By Natalie Boyd, Dietetic Intern at UNC-Greensboro
You’re walking into your first holiday party of the Christmas season. You have gifts in one hand and your assigned dish in the other. The first greeting you receive upon opening the door is that of a loved one and the second greeting is the plethora of food inviting you in and teasing your stomach into believing it’s twice the size that it actually may be. Below is a list of tips and tricks on how to avoid over-indulgence and save the excess calories that may cause holiday weight gain.
Offer to bring a vegetable dish to the party: Walk in the door with your head held high! This ensures at least one dish served will be high in volume and low in calories. If all other dishes are questionable, you can load your plate up with your dish and serve small portions of other dishes.
Plan your other meals around estimated intake at the party: This does not mean starve yourself! Consider eating a lower calorie, higher volume breakfast and lunch full of fruits and vegetables if you know you will exceed your usual calorie intake during a dinner party.
Consume a filling, healthy snack prior to the party: Consider consuming some raw carrots or a bowl full of fruit 30-60 minutes prior to your estimated time of arrival. If your stomach is full upon arriving to a holiday party loaded with food and drinks, you are more likely to not gorge in calorie dense options.
Stay hydrated: By consciously hydrating yourself throughout the party, you won’t confuse hunger with thirst, especially if you are consuming salty foods at the party.
Skip the caloric appetizers: This one is pretty self-explanatory. You know you will most likely be consuming more calories than your norm during the holiday meal, so politely pass on the pre-meal snacks (Unless it is a fruit or vegetable tray!).
Have just one alcoholic beverage with dinner or dessert OR skip alcohol all together: Not only is alcohol high in empty calories, but it is also linked to an increase in food intake.
Fill your plate with vegetables, fruit, and lean protein BEFORE the starches: It is easy to forget portion sizes when collecting food in a buffet style formation. Take a look at everything on the buffet line before you begin preparing your plate to get an idea of what and how much of each food you want to consume. If you load up on the good stuff first, you will limit the space left on your plate for the calorie dense foods. An easy way to ensure a healthy plate is to practice the 80-20 rule. Fill up 80% of your plate with fruits, vegetables, and lean protein and then allow yourself the other 20% to be used for starches and higher fat foods.
Eat slowly and wait 10-15 minutes after finishing your plate before deciding whether or not you wish to have seconds: Give your food time to digest and allow time for the satiety messages from your stomach to reach your brain. In doing so, you are more likely to beat the ever so common over eating phenomenon experienced during the holidays.
Pick the most enticing dessert, remember the “knuckle rule”, and indulge: There will likely be more than one dessert at your holiday party. Feel free to look, smell, and even drool over all of them but then narrow your consumption to one serving of one dish. Generally, if the crust of a triangular pie slice or cake slice is the length of four knuckles, then that slice of heaven is probably around at least 400 calories. Once a dessert is chosen, savor every bite!
But Most Importantly,
REMEMBER, the holidays are about spending time with the ones you love! Don’t let food be a stressor, but instead appreciate the abundance of delicious aromas and tastes that the holidays bring. Embrace them with loved ones and allow it to be one of the many conversations that you share.