(BPT) – Fun, family, food – the holidays are packed with enjoyable activities. But hectic schedules, holiday stress, and tasty indulgences at every turn can lead to a few extra pounds by the year’s end. Fortunately, with a few smart strategies, joyful eating doesn’t have to result in holiday weight gain.
Dr. Aimee Gould Shunney, licensed naturopathic doctor specializing in women’s health and family medicine says to forget the all-or-nothing attitude during the holiday season. “Depriving yourself of holiday foods isn’t part of a healthy eating strategy and it’s no fun! It will make you more likely to overeat other foods and less likely to feel satisfied. Allow yourself a small portion of your favorite food and enjoy it.”
Shunney offers these 10 tips for enjoying holiday foods to the fullest without gaining weight:
1. Be realistic. Setting goals to lose weight over the holidays is unrealistic. Strive to maintain your weight and not gain.
2. Don’t skip meals. Skipping meals will cause your blood sugar to drop, making you irritable and causing you to burn calories less efficiently. You are also more likely to overeat if you arrive at a party famished.
3. Eat a light snack. Having a small piece of fruit, yogurt, cheese, or almond butter on an apple or banana before going out will make you less likely to binge on fattening or sweet foods later.
4. Eat slowly. Chew your food thoroughly so you can taste it and enjoy it! Plus, chewing well aids in the digestion process. Remember, it takes up to 15 minutes to feel the effects of food.
5. Be selective. Take small portions of all your favorite foods, emphasizing protein, vegetables, and high-fiber options. Don’t eat sweets or carbohydrates alone, and keep your protein intake regular throughout the day.
6. Make a plan. Decide when you are done. When you have tried a little bit of all your favorite foods and feel satisfied, put your napkin on your plate, have a mint or a piece of gum, and pour yourself a glass of water to sip.
7. Choose your beverages wisely. Alcohol is high in calories – about 7 calories per gram. Liquors, sweet wine, and sweet mixed drinks (holy eggnog!) contain 150-450 calories per glass. Try to alternate your alcoholic beverage with water or a fruit juice spritzer.
8. Eat omega 3-fats. Fish oil is important all year long for its anti-inflammatory properties and proven ability to reduce risk for heart disease, improve insulin sensitivity, decrease pain, and improve age-related cognitive function. A fish oil supplement like Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega – I recommend two soft gels two times a day – is a great way to promote a healthy mood while supporting blood sugar balance, body composition, and overall health during the holidays.
9. Exercise. Classes and group activities are great, but this time of year it’s extra helpful to have a form of exercise in your pocket that can be done on your own schedule, like walking, running, swimming, or doing an exercise video. Another option: Grab a family member or the dog and go for a walk before or after a large meal. It’s a great way to get some time with a loved one, or maybe a bit of alone time for yourself.
10. Focus on life’s sweet moments. Sometimes, when things get stressful and hectic, dessert or a glass of wine can seem like the quickest, easiest way to reward yourself. But does it really get the job done? And more importantly, does it serve you long-term? Make a list of all the things that bring you pleasure and joy. Try to do one every day.
Shunney reminds people it’s important to maintain perspective during the holidays. “Overeating one day won’t make you gain weight. It takes days of overeating to do that,” she says. “Choose your foods wisely, eat healthful foods more often, and limit fatty foods, sugars and alcohol. If you overindulge at a party, put it behind you. The most important things to remember are balance and moderation.”