Healthy Holiday Eating Tips
On average, Americans gain one to two pounds during the holiday season. And with the combination of rich foods (and lots of them) and cold weather, it's not surprising. While a couple of pounds isn't dramatic, the problem is that they tend to stick around and accumulate over the years. But, with a few simple strategies, it is possible to maintain a healthy lifestyle during the winter months. Consider these suggestions from UW Health's registered dietitian Amy Mihm.
Don't Skip Meals
It can be tempting to skip breakfast or even lunch because dinner is going to be a big meal. But, people who skip meals are actually more likely to gain weight. When energy levels are low, people are more likely to reach for foods and beverages that give a quick lift, like soda, candy and processed carbohyrdates. In addition to being high in empty calories, the food choices don't provide the nourishment that is needed to keep up with daily activities.
Being hungry also tends to lead to overeating at meals. Instead, eat a breakfast high in fiber with a good protein source. This will help provide a sustained release of fuel to the brain and body, which improves concentration and physical and mental energies throughout the day. Examples of a balanced breakfast include:
- Whole grain toast or bagel with peanut butter, banana slices, and milk
- Oatmeal with milk, raisins and walnuts
- Homemade smoothie with frozen fruit and yogurt
- High fiber cereal with milk, low-fat yogurt, and a slice of melon
- Veggie scrambled eggs with whole grain tortilla and small glass of 100 percent juice
- Bran muffin, lowfat cheese slices and fruit Remember that eating healthy, properly portioned meals throughout the day can actually help keep the weight off.
Make Exercise a Priority
The hustle and bustle of the holiday season can make it challenging to stick to a regular exercise routine.
Even if it's not possible to make it to the gym, there are easy ways to incorporate activity throughout the day, including:
- Parking far from the shopping mall and walking
- Taking the stairs whenever possible
- Going for a brisk walk after dinner together as a family
- Enjoying winter activities like skiing, sledding or showshoeing
Staying active also helps manage stress levels whether they are from fighting the crowds at the mall or the airport, or the thought of impending visits with family. Make a point of getting up and moving every day.
Have a Strategy
It seems like nearly every holiday gathering includes lots of rich food, whether it is Grandma's pumpkin pie or Aunt Mary's casserole. Even if the family tradition includes decadent desserts, it is still possible to enjoy the traditions without sabotaging a healthy lifestyle. Having a strategy can help.
When filling the dinner plate at a meal, try mentally splitting the plate up with foods so that:
- ¼ of the plate is protein (turkey, ham, goose, etc.)
- ¼ of the plate is carbohydrates (potatoes, stuffing, etc.)
- ½ of the plate is fruit and vegetables Keep the calorie-laden foods in moderation.
It's still fine to have a small amount, but try and ensure the majority of the choices are healthier options. And remember that the calories in alcoholic beverages can really add up. Pair a drink with a meal rather than in advance of the meal to help balance the amount of calories consumed.
The true enjoyment of the season comes from the enjoying the company of family and friends. So try to keep things in perspective. Over-indulging at a meal happens to everyone. The important thing is to stay active and healthy all year long.