There is nothing more exciting about the holidays than food and gifts! Ok ok.. yes quality time with our loved ones is part of it too, but usually the food preparation covers that. As a nutritionist it is not uncommon to be bombarded with questions or false accusations that I am judging you for the piece of pie you are about to devour. Come on!, it’s not like I am not eating the same piece of pie GEEZ! We do eat sugar and unhealthy things too!
Now the question I get asked a lot: Is there a way to make a holiday meal healthy? At first the answer is yes, but the reality is no. Why? Well unless your family members are all health freaks, chances are your gluten-free, dairy free, sugar-free, vegan pecan pie will not turn the entire table into the ultimate healthy feast. This is not to say don’t make you everything-free pie.
Those who struggle with weight or are simply scared of how that holiday meal will affect their progress, need to first understand this is typically a one-time thing. My biggest focus with this meal is controlling not necessarily the health scale of the meal, but the amount of food you consume. So how do we do that? Here are the five tips that will indirectly make you eat less without even trying!!
1. PLANNING AHEAD
Believe it or not, having a plan in mind helps people know what they are going for in that food table, and derailing from that plan sometimes makes you feel a little weird. I am not saying you will not grab those christmas cookies because you will not follow your plan, but you you will probably think twice before grabbing them.
You may be asking yourself… how in the hell do I plan my holiday meal without knowing what will be offered? Simple, separate proteins, carbs, fruits/vegetables, and desserts. This is how I would do it:
My plan tonight is to have two protein options (let’s say ham and roasted turkey), 2-3 small portions of different carbs (i.e. 1-2 dinner rolls, sweet potato casserole, etc), and the rest of the plate vegetable sides (green beans, etc). Chances are you will not follow this plan to the spot but it will be helpful to visualize your plate beforehand.
2. ADD VOLUME NOT CALORIES
Stomachs, like any type of bag, can only store certain amount of food before it blows up (not really, usually you stop eating before that happens). Your stomach, like any bags, counts the volume you add into it, not the calories you are consuming. For this reason, our biggest priority when eating, is to fill that bag with volume. What do I mean by that? Think vegetables for example – they are low-calorie foods and they occupy tons of volume. Have you ever seen what 100 Calories worth of broccoli look like? Compare it with 100 calories of bread. Big difference.
So why do this? Well adding low-calorie fiber-rich foods like vegetables or even liquids like water PRIOR to eating the big meal will increase the volume in the stomach making you feel full a lot quicker when you start eating. You will literally leave food in your plate because physiologically you cannot eat any more before entering that food coma.
3. FOLLOW A PLATE STRUCTURE
This is fairly simple and it ties back to a few concepts I mentioned in the first and second tip. All plates are typically split in three regions – Proteins, Carbohydrates, Fruits and Vegetables.
Imagine a pie chart and separate it in three parts. Protein will cover a quarter, Carbohydrates will cover the other quarter, and guess what will cover the other half left… yeap! Vegetables, fruits.
4. MINDFUL EATING
If you are like me, you probably eat a full plate within 5 minutes of being served. I am a fast eater and that is not necessarily a good thing. People that eat fast do not allow the stomach to send signals to the brain to release the hormones that notify you when you are full and satisfied. Sometimes it is not that we eat fast, but we eat distracted which also deviates our attention from portions and the amount of food we are consuming.
So what is minfdul eating? Being present and concious of what you are consuming. I am not saying to stop talking to people to focus on your every bite, but be concious about what you are putting in your mouth. Listen to you body. Take a a second to ask yourself… dude am I full? or am I satisfied? If the answer is all of the above then you know it is time to chill. Stop eating with your eyes and only use your stomach. It happens to me and to you. You are full but you keep looking at the dessert table and thinking to yourself “I bet I can down that, it just looks so good!!”
5. SNACK THROUGHOUT THE DAY
I have heard numerous people tell me this “I am not eating all day so I am starving at night for the big christmas meal” That is smart, but it is also dumb. Why? Well think again what your priorities are, your goals. If you are not interested in being better, healthier, you wouldn’t be reading this post.
Snacks throughout the day will curve your hunger. They will maintain your energy levels constant, and you will fell like a million dollars to spend time with family, and receive gifts 🙂 Will you eat less? YES! Does that defeat the purpose of holiday feasts? If you wanted to pig out yes, but pigging out is not always the smartest move.
As you can see, I am providing you with tools to avoid overeating. I am not telling you to eat only vegetables or to diet on christmas day. Simply to follow these 5 tips to indirectly eat less food, less calories, and not derail tremendously from your progress. Trust me you will feel so much better the next day!
Wait wait wait… what about dessert? Thought you would never ask! Look at desserts as little samples you are getting from a supermarket. They are small, but you can fully taste them and enjoy them. If you sample 4-5 desserts with those mini portions you are in good standing my friend!!
If all fails… please know it is ok! You will survive and life will go on, it was just a cheat meal on steroids, but wouldn’t you want to feel extremely proud of yourself for defeating one of the biggest temptations of all year? Think about that!!
Wishing all my readers a Merry Christmas!!!