The holiday season is an opportunity to celebrate family, friends and great food. Unfortunately, many of us tend to over–eat during this time of year. In fact, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates that over–eating during the holidays can cause up to two pounds of weight gain per year. With Christmas around the corner, chances are you’ll be attending or hosting at least one holiday meal, so it’s important to keep a few healthy eating strategies in mind. Here a few easy tips to keep you healthy and happy during the holiday season.
1. Bring your own Dish
An easy way to exert control over your holiday eating is to bring a healthy dish of your own to the meal. Volunteer to bring a vegetable soup or salad for the appetizer, or perhaps a healthy vegetable roast for a main dish. By bringing your own healthy food, you can control at least one portion of the meal, ensuring that you don’t fill up on overly rich appetizers and snacks. And the best part of bringing healthy food along is that other guests will thank you! As they say, never arrive to a dinner party empty handed.
2. Practice Portion Control
One of the biggest culprits for over–eating during the holidays is improper portion control. We tend to misjudge how much actually goes into a “portion,” and it’s important to look into the nutrition facts behind our food before we portion them out. Do some research on portion sizes before the holiday meal, and you’re much more likely to cut calories during the meal itself. You’ll find out, for example, that the proper portion for apple pie with vanilla ice cream is 1/8 of a 9-inch pie with 1 cup of ice cream, no more, no less!
3. Eat before the Meal
Whether you are hosting a holiday meal or attending one with friends and family, it’s always a good idea to eat something small and healthy before the actual meal. Eat a healthy cereal or yogurt for breakfast, or maybe fill up on a fruit smoothie on the way to the party. That way you won’t be ravenously hungry by the time the mashed potatoes and pies come out. It’s a good idea not to skip meals in general, as studies have shown that eating three square meals per day can keep you healthier in the long run.
4. Be Careful with Drinks
Drinks can be sneaky when it comes to calories. It might not look like it, but sometimes the eggnog, mulled wine and holiday cocktails contain more calories than some of the food! Alcohol can also increase appetite and reduce inhibitions, which can lead to over–eating. An easy way to keep beverage portions under control is to serve drinks into tall, skinny glasses and limit the number of drinks you serve and consume. And non–alcoholic drinks are no exception, as they often contain excess sugars and syrups.
It might be the last thing you want to do, but doing some exercise on the morning before Christmas can have significant health benefits. Even light exercise like a short jog or 15–minute yoga session at home can keep you feeling better for the rest of the day. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, try to find a holiday race and run a 5k. It can help to think of exercise as a way to thank yourself once you actually sit down to eat. Remember, food should always be a celebration!