It’s that time of year again. The Thanksgiving/Christmas season is when we re most likely to gain weight. It’s not all our fault – the days get shorter and colder so we crave more food, likely thanks to our primitive ancestors who needed to stockpile calories for the harsh winter.
But the simple fact is that there are more festivities filled with decadent cuisine and treats, and studies show people are more likely to indulge when in the company of others.
It is possible to enjoy the holidays – and those holiday parties – without completely falling off the wagon. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you enjoy the season without adding unwanted pounds.
1. Never Arrive Hungry
Avoid going to an event on an empty stomach. You’ll end up making poor decisions and grab whatever is in front of you. Try to eat a healthy snack beforehand so that you’re not running on empty when you arrive. Think: Greek yogurt with berries, sliced turkey and hi-fiber crackers, cut veggies and bean dip.
2. Count Your Hors D’oeuvres
As much as I like to believe that the calories in finger food are free, they aren’t! And they add up quickly. Before filling up on appetizers, survey all your options so you can make smart decisions. Try to avoid the ones that are deep-fried or drenched in mayo and/or creamy sauces. Only indulge in those appetizers that are truly worth it (veggie and/or lean protein) – and limit yourself! Remember, dinner and dessert are yet to be served, so save room.
3. Be Smart About Filling Your Plate
Don’t dive straight into the mashed potatoes or the stuffing. It may be delicious, but first try filling your plate with veggies and/or salad. Then, look for a lean protein (think: white turkey meat, leaner cuts of red meat, shrimp cocktail or grilled fish). Watch out for heavy sauces and sugar-filled condiments like gravies and cranberry sauce (one tablespoon of cranberry sauce has approximately 60 calories and tartar sauce has even more). Once you’ve filled up, if you feel like you can’t resist a few items, go back to sample the one thing that caught your eye. If the mac and cheese is calling your name, taste a bite and enjoy but don’t go back for more.
4. Stay Hydrated But Not Drunk
Filling your belly with fluids will actually help you feel more full but reach for water, sparkling water and/or other calorie-free beverages. Beware of consuming too much alcohol at holiday meals. Not only does alcohol have nearly double the calories of protein or carbohydrates (a glass of wine is 110 calories), but it inhibits your liver’s ability to efficiently burn fat and has a negative impact on our “food decision making abilities”. After a few glasses, your ability to turn down the pie will be impaired and Poof! – you’ll have racked up an extra 600 calories. If you decide to enjoy alcohol, make sure to pace yourself. Studies show that one glass of alcohol a day is healthy, three is not!
5. Remember, It’s Not Just About the Food
Believe it or not, the holidays are not just about stuffing yourself to the point of sickness. Make a point to socialize with those people who are special in your life or even someone you may not have spoken to in a while. Don’t know anyone at the event? Make some new friends! Distract yourself from all the decadence by engaging with other people. Time will fly by and you won’t go home feeling ill.
Stay tuned for other tips for staying healthy this time of year. If you have a great trick to keeping the weight off during the holiday season, Tweet me @harleypasternak.