Many of us have already begun a holiday season full of food.
It is really wonderful to have celebrations to attend with festive cookie platters and goody jars at every stop, but if this goes on for a full month, these treats can really add up. I think indulging during a celebration is not only normal, but a good idea. However, some of us have to limit how often these indulgences occur. Here are a few simple tips to help navigate a season of decadent eating.
▶ Make a plan. When it comes to food, planning is the best way to prevent overeating. If you have three get-togethers in one day, eating everything at each stop is going to lead to stomach problems, if nothing else. You probably know what your favorites are at each gathering and may have been waiting a whole year to enjoy them again. If that’s the case, stick to small portions. Since you’ll get what you were waiting for, you will be satisfied but not too full to eat at your next stop. If you are worried someone will be offended that you did not eat enough, just explain that you have other events to attend and make a big deal out of their best dish, whatever your favorite may be.
▶ Eat before. It may seem counterintuitive to eat before you go to a big meal, but if you skip meals, you will usually consume even more calories by the end of the day. Eat breakfast and lunch or snacks depending on the time of the gathering. You should eat light, lower-calorie foods if you are planning for a really heavy meal. Including whole grains, vegetables and fruit in your regular meals prior to a big dinner will help you to be hungry but not so hungry that you eat three platefuls.
▶ Keep active. During the holidays as well as throughout the year, plan regular physical activities for yourself. Being active helps boost your metabolism. It can also provide a fun way to spend time with your family and relieve stress, which also seems to come with the holiday season. This year, my family was lucky enough to go on a long walk on Thanksgiving morning; it was great because we knew we would be indulging in two large meals, and it also helped facilitate a nap for the little one on an exciting day.
▶ Bring your own dish. I love potlucks and think it is always a great idea to offer to bring a dish when invited, just to take a little of the workload off of the host or hostess. If you have special dietary considerations, this is especially helpful both for you and potentially the host if they are aware of your needs but are unsure of how to meet them. Bringing one dish that is healthier — or at least healthier for you — ensures that you will have at least one food to enjoy guilt free, and often others will enjoy it, too, regardless of nutrition. These dishes can still be festive and tasty. There are many great ideas online, but some dishes to consider are vegetable trays with a couple of bell-pepper cutouts (use cookie cutters) that reflect the holiday, fruit kabobs or a wild rice salad with colorful vegetables and dried cranberries.
Eating, like everything else during the holidays, should be fun and guilt free. Following these steps can help make healthy holiday eating more attainable and satisfying. Happy holidays!
Jordy Kivett is a nutrition educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County. For more information, contact her at 561-7450.