Healthy Holiday Eating Tips

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It’s that time of year. The holidays. No, I’m not saying “holidays” to be politically correct. I’m a “Merry Christmas” kind of gal. I’m saying holidays in reference to the time between Thanksgiving and New Years in which there tends to be an overabundance of food.

And, not just any food – sugary, calorie-laden food. In copious amounts.

Practical tips for avoiding holiday weight gain

For a person trying to make wise food choices, it can be a very difficult time of year. I began what would ultimately become my first successful weight-loss journey the Monday before Thanksgiving 2009. Since then, I have discovered that there are some ways to successfully navigate the next couple of months where food is concerned.  Here are my healthy holiday eating tips:

Get it out of the house.  I love baking and enjoying treats that I only have around the holidays, but I can’t leave that stuff lying around the house. I don’t have that much willpower. So, I bake stuff to take other places. I’ll be taking all sorts of yumminess to relatives’ houses, giving it to neighbors, or sending it to work with Brian and Brianna.

And, what about all that stuff that people send me? I’m not above sending it right back out with my baked goods packages. Hey, at least somebody is enjoying it.

Be flexible on how you consume your calories.  For the most part, I try to make sure the majority of my calories come from healthy, low-fat foods, but sometimes I allow myself to enjoy my favorites first. Thanksgiving is one of those times. I typically use my calories for my favorite (and often higher calorie) foods even when a lower-calorie food is available.  I don’t do this often, but it has served me well for the last several Thanksgivings. It allows me to enjoy seasonal favorites without feeling deprived.

Find healthier alternatives.  There are lots of healthy alternatives to fatty favorites. For the last several years, I have replaced the fat-laden broccoli casserole I used take to dinner at my sister’s house with a much healthier and delicious roasted broccoli and red pepper dish. The family has also come to expect my steamed green beans.

I have had to forgo the healthier version (which I really like) of sweet potato casserole for the full-fat version though. You can’t win them all.

You can also take steps to make your favorites a bit more weight-loss friendly, such as using skim milk instead of regular or egg whites in place of whole eggs. I do get away with a little of that with the sweet potato casserole.

Have a bowl of soup or a glass of water before meals.  Drinking a glass of water before and during meals helps you to feel fuller sooner, as does enjoying a bowl of low-calorie, broth-based soup, such as Weight Watchers Vegetable Soup.

Share desserts.  Be a thoughtful wife and fix your husband’s dessert plate for him – then, have a few bites! Or, see if you have another friend or relative who is willing to split desserts with you. The hubby dessert plate thing usually works well for me because if I can have a couple of bites of something, I can usually feel like I’ve indulged without going overboard. And, my husband is one of those unfairly high-metabolism types, so it doesn’t bother him.

Enjoy in moderation.  People get so hung up on this “good food/bad food” thing when, in reality, food is just food.  I mean, yes, there are things that you shouldn’t eat on a regular basis, but you can enjoy anything in moderation.

Plan for it.  If you know you’re going to be facing a high calorie supper, eat a lighter breakfast and lunch and make sure to include some activity in your day. You can budget calories just like you budget money.  Figure out how many calories you can eat in a day (and how many you need to burn) to reach your weight loss goals, then, plan your meals accordingly.

While it’s best, generally speaking, to spread your calories evenly throughout the day, you don’t always have to do that.  Just like you sometimes have a big bill coming up that may require you to borrow money from other categories, sometimes you may need to borrow calories from another meal.

Similarly, you may need to borrow calories from another day.  For example, if my calorie budget is usually 1500 per day, but I know I’m going to have a really high-calorie day one day this week, I might try to keep my calories at 1200-1300 the day before and/or the day after, since my ultimate goal is to have a calorie deficit of 3500 for each pound I want to lose each week.

Be active. Most cities offer some sort of “turkey trot” on Thanksgiving morning. There is usually a competitive 5K along with a family fun run/walk. That’s a great way to burn some calories before all the feasting starts.

Forgive yourself and move on.  Let’s face it, even the most self-disciplined person overindulges from time to time.  However, there’s no sense letting a bad day – or even a bad week – derail your entire weight-loss plan. Remember, nobody ever failed from continuing to make the right choices.  We only fail when we quit.

What tips have you discovered to help you manage your weight during the holidays?

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