By Pamela Charney
How many of us have read a list in recent memory that tells us the secret to health during the holidays is to just stick to the crudité platters? … And how many of us have stuck to that plan? Not many, I’d wager, because it is not only unrealistic, but also it’s just not a lot of fun to watch everyone around you at that holiday party enjoying Aunt Sally’s famous chocolate pie, while you diligently gnaw on a carrot stick.
However, there are ways to have your cake and eat it too, so to speak. Here are 10 suggestions to enjoy the festivities without over-indulging.
• Be kind to yourself. This is not the time to start any sort of “diet” if you don’t have to.
• Do not try to substitute celery sticks for the double chocolate fudge – unless you really love celery sticks and really hate fudge. You will feel deprived and you will envy everyone who is eating the fudge. Instead, plan ahead – think of ways to limit your exposure to high-calorie treats.
• Look for a tasty, lower calorie alternative for the high calorie treat – can you enjoy a small slice of pie without the whipped cream (or half of the amount you usually have)? If you are responsible for making the treats, can you find a lower calorie recipe? It’s often possible to make minor changes to a recipe without changing the taste.
• If you know that you can’t resist the buffet table, wear clothing that is slightly snug. It’s a lot harder to overeat when you are wearing a constant reminder.
• Make it harder to get seconds – after you’ve filled up your plate, get as far away from the buffet as possible and keep talking so you aren’t eating. If you came alone, find someone to talk to as soon as you can. People who aren’t engaged in conversation tend to fill the void with food.
• Scan the setting before you put anything on your plate. Don’t be the first in the buffet line and be picky about what you put on your plate. Some suggest limiting each trip to the buffet to only two or three items. You might find that it’s just too much work to make the second or third trip back.
• Get some exercise. Any exercise at all is better than none — but be realistic. If you haven’t been walking five miles a day all year, you won’t start now. Instead, can you break away for several three- or four-minute walks several times during the day?
• Alcohol can get you in trouble in more ways than one. Holiday beverages tend to be high in calories. Look for equally satisfying substitutes for alcoholic beverages — although from personal experience, there is no equally satisfying substitute for eggnog. In general, drinks that you can see through tend to have fewer calories than those you cannot see through. Try to observe the rule “Never drink a calorie” – meaning, stick with low or no calorie beverages whenever possible, but make sure that when you do have a more calorie dense drink that you enjoy every last sip (and keep it to one serving).
• If you do choose the celery sticks, be careful what you dip them in. It’s very easy to feel virtuous for choosing the veg over the fudge, but some dips are just as caloric as that fudge anyhow. If you’re scanning the snack spread and trying to keep the calories down, salsa will add fewer calories to your plate than the creamy dips.
• Finally, and possibly most important: accept that you are human – don’t berate yourself for overindulging. Don’t punish yourself. We all say we’ll work out for five hours after eating a ton of holiday treats. Instead, aim to eat a little bit less and exercise a little bit more over the next few days and above all, be kind to yourself.
Pamela Charney, PhD, RD, CHTS-CP, is program chair of Bellevue College Healthcare Technology and Management.