Monday, November 21, 2011

Dietitian’s tips for ‘Gracefully Navigating the Holiday Feeding Frenzy’

The holiday season is a wonderful time of family and friends, but it can also be a hazardous time for folks working on losing weight or maintaining their weight. So many of our holiday traditions revolve around food and overeating seems to be treated as normal, from the Thanksgiving Day feast to the December holiday sweet-a-thons.

It is more than just ‘surviving’ the holiday food overabundance; navigate through gracefully and start the New Year off famously! Try these tips:

1.       Plan Ahead – eat 3-5 hours before you go to a dinner event so you won’t be either too hungry or too full to make good decisions. Know your strategy for overcoming known problem areas – whether it’s Aunt Betsy’s pumpkin pie or Grandpa Larry’s ability to raise your stress level.

2.       Check it out first – whenever you are at a place with an overabundance of food, instead of loading up your plate right away, check out your options and think, ‘which ones are the most important for me to have’, and ‘which ones are less important that I have’. Position yourself away from the buffet whenever possible.

3.       Enjoy your company – play games or become engrossed in conversation. Listen to old stories and share some stories of your own.

4.       Enjoy your meal – be a food snob. If a food is not great, pass on eating it. No-one wins if you are so polite that you end up overeating so as to not offend someone.

5.       Listen to your body – eat when you are hungry, eat slowly, and stop before the point of fullness. Hint: holding your belly and moaning after dinner is a LATE sign of fullness.

6.       Start new traditions – all traditions came from someone starting them, be the person who starts a new, healthier tradition! Like taking a walk after the holiday meal, or sharing recipes for healthy vegetable side dishes rather than desserts.

7.       Tweak traditional recipes – try substituting lower fat dairy for cream or half and half. Try cutting the butter or oil in half. Use diabetic cooking magazines to help reduce sugar in baked goods. There are many ways to cut calories in traditional favorites! One of the easiest ways is to cut back on the portion size you eat!

8.       Schedule in time to walk – walking is good for the heart, and for the mind! Walking can reduce stress and improve your mood. Get the whole family involved if possible!

9.       Give leftovers away – you can “waste it” or you can “waist it”. Throw it out or give it to someone who may benefit from it, like a friend with chickens, teenagers, or a compost bin.

10.      Give yourself a break – so you had the cookie. It’s okay! Thinking negative thoughts about yourself is often more damaging than the cookie itself. Learn from your past experiences and set yourself up for success in the next round!

The holidays are what you make it! This year, let the holidays be a time for family and friends first and foremost, with a lesser emphasis on food and eating.

Happy holidays from the Christus Weight Loss Institute and UT Medicine team!

Posted by: Anna Macnak, RD, LD