The holidays can cause an internal struggle between the desire to splurge on festive treats at numerous feasts and the will to avoid the inevitable weight gain that ensues after overindulging. However, there are ways to enjoy the special holiday foods served at parties without having to go up a size by January. Here are some tips for eating healthfully at your next soiree.
Listen to Your Body
You've likely heard this time and time again, but your body is remarkably good at regulating your appetite and intake. Your body sends signals to your brain to let you know when you are truly hungry and full. Listening to those signals and responding accordingly will take the guesswork out of when and how much you should be eating. This is called "mindful eating" or "intuitive eating."
Being mindful of what you put in your mouth is the most basic way of controlling your intake. However, our culture and increasingly busy lifestyles have caused us to ignore all of those internal clues that regulate our intake. Focus on getting back in touch with your body.Savor Your Food by Eating Slowly
Did you know that it takes your stomach 20 minutes to send signals to your brain that you are full? If you inhale your food with reckless abandon, you'll likely feel uncomfortably full later because you ate too quickly for your body to register that you were full long before you stopped eating. To prevent this feeling - and prevent overeating - slowly eat smaller bites.
Holiday parties are notorious for providing ample amounts of calorie-laden beverages, especially alcoholic drinks. Limit yourself to one indulgent beverage, like eggnog or cider, and sip it slowly. Also, be sure to drink plenty of water - both before and after you eat. People often mistake thirst for hunger and end up overeating. Stay well-hydrated throughout the party, and you'll get full more quickly and stay full for longer.Munch on Low-Calorie Items
Crudités (fancy word for vegetables that are cut-up or sliced and often served with a dip) are a good food to fill up on for very few calories. However, don't overdo it on the dip as dips are usually high in fat and calories. Use a very small amount of dip or forego it all together. Salsa makes for a great low-calorie dip, and studies have shown that spicy foods may cause a slight increase in metabolism.Don't Linger in Front of the Food
Many holiday parties serve food buffet-style since all the guests are often asked to bring a dish. This can be dangerous for those trying to eat healthfully at the party because constantly being in the presence of decadent food can undermine the efforts of the even the most motivated healthy eaters. To avoid this diet deterrent, fill a single plate half with vegetables or fruit, a quarter with a lean protein, and the other quarter with some sort of grain, preferably a whole-grain. The next step is simple: Walk away.Focus on Connecting with Friends and Family
Concentrate on making socializing the main purpose for attending the party. If your mouth is busy chatting, it won't be busy chewing food. Happy and healthy holidays!
Kari Hartel, RD, LD is a Registered Dietitian and freelance writer based out of St. Louis, MO. Kari is passionate about nutrition education and the prevention of chronic disease through a healthy diet and active lifestyle. Kari holds a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from Southeast Missouri State University and is committed to helping people lead healthy lives. She completed a yearlong dietetic internship at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, IL, where she worked with a multitude of clients and patients with complicated diagnoses. She planned, marketed, and implemented nutrition education programs and cooking demonstrations for the general public as well as for special populations, including patients with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, obesity, and school-aged children. Contact Kari at KariHartelRD@gmail.com.