The weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day can be tough on the waistline. It’s so easy to lose willpower when you’re celebrating the holidays with family and friends, and exposed to so much tempting food and drink.
But you can temper your indulgences with a simple shift in attitude and careful planning, says registered dietitian and nutrition coach Alissa Rumsey.
“The ‘anything goes’ mindset that people have around the holidays is often because they're restricting certain foods during the rest of the year,” Rumsey tells Newsmax Health. “Change your mindset to give yourself permission to enjoy foods when you want them, and think of Thanksgiving or Christmas Eve as just another dinner, this time surrounded by all your friends and family.”
But that doesn’t mean it’s okay to eat as much of anything you want.
“Pay attention to your hunger and fullness cues,” says Rumsey, owner of Alissa Rumsey Nutrition and Wellness in New York. “If you're doing this year round, it's easy to enjoy the holiday foods without eating too much. Listen to your body and be mindful of what you are eating. Don't just eat food because it is there.”
Here are 10 tips on how to make the holidays a season of mirth without the girth:
Be a picky eater: Often, we’re tempted to eat whatever everyone else is having. Instead, Rumsey says: “Leave behind the food you don’t love.” If you’re not crazy about pecan pie, skip it rather than eating it just because it’s there.
Eat more fiber: To fill up without filling out, fiber is your best friend. Legumes, fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and oatmeal are all good sources. And it’s easy to slip some fiber onto your favorite holiday dishes by adding processed or pureed vegetables to soups, sauces, and casseroles.
Drink water: A study published in the medical journal Obesity found that people who drank about a pint of water before a meal ate significantly less than those who didn’t. Substituting water for sugar-laden sodas and juices is also a relatively painless way to cut calories.
Moderate alcohol consumption: Beer, wine, and spirits can definitely add to the holiday cheer. But they all pack a lot of empty calories, especially when you add mixers for cocktails. Experts suggest having a glass of water between drinks, which will not only curb your consumption but also lessen a hangover if you do overindulge.
Don’t skip meals: Forgoing meals to make up for eating a large holiday dinner may seem logical, but it doesn’t normally work. Not only will you be more likely to overeat at dinner, but skipping meals during the day slows the metabolism, meaning that you won’t burn off those extra calories as efficiently.
Delay taking seconds: When you pile up plate after plate of food, you don’t give your body a chance to register how full you really are. Nutritionist Molly Gee notes on Everydayhealth.com that it takes the brain 15 to 20 minutes to get the fullness message from the belly. So wait a while before diving into seconds. You might realize your body doesn’t need any more food.
Use smaller plates: Studies show that people eat up to 22 percent less when served food on a 10-inch plate compared with a 12-inch one. The theory is that since the plate looks fuller, you feel more satiated after consuming the food on it.
Bring your own food: Celebrity nutritionist Tricia Williams says one way to help control what you eat is to bring your own dish to a holiday dinner. Just make sure it’s something healthy.
Go easy on the white stuff: Those delicious dinner rolls made with refined flour are hard to resist, but you should – or at least switch them out for whole grain. White flour, rice and pasta hits the bloodstream like sugar, spiking glucose levels and making us feel hungrier faster.
Take a walk: After chowing down it may be tempting to settle into the sofa and watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” again. Instead, take a walk before turning on the tube. You’ll not only burn off some of the calories you just consumed, but walking for 15 minutes or more will aid digestion, boost metabolism and help control blood glucose levels, among other benefits.
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