Then the Whos, young and old, would sit down to a feast. And they’d feast, and they’d feast. And they’d feast, feast, feast, feast!
-From “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” by Dr. Seuss
I must say, this past year with the coronavirus really gave our healthy eating and fitness goals a run for their money. From what I can discern, people fell into one of two camps during the lockdown: those who threw healthy eating out the window and completely succumbed to stress eating, and those who bought home exercise equipment, took advantage of our metroparks, and actually met their fitness and healthy-eating goals.
Now we’re in the holiday season with all its delicious temptations, which can derail healthy eating habits even further—especially for those in that first camp. Continue to eat whatever you want whenever you want it, and you can expect an average weight gain of seven pounds by season’s end! No amount of “Who Hash” is worth that! I mean, it was wonderful when the Grinch’s heart “grew three times that day” but do you really want that to happen to your waistline?
Okay, all cheesy Grinch references aside, what can you do to keep your holiday eating healthy and avoid going overboard when everything tastes so good and “healthy portion control” sounds like a bad word? Here are five tips that just might help:
1. Don’t skip meals
On a planned day of feasting, set a healthy tone by starting the day with exercise. You might be tempted to skip meals earlier in the day so you can “save” calories for later, but don’t give in to this impulse. The problem with skipping meals is that you’ll be famished by dinner time and much more likely to stuff yourself with foods that are high in fat, sugar, and calories. Be sure to eat a breakfast and snack before your group gatherings or holiday meals, and don’t tell yourself it’s okay to overeat to the point of feeling sick just because it’s the holiday season.
2. Prepare in advance
Throughout the holiday season, make sure your refrigerator is stocked with healthy food. Pre-cut your vegetables, and keep plenty of fruit on hand for quick snacking. Try making a smoothie with protein. If you have to take a dish to a gathering, prepare something healthy that you know you like.
3. Fill up first
On water, that is! Water, water, water all day! Okay, you get the point, but do try to stay hydrated during the holidays, especially if you will be enjoying adult beverages at your festivities.
4. Review your options
Rather than grab foods indiscriminately at the holiday feast, look over all the meal items ahead of time and decide what you really must have and what you can probably do without. If you really want dessert, go ahead and have it, but maybe skip the dinner roll and extra potatoes to help compensate.
5. Remember plate portioning
Keep in mind the suggestion from MyPlate (choosemyplate.gov) to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, one-quarter with protein, and one-quarter with starch. Sometimes I like to use the three-bite rule: one bite is delicious, the second bite is yummy, and the third bite is the signal that you’ve had enough. Tell yourself that you can always have leftovers tomorrow so you don’t have to eat it all today.
As a visual guide to help you apportion foods properly, consider that three ounces of meat looks like a deck of cards, a half cup of pasta or potatoes looks like a hockey puck, one cup of broccoli looks like a baseball, and a serving of fruit looks like a tennis ball.
This holiday season might be a tough one as we adhere to coronavirus recommendations such as social distancing and avoiding large groups, but it’s still important to enjoy ourselves and try to make the best of it. Let’s celebrate by maintaining good nutrition and continuing to follow a healthy lifestyle. Or perhaps this is a good time to say let’s start 2021 off right. So, start practicing healthy portions now, and listen to your body and fullness signals.
Oh, and while you’re at it, please go ahead and enjoy the “Who-pudding” and “rare Who-roast beast” this holiday season. I hear they’re very healthy!
Laurie Syring, RD/LD, is Clinical Nutrition Manager at ProMedica Flower Hospital.