How to Handle Holiday Eating

howtohandleholidayeating

During a recent interview for an AARP article we were asked quite a few questions and here’s a full scoop of answers to help you handle your holiday eating.

How to handle buffets and cocktail parties:

When it comes to holiday parties where buffets are a feature, it’s best to eat a sensible snack beforehand so you’re not ravenous when you arrive.

At cocktail parties, where cheese cubes, salty snacks, and sweet treats are ubiquitous, it’s a good idea to grab a small plate and find the veggie tray first before choosing one or two favorite treats to add. Also, have a game plan with alcohol- perhaps you limit yourself to one drink and two treats. Without this guideline, or with extra alcohol involved, the intake of calories can go haywire.

Healthy ways to handle sit-down dinners:

Some ideas for smart side dish swaps include having roasted Brussels sprouts, mashed rutabaga, or mashed cauliflower. All of these have fiber and are great source of antioxidants.

Generally, fasting earlier in the day leads to over-eating later when the large meal is served. I always suggest eating a healthy breakfast and lunch, and to treat Thanksgiving dinner as you would most dinners. Enjoy one plate and focus on the conversation. There’s no requirement to eat all you can and overly stuff yourself.

Smart holiday drinking:

Q: Is it true that drinking alcohol can stimulate your appetite?
A: The main problem with drinking alcohol is its well-known effect of impairing our judgment. After a few drinks, we find it easier to ‘justify’ having more cheese cubes, salty or sweet treats. Think of the number or holiday parties you’ll be attending this year and how much this could impact your health goals or weight loss/maintenance.

General nutrition for the holiday season:

Q: Can you offer some healthy foods that are at their peak in November/December for people to take advantage of?
A: When it comes to seasonal produce, it depends on which region of the United States you are in. California has a lot of fantastic offerings during November and December, including avocados. In the midwest, Brussels sprouts, garlic, rapini, and horseradish are seasonal in late November.

Q: Is it true that stress can cause cravings?
A: Stress in general – and especially during the holidays – can trigger more emotional eating. More than foods that help reduce stress, lifestyle factors are very key in keeping  on track. Ensuring that you get enough sleep, keep up with exercise, take a bath or participating other self-care activities, is particularly effective in reducing stress-related cravings.

Shopping at the mall:

Q: Are there any tricks for surviving a day at the mall, where temptations—from food courts, to Godiva shops, to “gotta buy” seasonal goodies at Williams-Sonoma—abound?
A: For keeping on track when it comes to shopping malls and their abundance of food court options and other temptations, the same tip applies as for going grocery shopping. It’s best to go shopping after you’ve recently eaten a meal, such as lunch, and to carry snacks that are high in protein and fiber because they will fill you up. 

So often we focus on what to do during a particular holiday meal, when what we’re doing the other 99% of the year with our food choices and behaviors actually matters more. Going a bit overboard, once or twice, during the holiday season is not going to dramatically throw you off your goals. On the other hand, working with your nutritionist to improve the other 99% of the year can show dramatic benefit.

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