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Health Information | 11/02/2017

Tips for Healthy Holiday Eating

By  Helen Mastro, MS, RD, CDE
Holidays are truly a wonderful time of the year for many of us, but the season can also be a challenging time if you are trying to maintain a healthy regimen. After all, food is usually a part of every gathering with family, friends, and co-workers. Research has indicated that the average person gains 1-5lbs. each holiday season and the same research shows that most people never lose the extra weight. Over the years, these pounds can add up. It’s therefore important to have a strategy to make it easier to stay on track and avoid gaining those unwanted pounds in the first place. Here are some tactics to help you have a healthier and guilt-free holiday season.

NEVER arrive hungry.

While it seems like a good strategy, skipping meals so you can splurge later almost always backfires. It’s hard to make good choices and practice portion control when your stomach is growling, and in the end, you’ll probably eat far more calories as a result. Instead, eat a healthy snack or light meal before you leave the house to curb your appetite – a small bowl of cereal, half of a turkey sandwich, or a piece of fruit with yogurt will all do the trick. The 200 or so calories you spend at home will likely save you a thousand (or more) later on.

“Spend” wisely.

Before you start putting food on your plate, walk around the buffet table, check out the dessert table, and make a plan to spend most of your calories on the healthiest choices you can find. Fill your plate with colorful, low-calorie vegetables and lean meats like turkey or fish. Add smaller amounts of higher-calorie potatoes, stuffing, and anything creamy or saucy. Stick to just a taste of the desserts, and pass on foods that don’t tempt your taste buds.

Choose this not that.

Swapping out a few high-calorie choices for lower-calorie choices can really add up:
Instead of: Choose: And Save:
4 stuffed mushrooms 4 pieces shrimp cocktail 330 calories
4 oz dark meat turkey with skin 4 oz turkey breast, no skin 70 calories
1 cup green bean casserole 1 cup steamed green beans 100 calories
4 oz candied sweet potato 4 oz baked sweet potato 60 calories
½ cup gravy ¼ cup gravy 40 calories
1 slice pecan pie 1 slice pumpkin pie 225 calories

Eat Mindfully.

Mindless eating – scarfing down food with little thought of what it is – is not a healthy practice. But mindful eating – appreciating each bite with an awareness of what you’re putting into your body – isn’t just a healthier approach, it’s a deeply joyful way of eating.

Don’t drink your calories.

Be aware of how many calories lurk in beverages. Consider the calories in the following 6oz. drinks:
Wine 140
Sparkling Cider 150
Eggnog 260 (without alcohol – with alcohol is 360)
Flavored Martini 250-500
It’s easy to see how a few cocktails can put a dent in your healthy eating. And research shows that total calories consumed at a meal increase by 20% when alcohol is consumed before the meal. It can help to alternate cocktails with a glass of water or seltzer to save calories and prevent mindless eating.

Have a plan and keep a journal.

Have a specific plan on how you will approach this holiday season. This will help you stick to a healthy regimen. Consult an expert, like an Atrius Health nutritionist, to determine your daily calorie needs and then track what you eat by using a journal. Programs and apps like MyFitnessPal and Lose it can also help you estimate your daily calorie needs and track how many calories you eat and burn each day so you stay on track.

Burn it off.

Despite our best intentions, sometime we can’t resist temptation, so make exercise a priority during the holidays. Be consistent with your workouts. Do a longer morning walk if you know you will be eating out in the evening, and add some extra time at the gym the next day. Every 10 minutes of brisk cardio exercise will burn off approximately 100 calories, so add up the damage and burn it off.

About The Author

Helen Mastro, MS, RD, CDE

Helen Mastro has been with Atrius Health since 1993 and sees patients at our Somerville and Wellesley practice locations. While she provides medical nutrition therapy education for a wide variety of nutritional problems, she has a particular interest in the areas of diabetes education, obesity, and pediatric nutrition.

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