Healthy Holiday Eating
The holiday season is upon us, which means the halls are decked with bells of holly and the family dinner table is decked for feasting. While the menu for this time of year is traditionally light in low-calorie, low-carb foods, you can still enjoy a slice of pumpkin pie or a spoonful of mashed potatoes here and there, by practicing self-controlled eating habits and planning ahead. Consider the following tips for healthy holiday eating to satisfy your palette while making strides towards or maintaining your ideal physique and overall health.
When in doubt, take a calorie count. According to the Harvard Medical School, eating just 200 extra calories a day can result in an added two to three pounds of body fat over a five-to-six week period. Therefore, whether you eat one slice of carrot cake or an entire plate of lean protein and veggies, the number of calories you consume contributes directly to either taming or straining your waistline. This is especially true during the holidays because holiday meals are typically served buffet-style with multiple, consecutive helpings. To be sure, cake may be less healthy than chicken and string beans on a micronutrient level, but the health benefits of choosing the latter over the former can be offset by how high you pack your plate. The name of the game is moderation, and practicing it at the holiday dinner table will help you maintain a healthy eating regimen, even if it includes dessert.
Overeating and skipping meals are complimentary sides of the same poor eating habit. It may be tempting to skip breakfast or lunch to save room for the evening's slew of festive foods and drinks, but this is often a failing strategy. In fact, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics notes that those who eat breakfast tend to consume fewer calories throughout the day, lending credence to the old adage, "Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper." But what should a holiday-proof morning meal fit for a king (or queen) consist of? Low-calorie, high-volume, and fiber-rich foods like steel-cut oats or fruit and vegetables blended together in a smoothie are recommended. Read Healthy Living Online's other posts on this topic for more information on why breakfast is the most important meal of the day, including easy-to-make recipes that you can try at home today.
In addition to eating less calories, you can take an active role in your dietary health by doing just that: staying active during the winter months. Your end-of-the-year schedule is likely to get overcrowded by work crunch and social engagements, and you may feel pressure to put physical activity lower on your priorities list. However, whether you round up some friends for a pick-up basketball game at the park or simply take a 15 to 20 minute stroll around the neighborhood in the cool morning air before work, staying in motion will help you achieve the caloric deficit necessary for weight loss, or at least for buffering against any surplus calories accrued this holiday season. As a bonus, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention points out that exercise can help you manage the hustle, bustle, and stress of the holidays, which in turn reduces the impulse to engage in stress eating.
Above all, choose a plan or strategy that works for you, stick to it, and use it. The aforementioned tips aside, you can implement small adjustments and techniques in your holiday and even regular eating practices to live a healthier lifestyle, such as using a smaller plate to encourage portion control, eating slower, or maintaining a consistent sleep schedule.