Next week is Thanksgiving, so you know what that means – holiday eating is about to come full force, threatening to derail your diet and pack on unwanted pounds. Here are some tips to help you stay one step ahead of those pesky holiday cravings, decadent dinners and the unending parade of sweets no matter where you are!
When you’re in your kitchen…
- Holiday cooking means you’re in the kitchen non-stop. Before you start in on a cookie-baking marathon, cut up some veggies to munch on instead of bites of dough.
- When you’re baking, use baby food applesauce or prunes as substitutes for oil or plain yogurt for sour cream. They’re much lower in fat and don’t take anything away from the taste.
- Look online for more substitutions and ways to make your favorite holiday foods healthier and lower in fat and calories.
- Snacking is a dieter’s demise, and during the holidays, high-calorie snacks abound. Stock up on multi-grain crackers and breads and use homemade spreads on them, like olive tapenade, roasted red pepper dip, hummus or onion dip made with low fat sour cream.
- Plan to eat at least one serving of fruits and veggies with every meal. If you can’t get the serving in with your meal, then eat it as your snack. A serving is only a half-cup, so it shouldn’t be too hard to do.
- Try to eat four to six smaller meals throughout the day instead of three big ones at the traditional times. The more frequently you eat smaller portions, the less likely you’ll over-indulge.
- Eat on smaller plates. This way, if you like to fill your plate, you’ll be eating less. And if you want seconds, you won’t feel so bad.
- Make as many meals from scratch as you can this season. You’ll know exactly what you’re eating and be able to control what goes into your food.
- Start a little indoor herb garden. So instead of using fatty ingredients to add flavor, you can season your food with fresh herbs, which are loaded with flavor and health benefits.
- Do like you do in a restaurant and have a piece of whole grain bread with extra virgin olive oil five minutes before dinner to help keep your appetite in check. The key is to have only one, and not the whole basket.
- Eat some broth-based soup as an appetizer. You’ll be less likely to stuff yourself during dinner. And soup is warm and yummy…perfect for colder temperatures!
- Salads are a good way to add vegetables to your diet. To subtract some fat, just mix in half the amount of salad dressing you’d normally use on top.
- In fact, make your own salad dressing by mixing olive oil with balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, mustard or a combination of all four. Season it with fresh herbs.
- If you’re in a cooking rut and tempted to just buy frozen entrees that are full of fat, read a cooking magazine, buy a new cookbook or browse some food blogs to find inspiration for exciting, low-fat recipes.
When you’re in the grocery store…
- Eat something before you go to the store. There’s nothing worse than the impulse buys of a starving person.
- Make a list before you go. And stick to it.
- To sneak some exercise in, park at the back of the lot, and, if you don’t have too many, carry your groceries from the store to your car.
- Try to stay around the perimeter of the store as you shop. That’s where most of the whole and unprocessed foods are. If you need to go to the interior of the store, try not to stray from your list.
- Take a break from buying pop this season. You’re probably going to be more than making up for all those empty calories with other sweet treats, and you never know – you may not even miss it!
- If you really, really want to buy chocolate, go ahead. But when you get home, take most of it and put it in the freezer. Chocolate freezes well, and you’ll find portion control easier since you’ll have to trek to the freezer every time you want some.
- Remember, you’re in control of your eating habits. You can’t eat what you don’t bring home from the store, so make good decisions while you’re there.
When you’re at the company Christmas party…
- Don’t go to these things ravenous – eat a healthy, high-fiber snack at least 15 minutes before the party so you don’t load up on fatty hors d’oeuvres.
- If you’re drinking alcohol, alternate your drinks with water. This will keep your calorie intake down and also keep you from drinking too much – never a good thing around the boss.
- Limit yourself to drinking only one of your favorite adult beverages. Sip it slowly and try to make it last as long as possible.
- You don’t always have to take something off the tray as it passes by, especially if you’ve already tried that particular bite. Just politely decline.
- When there’s an appetizer buffet, just take a few things at a time on a small plate – if you’re still hungry later, you can always go back.
- Stand as far away from that buffet as possible, and mingle!
- Don’t double-fist. You’ll look greedy, and besides, you’ll need one hand free to shake hands or give side-hugs.
- Slow down and be conscious of what you’re eating. If there’s a gourmet caterer, you’ll want to enjoy every bite. This will also help you remember just how much you’ve eaten throughout the night.
When you’re at the book club/volunteer/PTA holiday potluck…
- When the sign-up sheet goes around, put yourself down for a healthy alternative to all the casseroles and sticky sweet desserts. Then you’ll know there’s something there you can eat guilt-free.
- Eat a small, healthy snack beforehand, so you can still socialize without overindulging.
- Cruise the table before the meal begins and mentally pick out one thing from each food group. Then, when you go through the line, you won’t plop large spoonfuls of macaroni and cheese and macaroni salad on your plate.
