Well friends, the holiday season is officially upon us! I love the holidays with the gathering of family and friends but the food situation can be a bit tricky. The holidays can be a time when we don't pay attention to our body's cues and end up overeating. So what can you do about it? The answer isn’t to avoid holiday parties and stay home, or to try to not have any sweets and treats over the holidays- you can still enjoy the holidays without a significant amount of weight gain. I’ve got some tips for you to enjoy the holidays without feeling like you’re in a food coma at holiday dinner!
1) Start yourself off for success- don’t go to the holiday party hungry!
I know it sounds counter-intuitive but “saving up” by not eating before you go to that holiday dinner or party is one of the worst things you can do! By the time you’ll get to the party you’ll be absolutely starving and you’ll end up eating even more food than you would normally. I’m sure we’ve all been in the situation of being ravenous by the time we get home from work or get to a restaurant and devour whatever we can find in sight at home (or the bread basket at the restaurant) because you’re just so hungry you can’t control yourself. Does this sound like a good idea before you go to a party?
What should you do instead? Try to eat balanced, regular meals throughout the day before you go to the party because meal skipping will backfire. You might also benefit from a small, healthy snack before you go such as some fruit and yogurt, half a sandwich, or vegetables and a bit of hummus (in other words, something with a bit of fibre and protein) to help you feel satiated before you go so you can say no to the foods you might not normally go for.
2) If it’s a potluck, try to bring a healthy option!
I don’t know how many times I’ve talked to clients about going to gatherings where they say they just can’t seem to find anything healthy to eat. If that’s the case, why not offer to bring a vegetable tray, salad or vegetable dish, or fruit for dessert? That way even if the other options aren't the healthiest, you can load up on the healthy option you've brought! Even if it isn’t a potluck, if you know one of your family members isn’t the healthiest cook, why not offer to bring something to cut down on their work while giving you a healthier option?
3) Try to use a smaller plate if possible and fill half with veggies!
There is an abundance of research showing that we will serve ourselves less and eat less if we use a smaller plate and serve with smaller utensils. In fact, a summary of the studies found that reducing the diameter of your plate by 30% reduced consumption by 30%!
Why not use that information to your advantage by grabbing a smaller plate before going down the potluck line? Another strategy that can help is trying to fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables like carrots, salad, cauliflower, and peppers to give you fibre and help you feel full without a ton of calories!
PS- take your veggies FIRST- we always tend to overcrowd our plates with the foods we choose first. Why not use this to your advantage to get you to take and eat more veggies?
4) Look over the options available before serving yourself and pick out the options you really want
Many of us have the strategy of taking a bit of everything. The trouble with that strategy is that a bit of everything can add up to a lot of food and calories! Instead, try scoping out what is there BEFORE you serve yourself to figure out what it is you really want to try and pick one or two treats instead of trying all of them. Another strategy that has worked well in the past for my clients is asking to take home some of the options that you want or are being pushed on you by well-meaning family to eat at a later date when you aren't so full! That way you don't have to miss out on Aunt Sue's pie, you can just have it another day!
5) If you drink alcohol, try to alternate with a non-alcoholic beverage such as sparkling water to reduce intake without feeling deprived!
Alcohol is a tricky one when it comes to weight. First, there are the calories contained in the alcohol, which doesn’t do much to make us feel satisfied. This can be tricky to figure out since labelling laws in Canada currently don’t require nutrition information on the label but there is an excellent website out of the UK that allows you to figure out the calories in many of your favourite brands here (their portions are a bit different than ours for some items but it can still help give you a good idea!) For example, a bottle of Budweiser is 145 calories, a bottle of cider is 140 calories, red wine is around 120 calories for 5oz (just over half a cup), and hard liquor is around 70 calories per ounce. The drinks with a lot of sugar can be higher in calories, such as a bottle of alcoholic lemonade, providing around 220 calories per bottle.
The other problem with alcohol increases food intake- one study found that consuming a moderate amount of alcohol (the equivalent of about 7.5oz of wine or 1.5 bottles of beer) increased consumption of high-fat, savoury foods by 24%! Examples of high-fat savoury foods would include foods like appetizers, pizza, burgers, and fries. So if you’re around these foods, the alcohol you drink will likely increase the amount you eat so be careful of this effect.
Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking guidelines, which can be found here recommend limiting intake to no more than 4 standard drinks per occasion for men and 3 for women. I’m not saying you need to be a teetotaler at holiday parties but you can imagine how spacing out your alcoholic drinks with sparkling water could make a significant difference to how much you eat and the calories you drink! It can also help prevent that dreaded hangover that is partially caused by dehydration! Also, if you are drinking alcohol, always be responsible and make sure you have a designated driver or take a cab!
Another strategy you can use is suggesting activities to do with your friends and family that don't revolve around food and get you moving. Instead of meeting for drinks or dinner, why not try something new like going snowshoeing, cross country skiing, skating, or going for a walk? If you’re not a fan of the cold, you could try something indoors like going swimming or checking out an indoor climbing gym. You never know, you could end up finding a new family tradition!
If you want additional help managing your weight, you can click here for more information on booking an appointment with me for more support!