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The holiday season has always been built around food, but the scaled-down celebrations this year are likely to prioritize a good family meal even more. Many people, stressed and busy with planning and hosting, resign themselves to overeating during the Christmas season while promising that they'll lose the weight in the New Year. But you can break this cycle! By anticipating bad habits and finding easy ways to manage your appetite and portion sizes, you can keep your holiday eating healthy. Below, we've got 11 tips on smart eating during the holiday season.
You're probably going to snack during the holidays. When snack food is around we tend to reach for it out of habit, especially when stressed or busy. Make sure you have healthy foods on-hand! Pre-cut vegetables are a great option, as fiber will help you feel satiated. Protein is another effective choice to avoid feeling hungry, so protein bars or shakes are valuable to have around wherever you go.
Water is a great way to make you feel full! Often signs of dehydration are mistaken for hunger, so make sure you're drinking water even when you don't feel obviously thirsty. Drinking water helps you manage your appetite and boost your energy, and it may even help you maintain a healthy body weight. Make sure you're getting the recommended amount of water! It's a great idea to carry a water bottle with you during the day so that you can drink steadily no matter where you are.
You might be tempted to skip breakfast or lunch in anticipation of a family dinner or holiday party in the evening, but this isn't a good idea. Regular meals keep your blood sugar stable, your energy up, your metabolism working properly, and your hunger in check. That last part is particularly important before a big meal, as hunger will overcome your better judgment and make you more likely to overeat when surrounded by food. Eat sensible meals during the day, at the times you're used to eating, even if you expect to have a big meal at night.
This advice goes double if you're traveling or shopping. If you leave the house hungry, you're going to be tempted to pick up a snack on the way. This usually means fast food, pastries, or snacks from a convenience store. Don't let hunger impact your decisions!
Families break out the fancy dishware for the holidays, and that usually means plates that are larger than usual. The problem there is that we tend to judge an appropriate portion of food based on how it looks in relation to a plate -- if it doesn't fill the plate, it looks like you haven't gotten enough food. So avoid the oversized plates and choose a sensible one that will prevent you from overloading your dish.
Your plate can be a beneficial guide to your meal too! It's a great tool to help you portion out food, making healthy choices easier. Fill half the plate with vegetables, a quarter with protein, and a quarter with starches for a satisfying, well-balanced meal. It can also help to find visual guides to individual serving sizes, with real world comparisons, so you can more easily determine how much is enough.
Even if you're careful with food, you may not notice how much you drink over the course of a family gathering or social event. If you're going to have soda, drink it in moderation and consider a zero-calorie alternative. And be sure you're drinking alcohol in moderation, especially themed cocktails high in calories and sugar. Again, make sure you're drinking plenty of water.
You don't have to ban a favorite dessert from your plate. Plan for it instead! If you know you want a slice of pie, adapt your meal plan to that knowledge and balance it with healthy choices. Then eat a sensible portion and savor it so you're not tempted to get more.
There are plenty of recipe resources online that provide healthier, low-calorie alternatives to classic holiday dishes. Look for versions of your favorite holiday foods that substitute ingredients to save calories, lower fat, and reduce sugar.
One of the best ways to prevent overeating is to enjoy yourself. Savor your food and eat slowly, because it takes 10 to 20 minutes for your brain to recognize that your stomach is full. That's a lot of time to convince yourself you're still hungry and go back for seconds!
It also helps just to enjoy the company of family and friends. You'll eat more slowly when you're catching up with loved ones. Just make sure to socialize away from the buffet! Having foods at hand while you're focused on a conversation is an easy way to unconsciously snack.
This is important year-round, but the combination of winter weather and holiday relaxation can quickly disrupt your exercise routine. Make sure you're finding time to get moving! Immediately after a meal is a great time for a brisk walk, and your family might even want to join in.
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