Avoiding holiday season weight gain is all about managing expectations. By applying some key tips, we can avoid the average 5 lb weight gain that occurs between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.
Last week we shared tips to stay active, this week’s blog will focus on avoiding hidden calories in our Christmas dinners. Learn to navigate holiday food spreads and feel good that your nourishing yourself and enjoying your favourite without the turkey dinner bloat.
Wait before grabbing seconds – The quicker we eat a meal, the less time we give our bodies to register fullness. Since it takes about 20 minutes for the brain to get the message that dinner’s been served, it’s best to go for a walk or chat with friends before dishing up seconds.
Use smaller plates – Plate sizes have expanded significantly over the years. Whenever possible, choose the smaller salad plate (8-10 inches) instead of a tray-like one (12 inches or more). Using smaller plates can actually make us feel fuller with less food. The brain associates a big big white space on the plate with less food (and smaller plates generally require smaller portions).
Navigating Hidden Calories in your Holiday Dinners – Turkey dinner is healthy right?? The turkey is, however, some people can pack in around 3 000 calories at their Christmas meal(s)! Here’s a few tips that can slash ½ – 2/3 of hidden calories.
Do have some salad as it can fill you up, plus go for green beans as they have a mineral called chromium which helps us curb our cravings for sugar the next day – in fact a lot of green veggies do. Watch the dressing though…did you know that 2 tbsp of store bought dressing can have the same amount of sugar as a double chocolate donut! Alternately, choose a little olive oil and vinegar.
Fill up on protein – Turkey can be your friend. Enjoy a combination of ¾ white meat and ¼ brown meat. Yes the latter has more fat, however, it also has more minerals. The dark meat is also more moist so you don’t need as much gravy!
Watch the bread stuffing – It can be the derailer as it has butter or less healthy oils, sometimes sausage (which = extra fat), bread (usually white bread which gets converted into sugar) and lots of sodium. Store bought can have 1 000 mg per sodium which is ¾ of your daily allowance. This wreaks havoc on your blood pressure (and your ankles the next day!) Take 1 or 2 tbsp if you want it so you still get a little taste if this food is something you really enjoy. Again, make your own using whole grain bread, nuts (which are so heart healthy) and dried cranberries. Just be careful not to add too many of each of those.
A small serving of canned cranberry sauce has about the same amount of sugar as a quarter cup of vanilla ice cream (yikes!) – have a little and/or make your own. Make your own from fresh cranberries, orange juice and maple syrup (which is so low on the glycemic index – rate of which your body processes sugar). If you don’t love cranberry sauce use mustard (no calories usually!) to flavour your turkey – again, usually less gravy is required. Which as we know again, has the drippings (aka. fat) and too much sodium.
What about the starch? – Take a little more sweet potatoes, a little less white potatoes (again, converted to sugar) as they’re higher in fiber, lower in calories and higher Vitamin A. Choose sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes and yams are not the same. Sweet potatoes are little lower in calories, higher in minerals again.
Go back for seconds if you’re still hungry and go back for the protein – The turkey and some more greens – forget the cranberries, save it for dessert!
Wait about 30 or 40 minutes before going for dessert – have a little square and maybe some fruit. If you don’t love the pastry, eat the filling of the pie or dessert. If you love it, have a taste of it and truly savour it. If you like it, forget it.
Cave in to cravings – Finally, a suggestion we can all get behind. It’s smart to acknowledge a few cravings instead of pushing them away completely. Caving to a craving—as long as it’s in moderation—can curb the desire to go at it like a kid in a candy store.
Forbidding a specific food or food group during the holiday season may only make it more attractive. Still want more of that apple pie after a couple of bites? Try thinking of your favorite holiday activity, like opening presents, watching Christmas movies, or playing in the snow. Research shows that daydreaming about pleasant activities or distracting yourself with just about any activity can reduce the intensity of food cravings.
Just say no – Though your relatives may encourage overeating by shoving seconds onto a cleaned plate, it’s OK to respectfully decline. “I’m full” or “I’m taking a break” should be enough for friends and family members to back off (and give you time to decide if you’d really like more).
Choose a tall glass – When you’ve got a hankering for some seasonal eggnog, reach for a talk, thin glass, not a short squat one. Research shows that people pour less liquid into tall glasses than into their vertically challenged counterparts. With a taller glass, you’re likely to down less in one sitting which is especially helpful when drinking alcohol.
Make memories with your family and friends indulging in traditions while thoroughly enjoying your Christmas dinner knowing you have made the best choices for you.