Sticking to Your Diet Through the Holidays

Jefferson dietitian provides tips to help you eat healthy during the festive season

iStock_000014388436Small-584x342pxYou made it past Halloween and avoided the temptation of all the candy and treats you handed out to your neighborhood trick-or-treaters. Now you face the even more daunting gauntlet of Thanksgiving … and all those holiday parties!

It can certainly be tough to eat healthy while managing your weight when the opportunities to slip up are overabundant. Certainly a slip here or there won’t be the end of the world, but minimizing your risks and recognizing food opportunities and dangers can help.

Jefferson dietitian, Cheryl Marco, RD, offers some hints, tricks, and tips to stick to your plan during the holidays.

Plan ahead for parties. When it comes to holiday gatherings, be less concerned about what you eat and focus more on how much you eat. “I encourage my patients to take an index card and write down what they’re going to consume at a party,” Cheryl says. “That way, before you even arrive, you’ve already made a commitment to moderation.”

Use small plates and bowls. Eating foods from large serving bowls can be dangerous. “There’s really no natural stopping point,” Cheryl notes. “You’re much better off putting a small portion of food into a separate bowl. Then you can simply stop eating once it’s empty.”

Similarly, she suggests opting for the smallest plate you can find at a party. “That way, even if you fill it, you won’t be consuming as much as you would with a larger dish.”

Feed yourself regularly. This advice may seem counterintuitive, but the dietitian explains that under-eating causes overeating. So when you’re running out to shop or even heading to a party, she suggests consuming something high in protein – a hard-boiled egg, one of those high-protein snack bars, or even plain Greek yogurt.

Make every bite matter. Cheryl explains that savoring every bite can help you control quantity. “Go for the foods that are really special,” she suggests. “Why go to a party and eat handfuls of potato chips? We all know what those taste like. Instead, go for something that’s different.”

Think as you drink. When it comes to alcohol, Cheryl again emphasizes the importance of planning ahead. She recommends writing down how many drinks you’ll have in a given night. And, whenever possible, she advises not to begin drinking an alcoholic beverage until after you’ve ordered your dinner.

“Alcohol lowers our inhibitions,” she says, “which means if you’re drinking right away, you’re more likely to overindulge in food.”

Pennies in your pocket. Cheryl says it’s virtually impossible for humans to keep track of how much we consume. So once you’ve made your plan for, say, how many hors d’oeuvres you’ll have, put that number of pennies in one pocket. As you consume each serving, move a penny to the opposite pocket. “That way, it will be very clear when it’s time to stop,” she says.

Reorganize high-calorie traditions. Many people have a longstanding tradition of holiday baking. If you simply love the act of making cookies and other desserts, have a solid plan for how many you’ll personally eat and, just as important, decide how you’ll distribute the bulk of the goodies you make.

Pack a snack for the mall. Parties aren’t the only place you’ll face weight management challenges and temptations. “Malls can be tough,” Cheryl says. “When you’re out shopping, all those delicious smells can be really tempting.” So, bring along a high-protein snack bar since there are many tasty choices. “Just be sure that you buy a snack bar that offers at least 10 to 15 grams of protein per serving,” she says.

Weigh yourself every day. Cheryl says it’s important to weigh yourself during the holidays and even into the post-holiday season.

“It’s easy to catch three pounds – and much harder to catch eight or 10,” she notes. She adds that she finds the biggest weight challenges often come after the holiday, “Once the ‘relief’ sets in, I see more weight gain in January and February than in December.” Be sure to have a post-holiday eating plan, too!

For some deliciously satisfying – yet healthy – options, check out our Health eCooking recipes on @Jeff.

Making an appointment

If you would like to schedule an appointment with a Jefferson physician or with Jefferson’s Comprehensive Weight Management Program, please call 1-800-JEFF-NOW (800-533-3669).

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