12 Healthy Ways to Survive a Holiday Eating Frenzy
Healthy Eating for the Holiday Season
As the majority of us know only too well, any attempt at healthy eating goes sailing out of the window during the holiday season. We tend to conveniently forget about our health and diet, and instead, take the opportunity to over-indulge in every way possible.
According to a recent Weight Watchers report, the average American gains around 7-10 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. This is through pure over-indulgence and gluttony. Moreover, much of this weight is maintained from thereon despite our promises (as we help ourselves to another dollop of pudding) to go on a diet in January.
According to a recent Weight Watchers report, the average American gains around 7-10 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day.
It is not hard to understand why people fall into such bad habits during the holiday season. Everywhere you go there is somebody waiting to thrust a glass of wine or a box of chocolates in front of you. Surely it would be rude to refuse? And, anyway, it is the holidays... Your trip to the local supermarket turns into an adventure. You find yourself in a maze of aisles displaying a range of colorful, tempting goodies that are excitingly packaged and screaming at you to buy them and eat them... Even visits to friends and family are unsafe. You suddenly find the table laden with all manner of goodies, and as you hear the wine bottle cork being popped in the kitchen you resign yourself to the fact that you might as well give in.
All this, coupled with the huge dinners, parties, and festivities of the holiday season makes maintaining control a huge challenge. Healthy eating is a national obsession for the better part of the year. Yet, as soon as Thanksgiving rears its over-indulgent head, the obsession swings the other way as the nation attempts to buy and eat as much unhealthy, rich food as possible.
Food and festivity will always be a major part of the holiday season - and there is certainly nothing wrong in that. However, the holiday season is also a stressful time for many of us, and we need plenty of energy and stamina to cope with it. It is therefore essential that we eat the right type of food with the necessary nutrients to give us energy and reduce stress levels. This is not to say that we shouldn't allow ourselves to indulge a little, but we should eat in moderation and maintain a varied diet.
Jeffrey Rubin, M.D. at the University of Arizona's College of Medicine, states: "The main rule to remember is moderation..." With regards to the rich foods that we consume over this period, he adds: "...Try to balance these items with regular servings of fruit and vegetables..."
If we allow ourselves to lose control completely over the holiday season, there is a high risk that we will continue to eat unhealthily long after the holiday season has gone. Falling into the trap of unhealthy eating is a hard habit to break. Despite millions of New Year's resolutions that are made each year regarding our diets, many people never get around to breaking the habit at all.
In fact, researchers at Washington University have reported that only around 22% of New Year's diet resolutions make it to February.
Tips on eating healthily during the holiday season
Being health-conscious doesn't necessarily mean that you can't enjoy the holiday season and have a little bit of what you fancy. It simply means that you should continue to be vigilant and be prepared for the festivities.
There are many ways in which you can help to strike a balance between maintaining a healthy diet and joining in with the fun and festivities.
1. Exercise: Most people have a little extra time available over the holiday season when they are not at work. Take this opportunity to develop a regular exercise regime. This will help to burn off the excess calories and fat consumed over this period. It will also get you into the habit of exercising, and you can continue the regime after the holiday season is over.
2. Review your cooking methods: These days there is no excuse for not utilizing the many healthy ways in which food can be prepared. Instead of frying, grill your food. If you're roasting, use one of the many available low-calorie spray oils. Try steaming vegetables to retain nutrients and flavor.
3. Invest in lower fat ingredients for cooking: If you're preparing a big dinner, why not use half-fat ingredients whenever possible? It is often difficult to tell the difference where taste and flavor are concerned. You can even get low-calorie beers, wines and soft drinks. By simply swapping regular ingredients, foods and drinks for their half-fat alternatives you can make a big cut-back on fat and calorie consumption.
4. Eat regularly: If you are going to a big party or dinner, don't starve yourself all day in anticipation. You're in danger of arriving there feeling ravenous and eating everything in sight. Instead, have some low-fat, healthy snacks throughout the day. By doing this, you'll be less likely to over-indulge whilst you are out.
5. Prepare for outings: If you have some big nights out and meals planned over the holiday season, try and compensate by having some healthy eating days leading up to the event. Many of us are only too keen to think that we may as well forget about healthy eating over the holidays. However, it should not be a case of forgetting about your diet, but simply managing it a little more carefully over the holidays.
6. Balance your meals out: Don't be tempted to fill up your plate with purely rich, calorie-laden food. Instead, have a little of everything including fruit and vegetables. This way, you'll still get to indulge as well as receive valuable nutrients and vitamins.
7. Be wary of sugary foods: Always remember that rich, sugary foods have a nasty habit of making us crave yet more rich and sugary foods. We've all been there...over-indulging in sweet or rich food...feeling bloated, sick, and making rash promises to never eat again...and, a couple of hours later, finding ourselves back in the kitchen, picking at leftovers. By ensuring that you practise healthy eating over the holidays, and throw in some form of regular exercise, you can expect to have more energy and fewer cravings.
8. Stock up on healthy snacks: When you go shopping, be sure to throw some healthy snacking items in to your trolley. Fill up on raw vegetables, such as carrots or celery, which can make a simple snack in times of temptation.
9. Be aware of food allergies: It is quite possible that you may have an allergy or intolerance to a food, which you may not even be aware of. Because there is a mountain of food waiting around every corner during the holiday season, we sometimes find ourselves gorging on food that we don't even know the ingredients of. Then we wonder why we're feeling so ill the next morning! By having a food allergy test, you can identify any foods that you need to avoid during the holiday season in order to maintain your health and enjoy the festivities without suffering.
10. Moderate alcohol intake: Don't forget that alcohol is fattening too. That innocent-looking glass of sparkly wine or that small bottle of beer may look as though it will do no harm. However, alcohol contains calories and lots of them. Try and control the amount of alcohol you consume over the holiday period and, in the same way as food, try not to over-indulge regularly. There are plenty of lower-calorie beers and wines available that can help, so opt for the healthier version whenever possible.
11. Be assertive: Don't feel as though you have to say yes to everyone that offers you food and drink. If you are not hungry, then simply say so. Do not let yourself be bullied into eating something that you really don't want.
12. Leave what you don't want: Despite what your parents may have drummed into you as a child, don't feel obliged to clear your plate. When you feel full, stop eating. Simple.
William Connor, M.D., who is Professor of Medicine at OHSU School of Medicine, states that: "The overall clinical impression is that people, after the holidays, weigh more than before because of feasting and lack of physical activity."
Professor Connor goes on to recommend the following: use low-fat recipes; eat smaller portion sizes; use a small plate to regulate food portions; and exercise regularly and even more so when eating high-fat foods.