Between office parties and holiday gatherings with family and friends, December is filled with savory feasts and delicious treats – and often the unwanted gift of extra pounds. To help you enjoy the season without worrying about your waistline, Natalie Sanders, a dietitian with St. John Health System in Tulsa, shares the following tips.
“See what types of foods and beverages will be served,” Sanders says. “Plan a small meal or snack prior to the party to help avoid tempting foods. Limit special treats to the actual day only. Choose your indulgence items carefully and savor a controlled portion without guilt.”
“Think of fun activities your family would enjoy. These are usually memories that will last a lifetime!”
“Take healthy food options to any function so there will be something that will be a safe choice at the party,” Sanders says. “A salad with quinoa, walnuts and cranberries can be very festive, but also very healthy. Try to fill your plate with half vegetables and fruits. Be mindful when you are eating, slow down, and pay attention to what your body is telling you. If you are the cook, be careful with all of the tastings and nibbles in the kitchen. They add up.”
On a chilly day, most of us would rather curl up with hot cocoa than hit the gym or venture outside. To keep moving, Sanders suggests incorporating exercise into your holiday routine, such as walking to look at lights or grabbing the family for an after dinner stroll.
“It’s important to get others involved,” she says. “They will help to make it more enjoyable.”
A workout or activity in the morning can help balance out any overeating that may occur later in the day.
In winter, we tend to drink less water, but Sanders recommends hydration in the morning with one or two cups. “Try water with lemon, warm water or hot tea,” she says. “Flavored water pitchers can be very festive and healthy options. For holiday parties, try infusions of sliced fruit, lemon, cucumber or mint.”
“Special beverages and alcohol can be a huge source of calories,” she says. “Most are high in sugar, which can cause blood sugar spikes, increased stress hormone production and increased fat storage. Look for lower sugar or lower calorie alternatives like a hard liquor mixed with tonic water or unsweetened carbonated water.”
Direct attention away from food and toward family time or the community. “Try volunteering to help others, take a hike, a walk or play football,” she says. “Think of fun activities your family would enjoy. These are usually memories that will last a lifetime!”
“Focusing on weight maintenance during the holidays is a great idea,” says Sanders. “It can be a challenging time. If you are OK with the status quo, maintain where you are. Set goals not related to weight during this time. For example, set goals eliminating alcohol, avoiding sweets or increasing exercise. Make specific goals, and make a plan for how you will achieve them.”