation isn’t in your line of sight. A lot of “eating” is done with your eyes and your eyes love to tell you to try this and to try that. Try talking to someone, too. It’s hard to shove food in your mouth when you’re talking.
14. A buffet doesn’t have a “stuff your face” sign hanging over it. Pay attention to what you’ll enjoy and really, really want — not how much you can fit on your plate.
15. Keep in mind that a holiday is a day – 24 hours — like any other day, except that you’ll most likely encounter more food challenges. Be selective. Pass on the muffins at breakfast and save your indulgence calories for “the meal.” Before you put anything on your plate survey your options so you can choose what you really want rather than piling on a random assortment of too much food.