It is really hard to focus on nutrition during this time of year. With holiday parties, goodies in the break room at work and lots of errands to run, it’s easy to just eat whatever’s in front of you, or that you can pick up from the drive-through. But there are a few things you can keep in mind to keep yourself from going overboard before the new year. Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, a dietitian in the New York City area and a contributing blogger for WeightWatchers.com, offers us some tips on how to stay satisfied and healthy during the holiday season.
Between work, shopping for presents and attending parties, preparing meals can become burdensome. Gorin suggests creating a few meals for on-the-go: “An easy way to get some protein in your morning is combining a 6-ounce portion of 2 percent fat plain Greek yogurt with a half-ounce of nuts (about 10 almonds or eight walnuts), a half-serving of whole-grain cereal and a half-cup of fruit.” Berries are the perfect fruit to use with this yogurt parfait. “I love to use raspberries or blueberries — they provide satiating fiber and supply us with a good amount of vitamin C,” Gorin says. “You can always keep frozen fruit on hand so you don’t have to pay those steep out-of-season prices.”
Another good breakfast idea: oatmeal. “Prepare a half-cup of oatmeal with water, then add fruit, almonds, chia seeds and flax seeds. The seeds offer protein and fiber; the oatmeal provides fiber; and you get fiber, vitamins and minerals from the fruit,” she explains, recommending this recipe from her website, amydgorin.com.
In the evenings, Gorin suggests creating a stir-fry — a wok is a great tool to have because you can use very little, or no, oil. “Vegetarian proteins such as tofu are great because they can keep in your fridge longer than a lot of meats,” Gorin says. “So when I need a quick meal, I’ll first bake tofu in the oven or on the stovetop, then add it to veggies (such as broccoli, cauliflower and green beans, which contain immunity-helping vitamin C). Then I’ll combine everything with quick-cooking brown rice. A sauce made with low-sodium teriyaki and a little almond butter adds some healthy fats.”
As for staying satisfied in between meals, and loading up on vitamins to ward off colds, Gorin says it’s best to eat a vegetable or fruit at every meal, “so you get filling fiber, vitamins and minerals. Then you can add protein (eggs, tofu, chicken breast, salmon, etc.), whole grains and a healthy fat (like olive oil, nuts, avocado) to create a meal that’s nutrient-rich and filling.”
Gorin also suggests combining a healthy fat and protein for a satisfying snack. “For instance, you could try a fruit-and-nut bar, an apple with about 10 almonds, or a string cheese with a few dried apricots,” she says.
And when it comes to preparing for holiday parties, she suggests sticking to your normal eating schedule because “if you go more than three to five hours without eating and arrive hungry at the party, then you may make food decisions you don't love because you'll be overly hungry as your blood sugar begins to drop.”
“When you arrive at a party, first scan the food table. Note what you most want to try. Instead of taking a little of everything, try to fill half of a small plate with crudité; and on the other half, you can add a little of what you most want to try,” Gorin says. “For instance, if you see mac and cheese, a cheese plate and chocolate-chip cookies, perhaps just choose one or two to sample — which means a small portion. This way, you can still have your favorite foods but in a moderate way, only spending calories on what's most enjoyable to you — while you fill up on veggies.”
And how should we handle that other calorie-laden item always present at holiday parties — cocktails? Gorin reminds us that “an ounce of liquor has fewer calories than a serving of wine or beer — it’s what you add to it that can make it a low- or high-calorie choice.” She suggests sticking to drinks that aren’t as sweet, such as a martini made with gin and vermouth. “Per a 2-ounce serving, the drink has 135 calories. Of course, that’s a traditional martini and not a chocolate one!” Gorin says. Another good choice? “A hot toddy, which is brandy, bourbon or whiskey, black tea and a little honey and lemon juice, is also a surprisingly satisfying, seasonal, yet lower-calorie option.”
Think small: “When at a party, eat off of a small plate. If there are full-size plates at the buffet table and smaller plates at the dessert table, then bring over one of those small plates to the buffet table.”
Socialize: “Make the party more about the socializing than the eating. I always find that the more I set out to catch up with people, the less I end up eating — it’s not so easy to talk, stand up while holding your food and drink, and eat at the same time.”
Create a juggling act: “Make being overly snacky difficult for yourself by filling one hand with a glass of water, which makes it difficult to balance a food plate while you’re standing around and chatting.”
Fill up on water: “Alternate alcoholic beverages with a glass of water. You can make the water exciting; ask the bartender for sparkling water with a wedge of lime or orange.”
Get walking: “Challenge yourself to add in more activity. When at the mall shopping for holiday gifts, first walk around an entire floor, then begin your shopping. Visit your coworkers at their desks, rather than calling; and walk to the nearby coffee shop, rather than driving. All those steps will add up.”