Holidays inevitably come with plates full of diet-breaking delicacies and more desserts than vegetables. But that doesn’t mean you have to buy larger clothes come January, experts say.
If you eat what you want — and do it the right way — you can enjoy all the treats of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s without guilt.
“One meal isn’t going to kill your diet,” said Laurie Lively, a registered dietician at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Cleburne. “That is probably the first thing I should say. When we try to teach people about healthy eating, it is never a one-day deal. It is a healthy lifestyle.”
Lively said some of the main keys to maintaining your health and waistline are getting enough sleep, maintaining a workout routine and eating before a party hungry. The same goes for traveling, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Those taking a trip by car or plane this holiday season should preassemble snacks at home to ward off those drive thru munchies, the association’s website says. Many airport restaurants have started to offer more health-conscious meals, so there should be something to snack on. The association says to search for fiber-rich foods — 3 grams or higher — or low-fat pretzels, yogurt or chips with less than 2 grams of saturated fat per serving.
Some people believe they shouldn’t eat the day of a party to “save up” for all the food that will be there, Lively said. In reality, that is a diet disaster because if you show up with a growling stomach, you’re likely to overeat. It’s smart to snack lightly before the party and search for vegetables or fruits to eat as an appetizer once there.
At the party, another tip is to stay away from the food once you’ve filled up your plate, and try to limit alcohol consumption. Not only is too much alcohol unhealthy — especially for those with diabetes as it can cause hypoglycemia — alcohol also inhibits the brain’s ability to recognize hunger cues.
“Don’t mingle around the buffet tables,” Lively said. “Having it out of sight often makes it easier to keep from picking up food.”
If you are tempted to go back to the buffet, pin point foods that are better to eat, or offer to bring the healthy dish.
When it comes to dessert, choose single-crust pies instead of double, like apple. Of course, Lively said, if you must have the less healthy option, go for it, just don’t overdo it.
“I hate to say stay away from any one food because the holidays are the time to indulge in those things,” Lively said. “But if you can say you are going to indulge in those things, a few days before and a few days after, make sure you are eating very healthy. Oatmeal for breakfast and things like that.”
Families should also aim to promote some sort of group activity to ward off after-turkey laziness. Whether it be a walk around the block with the pets, a game of tag football or raking the leaves, moving around after dinner helps burn at least a few calories, Lively said.
For more information on healthy holiday eating, visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics at www.eatright.org.