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‘Tis the Season… for Holiday Overeating?

By Dr. Maria Rometo
Extension Agent II

If you’re like me, once the Thanksgiving holiday is over, I hit the ground running. It’s decorating the house and putting up the tree. It’s what to buy and finding time to wrap. It’s the Christmas baking, the office parties and home celebrations. The list can go on and on, bringing on a big dose of holiday stress.
Microgreen salad [CREDIT: Robert Annis, UF/IFAS]
Microgreen salad [CREDIT: Robert Annis, UF/IFAS]

The result of all this? Holiday stress!

Oh, and stress eating. And extra pounds. And an expanding waistline.

So, how can you get it all done without gaining all those pounds and feeling miserable along the way? First things first, how can you eat healthy while still enjoying the holiday? Seems like an oxymoron, but it‘s really not. By following a few simple rules, you can actually enjoy all of those holiday parties and meals and not feel the bulging waistline.

DITCH THE DIET (IDEA)
“Don’t try to diet during the holidays,” said Lisa Giannetto, MD, associate in the department of medicine at Duke University Medical Center and the Duke Diet and Fitness Center, in Durham, North Carolina. “Set a goal of trying to maintain your present weight. That way, you have a realistic goal. You allow yourself to indulge here and there, but you don’t go over the edge.”

PAAAAAAAACE YOURSELF
“Pace, don’t race,” said dietitian Dawn Jackson, RD, who works at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago and serves as a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. “Pay attention to how quickly you eat and exactly what you eat and drink. Savor the flavor by eating slowly and choosing your food carefully.

LIGHTEN THE LIBATION(S)
“Remember that alcohol is packed with calories,” Giannetto said. “Choose light beer and wine over mixed drinks.” A holiday-sized mixed drink can have as many as 500 calories or more, Jackson noted.

BE A “SAFE” HAVEN
Offer to bring a favorite low-calorie dish to holiday parties, so you know there will be at least one “safe” item available, Jackson said. “Stand far away from buffets so you’re not tempted to nibble constantly.”

EXERCISE (YES, EXERCISE)
“Make the effort to continue a regular exercise program,” Giannetto suggested. “Exercise will help keep extra calories away, but it also can reduce the stress of social events and family get-togethers.”

SKIP THE SKIPPING
“Don’t go to a party or event on an empty stomach,” Jackson recommended. Before going out, snack on protein, like chicken or cottage cheese. Protein satisfies and helps you eat less. “Some people have the idea that if they skip lunch, or don’t eat all day, they can eat more later,” she said. “But skipping meals means you’re hungry, and your chances of overeating later are much higher.”

ALLOTMENT… NOT A LOT
“Keep an eye on your portion sizes,” Jackson cautioned. In the heat of celebration, portion sizes can be excessive. Instead of eating a large amount of food, try to eat a large variety of foods.

MAKE IT “FREEZE-Y”
Don’t let a hectic holiday schedule force you to eat fast food, Giannetto advised. Prepare and freeze several quick, healthy meals. That way, you have an option other than high-fat, fast-food meals.

GO LOW, AT HOME
When the party is at your house, put low-calorie and fat-free salad dressings on the menu, Jackson said. Pack the table with flavorful vegetable dishes, and make reduced-fat versions of your family’s favorite traditional dishes.

BE YOUR OWN BOSS
“Make decisions about what you’re going to eat,” Giannetto said, and then added, “Weight management is all about moderation and making healthy decisions.”

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