Every year the holidays come around to tempt us with a variety of wonderful foods. It doesn’t make any difference if its Christmas or Hanukah, food is an integral part of the celebration. And the celebrations are pretty non-stop from Thanksgiving through New Year’s. Here are seven healthy eating tips for the holidays to help you handle all the delicious temptations of the season (the average person says they gain around five pounds).
1. Eat before you go – Have a small healthy snack before you go to the party, to help control your appetite once you get there. Some great snacks include, cut up fresh vegetables, small handful of nuts (remember to make it small as they have quite a few calories, but they are healthy and filling), low-fat string cheese, etc.
2. Select wisely – When confronted with an open bar ask for club soda, tonic water or even tomato juice. Still want that glass of wine? Add some club soda to make it a wine spritzer and cut some of the calories. Once you have your drink, walk as far away from the bar as possible. Another good reason beside calories to cut down on alcohol – you will be able to drive home safely.
3. Strive to be the last in line – This works well in two ways, first being that once the food is picked over it doesn’t have the visual impact of the buffet when everything is presented in its perfection, making your mind go into overload as you try to decide what all to pile on your plate. Second, by the time you go through not everything might be available, and what’s left might not let you take too large of a helping.
4. How to use your plate – If you have more than one size plate to choose from, select the smallest one. Also know that filling your plate does not mean you have to cover every square inch with food, nor do you have see how high you can layer food. You are better off making more than one trip. On the first trip start with vegetables and salads while you scan what else is available. Then you can go back for small portions of what you think are the three best offerings.
5. Lend a helping hand – If the pull of the buffet becomes too strong, help out your hosts by pouring drinks, taking dirty dishes to the kitchen, even helping clean dishes.
6. Leave the party empty-handed – No matter how grateful your hosts are for you attending, do not take home any of the leftovers. No matter where you hide them in the refrigerator, you will still know they are there.
7. Elastic is not your friend – As you socialize and catch up with old friends you can get distracted, making it hard to watch what you eat. You are better off wearing something fitted, or at least with a regular waistband, to remind you that you might be eating too much. Belts are great as long as you don’t adjust them after getting to the party.
Just because a food is healthy, it doesn’t mean that it is low in calories. As you fill your plate, select foods that “bright and colorful.” These will generally be healthier options with a lower calorie count, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. But remember that fruits, because of their higher sugar content, will have more calories. Also the “bright and colorful” approach won’t work at the dessert table with brightly-decorated cookies, cakes and pies.
Here is a color palate to get you started:
RED – tomatoes, red peppers, kidney beans, strawberries, cranberries
ORANGE/YELLOW – pumpkin, butternut squash, yellow peppers, citrus fruit
GREEN – kale, spinach and other green leafy produce, broccoli, asparagus, apples, green peppers
BLUE/PURPLE – purple cabbage, eggplant, blueberries, plums, blackberries
Two bonus tips:
1. Shopping is stressful – Even when you are shopping you will be surrounded by food, especially at the mall where food courts and food kiosks offer a variety of “quick” snacks and meals. Plan ahead. You know what your shopping area has for you to eat. Find a healthy option that offers you good fiber and protein and plan to go there for lunch. Taking a lunch break will keep you from snacking all day and help you power through an afternoon of shopping. If you need snacks, pack something healthy in your purse.
2. Moms and baking go together – There is something about the holidays that brings out the baker in every mom. So when you go home, or even if mom arrives at your house, you will be presented with baked goods filled with love . . . and calories. Here is where avoidance won’t work, you need to rely on strategic moderation. Choose just a few samples to keep and enjoy, then either take the rest to the office, or make goodie gift bags for the mail or UPS delivery person, your manicurist, paperboy, etc. Mom will be pleased that you want to share her baking expertise.
And if you are the mom making these baked goods – try making fewer in December and spread them throughout the year. Less stress for you, and whom wouldn’t want to eat a spritz cookie in July?
Susan DeRemer, CFRE
Vice President of Development
Discovery Eye Foundation