Posted Nov. 10, 2008 – Aaahh, cornbread-sausage stuffing and gravy…trays heaped with buttery cookies...cheese and cracker platters…and of course, Aunt Betty’s marshmallow-topped sweet potato pie. Let’s face it, the holidays are all about the food—and diet food it ain’t. But if you’re watching your weight or trying to stay on top of managing diabetes, you don’t have to be a Nutrition Grinch, either. Here are some tried-and-true tips for savoring the season mindfully and joyously.
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Savor your faves. If a certain “fattening” food really defines the holidays for you—say, Mom’s Kwanzaa corn pudding--you’re crazy to try to skip it altogether. In fact, you’ll probably end up sneaking it somehow, since avoiding something just makes it more tempting. (You’ll probably hurt Mom’s feelings, too.) Go ahead and serve yourself a small portion and relish every bite. Then go lighter for the rest of your meal.
Think small. Don’t let heaping buffet tables distract you from remembering what a proper portion of food looks like. The holidays are a great time to reacquaint yourself with accurate portions of the foods on which you typically tend to go overboard. Get out the measuring cups and spoons and start measuring, and soon you’ll be able to eyeball a portion without help. A few hints:
One ounce of cheese is the size of two dominoes;
- A tablespoon of salad dressing or whipped cream is the size of half a walnut
- A 3-ounce portion of meat, poultry or fish is the size of a cassette tape
- A “medium” potato is about the size of a computer mouse
- A 1-cup portion of pasta or rice is the size of a baseball
Meet your new best friend: Vegetables. There’s no better nutrition bargain than veggies, which can help fill you up and deliver plenty of nutrients with minimal calories (unless, of course, you deep-fry or douse them with butter or sauce). Make your first buffet stop at the cut-up vegetable platter, or start your holiday meal with a salad or a broth or vegetable-based soup (not cream based).
Try this strategy: cover at least half your plate with vegetables. A recent study at Pennsylvania State University found that when people used this simple strategy, they cut their calorie intake significantly without feeling hungry.
Stay on course. Cut back on calories a little if you know you’ll be having party fare later on. But don’t skip a meal either; going for more than five hours or so without eating can set you up for out-of-control hunger later on. Definitely don’t skip breakfast—the refueling your body needs after many hours without food, and a great way to keep your hunger in check all morning long. In fact, studies show that people who successfully stick to diets are almost always regular breakfast eaters. Note: If you have diabetes, it’s even more important to eat at regular times to keep your blood sugar levels constant.
Sip smart. Holiday drinks and sodas can quickly pile on calories without making a dent in your appetite. And if they’re alcoholic, you’ll find it harder and harder to stick to your healthy eating plans as the night wears on. Have a single drink and make it last, sipping sparkling water or diet soda in between.
If you have diabetes, be sure you’ve checked with your health care provider on whether or not alcohol can fit into your diabetes management plan. If you’re healthy and your diabetes is under good control, you can probably enjoy a tipple. But limit yourself to one drink per day if you’re a woman, or two drinks if you’re a man--and make sure you’ve got something in your stomach first. Since your liver can’t process alcohol and make glucose at the same time, a drink can cause your blood sugar levels to drop. For more great ideas on handling the challenges of holiday eating and drinking, don’t forget to check with your diabetes educator or dietitian.
One Drink Equals:
- 5 ounces wine
- 12 ounces beer
- 1½ ounces spirits
Celebrate blessings beyond the ones on the table
Yes, certain foods make the holidays even more special, but what really matters are the family members, friends and colleagues you share the festivities with. Instead of focusing on food, partake in what really matters: being with loved ones, catching up on the past year’s highs and lows, showing others how much you love them, making new friends. Enjoy the conversations, the dancing and the entertainment, and you’ll fill your soul with what it needs most. Joy, after all, is calorie-free.
Call 1-866-3-LOSE-IT for your free “Healthy BET” healthy living brochure or to participate in a Women’s Health Symposium in your city!