Holiday eating often gets a gold medal for “too much”: too many calories, too much fat, too much sugar – and yes, too much alcohol. But don’t let this prospect get you down. Eating a little bit more during the holiday season is not going to impact your weight or fitness goals immensely. The trick is balance and limits.
In my 18 years as a Registered Dietitian, I have picked up the easiest 5 ways to keep your diet fit through the holidays. Read on!
Trick #1: Put vegetables on your plate first.
Loading your plate up with vegetables first is a good idea for several reasons.
- If your plate is full of vegetables, there won’t be much room for less healthy foods!
- Studies in children have found that whatever you eat first you eat the most of, whether it’s vegetables or candy.
- Eating vegetables first has been shown to reduce the amount your blood glucose goes up after you eat a meal with carbohydrates. This means that digestion of carbohydrates is slowed, giving you a more sustained release of energy and a longer feeling of fullness after a meal.
Don’t you feel better already?
Trick #2: Use a side plate when serving yourself calorie-laden foods.
The vegetables and high-fibre foods go on the dinner plate while gravy, stuffing, and other rich foods are on a side plate (or at least limited to ¼ of the dinner plate).
The reason for this? You guessed it. It’s an easy way to reduce calorie-laden food without counting calories. Also, it gives you permission to enjoy every food – in moderation. There is also a psychological basis for this recommendation. A 2013 study that found that dinnerware provides a visual anchor for appropriate serving sizes and that people tend to fill their plate to the same degree, say 75%, no matter the size of the plate. Additionally, they found that buffet diners provided with large plates serve themselves 52% more, eat 45% more, and waste 135% more food than those with smaller plates. That’s a huge difference that you’ll be able to feel.
Trick# 3: Sip a low calorie, non-alcoholic drink between every alcoholic drink.
Alcohol is a big source of hidden calories over the holidays. Alcohol is calorie-dense, providing 7 calories for every gram! Compare this to carbohydrates and protein, which give you only 4 calories per gram.
Try to limit your total alcohol intake with the following strategies to avoid both a holiday hangover and extra weight gain:
- Pace yourself with calorie-free non-alcoholic beverages or make spritzers.
- Serve yourself appropriate portion sizes. Standard drink sizes are 5 ounces for wine, 12 ounces for beer, and 1.5 ounces for hard liquor or spirits.
- Serve yourself in tall slender glasses. This strategy works by fooling you into drinking smaller serving sizes.
- Slow down and really enjoy your drink. Resist the urge to gulp your wine.
Trick# 4: Reduce the amount you eat before a gathering.
Reduce the amount of food you eat for 1-2 meals before (or after) a big family meal. Load up on vegetables during these meals and choose low calorie, high fibre foods.
You may also want to limit salt during these meals as the holidays tend to favour high salt foods.
Trick# 5: Don’t deprive yourself.
This may sound counterintuitive, but this is the season to enjoy all of those foods you only eat once a year! Plan when and how much of your favourites you are going to eat in advance. Remember – all foods fit. Moderation is the key. Have the dessert but have a small portion. Plan what you are going to have ahead of time.
Holidays are a great time to catch up with family. Enjoy your meals. Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. Enjoy water and fresh fruits and vegetables whenever possible. Get outside. It’s amazing how a little fresh air can fill you up in a way that mindless eating cannot.
Nutritional planning is integral to achieve your optimal athletic performance. Gazelle Nutrition Lab delivers one on one or group nutritional counselling and consulting to both recreational and high-performance athletes. Also, the Food For Thought Blog is a free resource for healthy recipes and health tips. Have questions? We’d love to hear from you! Get in touch!