- Drink water with lemon instead of pop or sugary drinks. The lemon will aid in breaking down the fat content of the generous slice of pumpkin roll you just downed.
- If you absolutely must try all the desserts, ask the person sitting next to you to split a dessert plate. Then you can still taste all the goodies, but not have to have a whole piece of everything.
When you’re traveling…
- If you’re going home for the holidays, be sure to have enough water in the car for everyone. This will keep you from having to stop at a fast-food restaurant for sugary drinks – and a cheeseburger on the side.
- Keep sensible sweet and salty snacks in the car to satisfy you and your passengers until you arrive at grandma’s house.
- Clean all the trash out of your car so that empty fast-food bag isn’t sending you subliminal messages to stop for an unnecessary snack.
- If you’re flying, bring your own snacks to eat in the airport. You’ll save calories and cash by not buying from the food court.
When you’re at Grandma’s house…
- A week or so before you leave, e-mail or call your family members to plan the meals you’ll make together and the ones you’ll go out for. This way you’ll have some input into the holiday menu and, by checking out restaurant menus online, you’ll have an idea of what to order when you eat out.
- Pack things like whole-grain crackers and high-fiber granola bars in your suitcase to eat as snacks when you get there. You can break those out when you find yourself unconsciously reaching for that candy bowl on the coffee table.
- Provide everyone a healthy start to a day of non-stop eating by offering to make breakfast. Instead of pancakes and bacon, set out a healthy breakfast bar with some granola, yogurt, fruit, cereal, milk and fresh OJ.
- Talk to each other during the meal. The more conversation, the slower you’ll eat, which means your stomach will have more time to register that it’s full than if you just shovel it in.
- Instead of going for pie right after eating that big turkey dinner, have an orange or some grapefruit for dessert which will help to cut the fat of everything you just ate. Go for the pie after you’ve had a little time to digest, and only take a little.
- Don’t feel like you have to clean your plate just because grandma always said so. You’re an adult now – when you’re full, stop.
- If it’s not too cold, organize a brisk family walk after the big meal to jump-start metabolizing all of those calories. Then you can spend the rest of the day camped out in front of the TV.
When you’re under the holiday time-crunch…
- Start making large quantities when you cook at home, so you’ll have some to take for lunch or freeze for another day when you have less time. This way you won’t be tempted to go out and eat unhealthily.
- If you don’t have time to cook and do decide to go out, order an appetizer instead of an entrée.
- Study the menu and consciously make a healthy choice, rather than just going for what immediately sounds good.
- Order a baked potato or salad instead of fries.
- If you choose to go the fast-food route, get the kids’ meal. Chances are, you won’t even miss the super-sized fries.
- You can also usually substitute milk or tea for the pop that comes with your meal at no extra charge.
- If you’re too stressed to cook or even go out, and ordering-in Chinese is the only thing to soothe your soul, get steamed rice instead of fried rice. Or, quickly make your own brown rice – the healthiest rice option – while you wait for your food to be delivered.
- Skip the rice altogether and cut up some vegetables while you wait for a high-fiber compliment to the greasy, delicious Moo Goo Gai Pan.
- Work doesn’t slow down just because it’s the holidays. Try as hard as you can to still eat at regular times to avoid pigging out when you finally have some time to grab a bite.
- If lunch just isn’t going to happen between all your meetings and assignments, keep a few healthy, high-protein snacks in your purse or desk to ward off low-blood-sugar grumpiness and bad-eating decisions.
- Make sure you eat a healthy breakfast every day. Start by buying things like yogurt cups and granola bars that don’t require a lot of preparation and that you can take with you if you run out of time in the morning. Once you’ve gotten into the habit, cut up fruit to add to your yogurt or make a quick egg or two before you leave the house.
- Remember, the earlier you start eating in the day, the sooner your metabolism starts working and the less likely you are to eat large amounts of high-calorie food later in the day.
- Even though it seems like your responsibilities double during this season, try to get an adequate amount of sleep as often as possible. You’ll be less irritable and less likely to stress-eat.
When you’re starting a New Year…
- This year, resolve to drink at least six to eight glasses of water a day. It might help to consciously make a plan for when you’ll drink it. For example, you can have a glass before each meal, which will take care of three and will help you to feel fuller when you eat.
- Include your partner in your resolution – if someone close to you has terrible eating habits, it’s going to be harder for you to maintain good ones. Talk to your partner about it and reach a compromise that will work for you both.
- It takes 30 days to establish a routine or break a bad habit. Set an attainable health goal, and if you can make it 30 days, you’re setting yourself up for success!
- Start focusing on the quality and taste of the food rather than the quantity.
- Don’t worry if you fall off the wagon. Even if you fall off every week. Just get back on – it’s never too late!
- Gather a support system around you and let them know what your plans are for being healthy in the New Year. Then, toast to your success!