The holiday season is in full swing, and EVERYWHERE you turn there is food! Even those who are normally able to pass up the sweets and treats find it so much more difficult during this time of year. You don’t want to seem ungrateful or be a party pooper, right?
The truth is you can enjoy holiday goodies AND maintain your healthy lifestyle! It just takes a little planning, a good dose of willpower and a reminder of what the season is really all about!
I am sure most of you have at least a few holiday parties to attend in the next few weeks and each one of them will include an array of food choices most often set up as a buffet. At first glance, a buffet seems like the PERFECT situation. Afterall that means, “I am in control of my choices therefore I will be able to stay on track.” We all know how that usually turns out!
The problem isn’t in the buffet concept itself; it is in our approach.
You starve yourself all day and maybe the day before to “bank” calories you can use at the event. By the time the event arrives you are irritable and stressed out due to your extreme “hanger”. Upon arrival, you make a beeline to the bar and order up a glass of wine, beer or cocktail which you probably quickly drink up because you can’t carry around a glass AND a food plate! Upon arriving at the food table, you grab everything in sight and quickly devour it all. You grab a second plate and repeat the process with maybe another drink in tow. Then, of course, there is the DESSERT table! Who can resist that!
By this time, you are probably regretting your actions, but it’s too late now; you might as well have another cookie and piece of cake! By the time the evening is over, you ate an entire day’s calories in an hour. Since the majority consisted of sugar, starch, and processed items you are tired, sleepy and maybe a little bloated. You leave wanting to just go home and crawl into bed rather than feeling happy, energized and grateful for being able to catch up with family and friends.
If this sounds too familiar, I offer a few tips and suggestions to navigate your next holiday buffet:
- Don’t skip meals. Your blood sugar will be a rollercoaster and you will end up hangry leading to poor choices that add up to the same, if not more, calories than if you just ate normally.
- Have a light snack before heading out to the event. Having a small, but satisfying snack, mostly protein and healthy fat will take the edge off and clear your mind. Think a handful of nuts, an apple with nut butter or even a hard-boiled egg along with a big glass of WATER!
- Spend time wandering and checking out the room BEFORE starting to eat or drink. This way you can make a mental note on where the healthier items are located and start your feast there. Tip: In commercial settings, the “start” of the buffet table usually contains the highly processed, starchy items with healthy choices centered more in the middle to end. The reasoning is people “load up” on the cheaper items leaving less room on their plates for the more expensive higher quality choices.
- Make sure your plate contains at least 70% vegetables and lean protein. Limit your intake of starchy items like breads, potatoes, sandwiches and sweets.
- Choose ONLY home-made from scratch items. This is especially true with potluck type events. With more and more people opting for store-bought processed items, this will automatically reduce your choices to a manageable number. (On another note, if you are attending this type of event, make EVERY effort to MAKE something from scratch.)
- After you fill your plate, MOVE AWAY from the buffet table. Sit down, ENJOY and SAVOR your food. Standing close to the food makes it very easy to mindlessly grab and eat. Put your fork down between bites or at least take a 30-second break between mouthfuls.
- BEFORE you go for seconds, wait at least 10 minutes. It takes 20 minutes for your brain to register fullness so give your system time to catch up.
- If you are having an alcoholic beverage or two, avoid sweetened mixers or blended drinks and alternate each drink with a glass of water.
- Remind yourself that the purpose of the season is to be with family and friends and to share laughter and cheer.
- If you do slip up and overindulge, get right back on track the next day. Don’t let it be an excuse or justification for a whole season of unhealthy behaviors!
As you can see with a little planning and a few tips, you CAN have your cake and eat it too!!
Eat Well. Be Well.