Tips for healthier eating during the holidays

Tips for healthier eating during the holidays

The holiday season often serves up more calories than we normally consume, thanks to family dinners, party spreads, and game-day get-togethers. So, health experts suggest easing back on weight loss plans during the holidays and concentrating on weight maintenance instead. These tips from UAB Weight Loss Medicine may help:

Talk with an expert: Many people can adapt their eating habits to the occasion without talking to a medical professional. But if you follow a diet that’s directly related to certain health conditions, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian for guidance before you make any changes to your weight management and healthy eating plans.

Know the terrain: Get a satellite view of the buffet or food spread at holiday gatherings to see what’s available, then fill your plate with the healthiest options available, especially vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, and whole grains. This will leave less room for the less nutritious treats.

Don’t fast: Skipping meals to “save up” for an indulgent holiday dinner is not a good strategy, because this often leads to overeating when the time arrives. Instead, try time-restricted eating, or limit your intake to an eight-hour window each day.

Holiday spirits: If you drink alcohol, choose spirits mixed with something that doesn’t have added sugar – such as seltzer or diet tonic water – rather than beer, wine, or sugary mixed drinks. Also, remember that alcohol can lower inhibitions and make you more likely to indulge, so limit yourself to 1-2 drinks, and have a glass of water after each.

Organize your eating: Consume foods in a specific order. Start with a plate of salad or vegetables before trying higher-calorie options at the table. This may help your brain more quickly recognize when you are full. Your next choice should be lean proteins, such as lean meats, skinless poultry, low-fat dairy, seafood, and beans, which can help slow your digestion and may keep you feeling satisfied longer. Save carbs like potatoes, rice, and breads for last, if at all.

Avoid grazing: Don’t hover at the appetizer table. Instead, fix a small plate of the ones you want to try, then move away from the tempting spread. You are likely to consume a wider variety, and greater quantities, if you linger at the table.

Know when to say no: Good cooks love to share holiday favorites made from secret family recipes, and some hosts will insist that you add one more cheese-rich item or a treasured triple-chocolate dessert to your plate. Trust them to understand – and not be offended – when you explain that you are trying to show some restraint.

Get some sleep: Going out more and staying out later can reduce your sleeping hours. Sleep loss affects your blood sugar level, which can lead to cravings for more high-fat, high-sugar foods. Try to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night.

Breakfast of champions: Many studies have shown that the most successful weight managers always have breakfast to start the day, especially a meal with healthy proteins like yogurt, eggs, or a protein shake. That first meal can boost your metabolism, so you may end up consuming fewer calories throughout the day.

Embrace the hustle and bustle: The pace of holiday errands and shopping tends to pick up, so take advantage of opportunities to burn calories. Walk some laps around the shopping center before hitting the shops, choose a parking spot that’s farther away, and walk briskly to your destination. Choose stairs instead of escalators and elevators. Walk to church, parties, and any events that are close enough. Bundle up and take a walk instead of driving to see holiday lights.

Plan your shopping meals: A full day of shopping can lead to last-minute, hunger-induced decisions. If you are spending more time in your car and the stores, pack some snacks and water for breaks. This can help satisfy any hunger cravings until you can make a healthy meal after returning home. If you do plan to dine out for lunch or dinner, choose where and when you will eat in advance.

Focus on the big picture: Don’t be hard on yourself. Healthy eating and weight loss are long-term efforts, which is why weight maintenance can be a good temporary option during the holidays. Stay confident that you will return to your healthy lifestyle routine soon enough.

UAB Weight Loss Medicine (WLM) is a medical clinic that helps patients lose weight and keep it off. Click here to learn more. 

Sources: UAB Weight Loss Medicine, National Institutes of Health

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