It’s not too early to start preparing for the eating season.
By Melissa F. Pheterson
Why wait until New Year’s Day to improve your eating habits? “There’s no better time to start than right now,” says Jaclyn Meyer, MS, a registered and certified Dietitian-Nutritionist and a Diabetes Educator at HealthAlliance Hospital’s Diabetes Education Center in Kingston, a member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth).
“Most people end up gaining three to five pounds during the holiday season. Add that to the five to 10 extra you’re trying to shed, and the numbers add up quickly.” Luckily, there’s no need to hole up for the holidays. Here are Meyer’s tips to stave off those extra pounds.
1. Enjoy your freedom of choice.
“Don’t label any food off-limits; as soon as you do, you want it even more,” Meyer says. “I tell patients that yes, there will be cookies at the office, gift baskets of food and treats popping up everywhere. When you decide to indulge, make sure it’s something you really like. If it’s stale grocery-store cookies or doughnuts, I would pass. If it’s the delicious cannoli my neighbor made, I would indulge. If you feel it’s worth the calories, enjoy it, move on and don’t feel guilty.” At holiday parties with lavish spreads, take in all the offerings — then fill a small plate with the foods you love most. When you’re full but still want to socialize, hold and sip a low-calorie drink. “This helps occupy your hands, so you’re not mindlessly eating the whole time.”
2. Find support.
“Make a pact with a friend or family member to work hard to stay on target,” Meyer says,“or make an appointment with that dietician you’ve been wanting to see. Either way, have someone in your corner to explore strategies that work for you, especially if you overindulge and need to get back on track. Sharing your efforts with loved ones may also discourage them from giving edible gifts.”
3. Stick to routine as much as possible.
“Even if you plan to have a big dinner, eat your normal breakfast and lunch at the usual times,” Meyer says. “Skipping meals in anticipation will mess with your blood sugar, and you’ll end up overeating.” If you’re devoting a day to holiday shopping, carve out time for a meal or bring healthy snacks. If you’re offered a festive drink, like spiked cinnamon cider or eggnog, “have a taste, but stick with your regular water, iced tea or seltzer.”
4. Veg out!
“Don’t skimp on vegetables — raw or roasted — because they’ll fill you up and deliver great nutrients and fiber,” Meyer says. “You can be the person who starts a new tradition and brings that new veggie dish everyone loves. Try cauliflower mash instead of mashed potatoes, carrot or zucchini “noodles,” made with a spiralizer, or a cheese plate with vegetables instead of bread.”
5. Consider tweaking tradition.
“If your family, like mine, fills up on seven appetizers before the main course, you could ask: ‘Do we really need apps if we’re having a massive meal?’” says Meyer. She also points out that hosts are usually thrilled to pack leftovers for guests. “Aunt Cathy may only make sweet-potato pie once a year, but don’t feel you only have one opportunity to eat it. Have a small piece and bring the leftovers home.” Finally, weave some activity into the holiday, whether that means a family walk while the turkey cooks or an interactive video-game tournament after dinner. “Staying active will help with the calories you’re taking in.” •