The holiday season is upon us! Making healthy choices can often be quite difficult this time of year, as an abundance of holiday food makes its annual appearance just as busy schedules seem to ruin the chance for exercise.
Eating real meals will help you eat well and resist turning to the nearest plate of sugar cookies for sustenance.
Here are some simple tips to help you through this holiday season:
Aim for at least two vegetables with dinner. They’ll help you feel full and will provide you with important nutrients without adding a lot of calories. Think about preparing your two choices in different ways for variety – raw, steamed, baked, or microwaved, just to name a few. Try choosing two of the following: raw celery sticks, roasted butternut squash, grilled broccoli, sautéed spinach, stir-fried peppers or steamed green beans with lemon and pepper.
Stop eating when you are full. Are those extra bites really worth that uncomfortable feeling in your belly that results when you finally hit the brakes? Pay attention to the smell, temperature, texture and flavor of your food when you’re eating, and tune in to your hunger levels. As soon as you start to feel full, put down the fork and acknowledge the fact that you are taking steps toward better health.
Vegetables can be delicious straight out of the microwave. Feeling too rushed to prepare vegetables to pack in your lunch? Skip the labor intensive salad and put some vegetables in a microwave-safe container. Add a squeeze of lemon to broccoli or cauliflower after heating. If you are looking for something more filling, microwave a sweet potato for a delicious side dish.
Drink lots of water. Keep a filled water bottle with you wherever you go. It’s easy to give in to those sugary drinks when you’re thirsty, so keep water with you to help you resist the temptation. We can often mistake thirst for being hungry, so staying well hydrated will also help you avoid overeating.
Skip second helpings and enjoy the conversation and company instead. You go to parties to socialize, so don’t let the food be the main event. At a buffet, fill your plate wisely, sit away from the food and enjoy the people you’re around. If you are at a sit-down dinner, put your napkin on your plate when you are done, and enjoy the party.
Try brown rice or whole-wheat pasta. These whole grains have fiber which will slow digestion and make you feel full longer than their refined (white) cousins. If you’ve tried them before and have not cared for the taste, don’t give up. Try mixing whole grain with white. Over time make the transition to all whole grain.
Choose a checkout line without a candy display. Why torture yourself? You’ve just spent an hour working up an appetite in the grocery store. Staring at easy-to-grab goodies while you’re waiting in a long, frustrating line is no way to end your shopping trip. Even if the line without the candy is longer, it will feel shorter if you are not being tempted while you wait.
[Tips adapted from the NC EatSmart Holiday Challenge Campaign]