So, you over-indulged at Thanksgiving dinner. You’re not alone! It’s hard to resist a table full of delicious goodness regardless of how good you are at practicing self-restraint.
What’s tough (or great?) about the holiday season, though, is the surplus of events, parties, and occasions to surround yourself with too much delicious food and festive, sugary drinks. We’ve teamed up with registered dietitian, Dr. Marily Oppezzo, to give you 5 easy ways to enjoy the holiday festivities without writing off the whole month as a “cheat” month.
1. Don’t starve the day of, and don’t show up hungry.
A lot of people feel like they should save their calories for the party by not eating anything beforehand, but “this systematically fails”, explains Marily.
When you show up hungry, your blood sugar is low and that puts you at risk of overcompensating the glucose deficit by reaching for something carb-loaded or sugary. You may be able to fight off this urge and settle for veggie sticks or something healthy instead, but that may not fix your overactive hunger signal quickly enough. Plus, it could just lead you to feel unfulfilled, and who wants that at a party?
The trick is to still eat regularly throughout the day of, but make them lighter choices, heavier on vegetables and still getting enough protein, to avoid showing up ravenous at these food-heavy gatherings. If you do find yourself arriving famished, try looking around for a filling but healthy choice like a broth-based soup to take up some space and temper the eating pace.
2. Show up with a delicious but healthy dish.
Many of these holiday parties are potluck style, and that means that you have an opportunity to control at least one item on the dinner menu that night. There’s usually no shortage of mouthwatering sugar or saturated-fat laden meats at these potluck style parties, but appetizing vegetable dishes is not always a guarantee.
As tempting as it may be, instead of showing up with grandma’s famous chocolate cake or mom’s hearty lasagna, find a recipe that’s both delicious but still full of vegetables, protein, and whole grains like a quinoa salad.
3. Drink Responsibly
Hidden but excessive calorie consumption can come from empty sugar calories in cocktail mixers and sweet dessert drinks. There’s no need to refrain completely from having a drink or two, but stick to a self-poured glass of wine or a bottled light beer for easy portioning.
Mixed drinks and cocktails tend to use sugary mixers like juice and soda which can add up very quickly if you aren’t careful. Alcohol itself is 7 calories / gram, and adding sugar to it will give you an extra 4 calories / gram. If you’re not a fan of beer or wine, opt for mixed drinks like vodka and soda water, instead of a Jack and coke.
Another great trick is to double-fist before the main course with water in your one hand and your beverage in the other. This occupies both of your hands to stop you from mindless noshing, as well as help you moderate your intake (and mitigate dehydration!) by staying hydrated all night.
4. The 3-Bite Rule
When the main course rolls around, stick to the 3-bite rule of filling up your plate with 3 bites of everything that looks appetizing to you which you may not normally be able to procure or try on your own. This way, you’ll get to try a little bit of all of the dishes family, friends and relatives contributed, and you’ll have successfully portioned out your meal.
Another trick is to eat slowly. Holiday parties are social events, so spend the extra time chatting up the people around you and putting your fork down after every bite. Eating slowly will help your brain catch up to your body and ultimately avoid accidental overeating.
That being said, if you still find yourself genuinely hungry after your first plate, and it’s been about 30 minutes since you started eating (the time it takes your brain to get the signal that you’re “full”), there’s no need to fight off the urge to grab seconds. Just stick to the 3-bite rule again, and don’t be afraid to leave things on your plate.
5. Don’t desert the dessert.
There’s no reason to pass up the pumpkin pie you’ve been eyeing the whole night. Apply the same 3-bite rule, but make it 2-bites instead for dessert and sweets. Take a few bites or half piece of the dessert that’s calling your name, offer to share with a new friend or your cousin, and leave the rest to the hungry kids.
One of the biggest misconceptions about the holiday season is that one meal is going to make or break your healthy habits. This just simply isn’t true! A single dinner, or even a series of dinners, is not going to throw you off the path to leading a healthy lifestyle and instantly pack on 10 lbs to your figure. Buying into that kind of mindset actually puts you at risk of diving off the proverbial wagon head-first and overindulge on everything.
In the coming weeks, it’s important to remember to enjoy these special occasions and let yourself indulge from time to time without losing control. Happy holidays!
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