By Kristina Cooke, Keene State College Dietetic Intern
The holiday season is brimming with fun activities and feasts galore. And treats are lurking around every corner. Overeating can occur more frequently during the winter holidays, so being prepared can reduce the likelihood that you’ll overindulge.
Here are some strategies to keep in mind as you approach this season of overindulgence. The bottom line? Do not deprive yourself of the foods you enjoy, but consume them in moderate portions and listen to the way you feel as you eat.
Stick to Nutrient Dense Foods
Skipping meals can lead to hunger and cause us to indulge in more high-calorie foods. When you know you’ll be attending a holiday event where food will be served, make sure to consume regular meals with nutrient-dense foods. Each meal should consist of a lean protein, heart-healthy fat, and complex, fiber-rich carbohydrates. Consuming meals balanced in this way will keep you satiated and reduce your chances of overeating later.
Watch Your Portions
Holiday foods are often offered in huge helpings, which can make it challenging to listen to your body. If the event is self-served, make sure to fill up on fiber-rich vegetables and fruits. Drinking an unsweetened carbonated beverage, such as seltzer, is another way to stay hydrated and reduce intake. If you’re consuming alcohol, reduce calories by using seltzer as a mixer. When choosing a plate, stick to the smaller ones. Filling up a smaller plate can trick the mind into feeling more satisfied.
Focus on Simple Modifications
Choose what you like to eat, but make changes to avoid unnecessary calorie intake. For example, taking the skin off chicken can save close to 100 calories. Holiday side dishes are aplenty, so choose what you enjoy and balance fat or sugar-laden foods on your plate with appropriate portions of those that are higher in nutrients. Unseen ingredients, such as oil or butter, can add extra calories. Therefore, consider the portion size of all foods — even those that seem nutritious.
Take your time to eat slowly, and put down the fork and knife between bites. The moment you put down the fork may be a good time to assess how you feel. Consider your energy levels, your appetite and your level of fullness. Remember, you can always go back for second portions if you truly are hungry.
The social and cultural aspects of eating are just as important to our overall health as the physical aspects, such as nutrition. Remember these tips the next time you meet family and friends for a holiday feast. Listen to your mind and body when making food selections, and allow yourself to enjoy the season’s treats in moderation.