Stressing to meet deadlines, frantically shopping for presents, skipping the gym for parties — does this sound like your schedule during the holidays? With all the added pressure that comes this time of year, it’s no wonder healthy eating can fall to the bottom of the to-do list. Studies published in The New England Journal of Medicine show that the average person gains one pound over the holiday season and keeps it on in the New Year. Accumulating this weight gain year after year can have a significant negative impact on your health.
“In addition to healthy eating, we should adopt a healthy attitude toward food,” says Almond dietitian nutritionist Rachelle LaCroix Mallik (MA, RD). “The holiday season is a time to celebrate with friends and family, not feel guilt-ridden about every food decision you make.” This holiday, Rachelle and her fellow Almond dietitians Jessica Katz (MS, RD) and Jamie Leskowitz (MS, RD) share their top 5 healthy holiday tips.
According to the Calorie Control Council, an average holiday dinner can amount to 3,000 calories — nearly double the USDA’s daily energy intake recommendations for women. Avoid overeating at holiday parties by eating beforehand. Katz recommends having a snack containing protein and fiber to keep you feeling full. Short on time? Grab a handful of nuts on your way out of the office.
During the holidays, we often don’t realize the amount of liquid calories we are drinking. Leskowitz recommends adding sparkling water to cut down the amount of sugar and empty calories per glass. “It’s hard to keep track of what you are drinking, and making this small change means you won’t have to constantly worry about the number of glasses consumed.” Whether it’s cranberry juice or white wine, try the spritzer version for a bubbly holiday drink.
One piece here, one piece there. It’s easy to lose track of how many hors d’oeuvres we snack on while we socialize around the food. Mallik likes to go for hors d’oeuvres that require her to grab a knife and fork and sit down to eat. “This helps you to eat more mindfully and avoid automatically replenishing your plate without thinking.”
With many holiday meals being family or buffet style, it’s easy to load up our plates with more than we can comfortably eat. Research from Cornell University suggests that when we use larger dinnerware, we tend to serve more and eat more without noticing. “Try serving yourself on a smaller dish,” recommends Mallik, “and make up half your plate with vegetables.” This allows you to try different holiday favorites in healthier portions without overanalyzing.
If you have a hankering for a specific dessert, don’t deprive yourself — as long as you have a plan. “Enter the party with a specific number of indulgences you are going to try, so you know how to best allocate them” says Katz. “A numerical goal helps you maintain control.” Being overly restrictive can backfire by increasing your cravings, leading to overeating.
“I am certainly not a perfect eater,” says Katz. “It’s about finding small changes that work for your lifestyle that can become effortless habits.” Try these easy, healthy swaps and enjoy the holiday festivities guilt-free.
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