By ERIN COMMONS, RD
Snickers, caramel apples, turkey, gravy, cookies, and fudge – oh, my! It’s no wonder the average American gains seven pounds from October 31st through January 1st. The holiday season is a socially accepted food-a-palooza for two solid months.
Did you know that the obesity epidemic was likely due to an excess of 50 calories per day? That’s 3 tablespoons of mashed potatoes, ½ of a dinner roll, 1 ½ teaspoons of butter.
Everything adds up.
As we come off Thanksgiving – which is the epitome of a food holiday – it’s a perfect time to create a healthy holiday nutrition plan.
How do you enjoy the holiday season without subjecting yourself to elastic waistbands, food comas, and unpleasant belches of overindulgence?
It all comes down to quality versus quantity. You can either change the quality of the foods that you eat. Or you can change the quantity of the foods that you eat.
How can you change the quality? Start by tweaking the ingredients in your family favorite recipes. Think whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and lean meats.
As you plan your holiday meal: Is it possible to substitute steamed green beans for green bean casserole? Is it possible to serve roasted yams rather than the sweet potatoes with brown sugar, maple syrup, and mini-marshmallows? Can you opt for sparkling water rather than cocktails or sweetened drinks?
If the answer to the above questions is an overwhelming “NO!” – then you might want to consider changing the quantity of what you eat. If this is the only time of year to eat that delicacy, then eat it. However, is it possible for you take a smaller amount, slow down your eating pace, and savor every bite? If you are going to eat it, at least allow yourself to enjoy the bites that you choose to eat.
Before you eat, take a moment to scan the food choices to come up with your nutrition game plan. Perhaps you’ll select the stuffing made from scratch and reject the store-bought rolls? Or eat the homemade pie but without the imitation whipped topping? Tis the season to be a food snob!
Whether you decide to change your quality or your quantity, eat mindfully. Check in with yourself throughout the meal and assess where you are on the hunger and fullness scale (1=starving, 5=neutral, 10=stuffed). Try to avoid the extremes of starving and stuffed.
As you approach the point where your hunger is gone (not full) and you are merely satisfied, set down your fork and enjoy the conversation and the time with your friends and family.
Do you come from a family who is part of the clean-plate-club? Or does Great Aunt Mabel insist you get seconds? If confronting family frightens you, consider flattery – “Oh, I can’t eat another bite of this fabulous food. Can I wrap it up and take it with me?” Once the leftovers are home, you can decide whether to eat them or trash them – it’s your holiday nutrition plan.
Whether you choose to alter your quality or quantity this season, a well thought out plan will help you avoid the food coma – and the dreaded seasonal seven pounds.