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Navigating the Holidays

Alix Opfer MS, RD, ACSM-CPT
The holiday season is a great time to enjoy family, friends and delicious food! Our favorite dishes are everywhere during the holidays which can make it tough to stick to healthy eating patterns and physical activity. With some planning, however, it is possible to make it through the holidays without losing track of healthy habits. This blog will review some tips and tricks to think about to help us stay on track this holiday season.

Limiting to a holiday.
Most holidays are only one day, therefore do your best to be mindful of the time leading up to the holiday. Try not to overeat or make undesirable food choices just because it is the holiday months. It is helpful to focus on the actual day and take control and try to resist temptations on other days.

Host vs. Guest.
As a host or hostess, you have the power to choose the menu items and include nutritious choices such as lower-calorie foods like fruits, vegetables, and lean meats on the menu. Experimenting with ingredient substitutions to create healthier dishes is also a good option. An example would be substituting plain Greek yogurt in place of sour cream!

As a guest, you could bring along a healthier dish to share! Then you will feel assured that at least one of the items you are eating will be meal plan approved. If you are throwing the party: send leftovers with guests. If you are attending the party, leave leftovers behind! You as the guest may not be able to control what food is served.

Some tips include to eat close to your usual times to keep blood sugar stable, don’t show up to a party starving, if meal served later than normal-have a healthy snack before, offer to bring a healthy dish, have a healthy breakfast (don’t skip meals to save up for the feast) and get right back to healthy eating at the next meal.

Drink in Moderation.
1 drink for women, 2 drinks for men per day one drink = 5 ounces of wine-12 ounces of beer-1.5 ounces of 80 proof liquor

Control Portions.
Using smaller plates to encourage smaller portions and trick your brain into thinking you have a full plate is a good habit to get in. Also, filling up on veggies first with 1⁄2 your plate fruit and veggies is a great idea. Aim to eat all meals or snacks on a plate instead of mindlessly munching while socializing and lastly, only having one helping of your favorite foods can help you avoid overeating.

Practice Mindful Eating:
Eat slowly, set your silverware down between bites, take sips of water frequently, savor every bite and think about how delicious the food is, continue with food logging and lastly, before you go back for seconds, wait to see if you are really hungry (it takes 20 minutes for your brain to realize you’re full!)

Conquer Cravings.
Wait for the craving to pass. Waiting before responding to will help you distinguish between real “hunger” and cravings. If you still want something 20 minutes later, chances are you really are hungry. Drink water. You may find that drinking water satisfies your craving in and of itself. Sometimes we can  mistake dehydration for food cravings or real hunger. Give in… just a little. When we give into a craving, we give in to an impulse. When you act impulsively you have lost some control. Yielding this way may lead you to lose control of how much you eat, too. Take a moment to think about what you are doing.

Try putting some mindful eating techniques to use. If you decide to satisfy your craving, do it on a smaller scale Keep it real. Allow yourself to indulge in what you really want (just watch your portion size!) and you will not feel deprived.

Control Sweets.
Try not to buy candy or sweet treats until closer to the holiday so you are not tempted to eat a bunch of treats before the actual holiday. If you do buy treats early, hide it and do not open it until the occasion or buy items you don’t enjoy eating yourself to refrain from indulging.’

Keep it Moving.
Being active is a secret holiday weapon. This can help make up for eating more than usual and reduce stress during the holiday season. Take a family walk after dinner or go for a morning run before the day gets started. This can lead to better digestion, better metabolism of food and helps to maintain blood sugar levels (walking after a meal clears glucose from the bloodstream to lower blood sugar, and helps move food through your system more quickly).

ENJOY!
Don’t stress. Keep these tips in mind and enjoy family, friends and FOOD!! Resources:
● Kohn, J. Stay mindful with four tips for holiday eating. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Published Dec  19, 2017. Retrieved October 18, 2018, from https://www.eatright.org/health/lifestyle/holidays/stay-mindful-with-4-tips-for-holiday-eating
● Five healthy eating tips for the holidays. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division of Diabetes Translation. Reviewed Nov. 30, 2017. Retrieved October 17, 2018, from https://www.cdc.gov/features/diabetesmanagement/index.html
● This holiday season. eat mindful not mindless. American Heart Association. Retrieved October 19th, 2018. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Nutrition/This-Holiday-Season-Eat-Mindful-NotMindless_UCM_447030_Article.jsp#.W8n_Pi3MwRE
● Picture: https://www.cdc.gov/features/holidayfoodsafety/index.html

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