10 tips for a healthier
holiday eating season
I heard the cry across the office and immediately knew the pain behind it...
"Oh, no! Don't put the popcorn machine by me!" one of our managers exclaimed as the machine was wheeled to a more prominent location in hopes of it getting more use.
More use, of course, meant more popcorn. And with that comes the great potential for more calories to be added to our bottom line.
And, well, our bottoms.
I tout as both a skill and fatal flaw that I can sense and find with bloodhound-like acumen the presence of goodies in the office.
I just can't seem to stop eating them once I find a stash.
The problem is exacerbated at holiday time when folks here are feeling a bit more merry and express it with sugar cookies, brownies, cakes and — well let's just stop the list there before sweets on the mind forces everyone to find some for their tongues.
All of that "holiday cheer" causes Americans to gain, on average, one to two pounds during the season, said Caryn Alter, a registered dietitian with the Star and Barry Tobias Health Awareness Center at CentraState Medical Center in Freehold Township.
That may not seem like much, but unless you continue to carry the weight into next December. Then the next.
She shared 10 tips to help navigate the next few weeks in the office and at parties.
Don't skip meals.
There's going to be extra food around, so I'll just hold off eating lunch until the office potluck or party, you say to yourself.
Wrong, says Alter. While it may sound counter intuitive, she suggest you continue to eat your sensible and satisfying breakfast and lunch. And if you're headed to a Christmas party that night, have a healthy snack.
That will keep you from being ravenous when you're facing the party buffet.
"It's harder to eat with any kind of self control at that point," she said.
Bring a healthy dish.
Many people will use holiday time to pull out all of the stops and make their most delectable dish, one that can also be laden with calories. Alter suggests going against the grain and bringing a healthy option. She likes bringing decoratively sliced pineapple dressed up with other attractive fruits like kiwi and grapes. That way you know you'll have at least one healthy option on your dish.
Think about the drink.
You can't have a Christmas party without eggnog. But at 200 calories for a 4-ounce serving, maybe you can. Liquids also don't make you feel as full as solid food does, so you also consume more calories than you think.
Use a smaller plate.
Using a little plate helps curb eating in two ways, Alter says. One of the reasons it works is a bit of an optical illusion. The same amount of food on an 8-inch plate will look much more substantial than the same amount of food on an 11-inch plate.
A smaller plate will offer natural portion control because you can only put so much on the dish.
Want to amp up this idea? Skip the dish and use a napkin for the food you'll be eating.
Fill up on fiber. Eat foods with fiber first: salad over other sides, fruit before desserts. It'll take the edge off hunger, but fiber also absorbs water as it makes its way through the digestive track and gives you a fuller feeling, Alter said.
Take more time as you eat. Put down your fork and take sips of water after a few bites. It can take 20 minutes for your brain to get the message your stomach is full. Take a break before going for seconds.
Talk more, eat less.
Take the emphasis off eating and more on socializing, Alter said. Focus more on the conversations with your co-workers, family and friends. You won't be as tempted to eat all of the goodies at hand.
Also remember: People who are distracted while eating can also eat more. So avoid the snacks while reminiscing about auld lang syne.
This one sounds easy, but can be harder than you think because of the long-ago learned lesson of clearing your plate, Alter said.
"Eat when you are physically hungry and stop when you are comfortably full," she said. "But it is very difficult for a lot of people to do that."
We all eat for different reasons: sadness, boredom, celebration. She suggests we wait 10 minutes before eating to decided if we are actually hungry. That's how long it can take for a craving to peak and subside.
But have to sample every dish that everyone brought? Alter suggests you take an inventory of the buffet line first and treat the calories you will consume the same way you do your money. If you only have so much cash (or in this case, calories) how are you going to spend it?
"You can decide which foods are really your favorites and which you'd like to spend your calories on," she said. "If it's not one of your favorite items, maybe you can share it with another person."
Signal the end of the meal.
Can you brush your teeth after you eat? If not try, grab some sugarless gum or a mint. Any of those will signal to your body you're done eating, Alter said.
Walk it off.
So maybe you did consume a few too many calories. All is not lost, Alter said. Find ways to add physical activity into the mix. Do some seated exercises at your desk. Park further away from the office or store while shopping.