The holiday season brings thoughts of shopping, vacations, tree trimming, snowy days, and family gatherings. And whether it's at the office, a friend's home, a supermarket, or a countertop … there's a good chance that place will be laced with food.
Although you'll come face-to-face with lots of indulgent goodies, that doesn't mean every temptation will be "special." A "special" food is worth its calories, even if it causes you to gain weight. These types of foods are unique and may not be available during the rest of year.
So, if you're feeling a little overwhelmed with the abundance of seasonal offerings, here are my tips on how to trim your intake. That way, you'll leave room for being a little naughty and nice to yourself with a more special treat.
• Have a light snack before you go to a party so that you're not starving when you get there. If you go to an event when you're hungry, it will be difficult to make sensible decisions.
• Don't be fooled by dressed-up candies and cookies around your home or office. They're probably the same sweets you've managed to avoid all year. They won't taste any better; they'll just look nicer.
• Be a buffet browser. Scope out the different types of foods offered on the buffet table before you fill your dish. If something special awaits you at the end of the table, you'll want to leave some room on your plate and in your stomach.
• Eat s-l-o-w-l-y. Savor the flavor, temperature, and texture of the food you eat. It takes about 20 minutes before your brain registers that you're getting full, so take your time and enjoy the experience. I call this "low lights-soft music" eating. Taste every bite.
• If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation, and perhaps select wine, champagne, or a light beer. Whiskey, like vodka or gin (especially when doubles and triples are poured at parties) can really pack on the pounds. What's the safest way to slash calories from alcohol? Serve as the designated driver!
• Drink lots of water, club soda, or seltzer. Add lemon or lime and a splash of your favorite fruit juice for some added flavor. This will help provide a feeling of fullness and help keep you hydrated. These are the best fluids to aid digestion and keep food moving through your system.
• Remember the word, "sample." Don't choose large portions of food that will make you feel bloated and guilty before you even get back home. Smaller servings, even if they're high in calories, will provide your body and mind with foods that bring comfort, not discomfort.
• Don't forget to stay active. Take advantage of winter activities like shoveling snow, snowboarding, or skiing. For activities closer to home, enjoy a brisk walk with your kids, or put on some holiday tunes and dance around the kitchen! You get some calorie-burning credit for walking quickly around the mall while shopping or cleaning the house vigorously before company arrives. You could also get physical by climbing on and off a step stool to get out the china and pots and pans from the top shelves. And if all else fails, just jump up and down when you open your presents.
And most of all, remember that you are special, and you deserve the attention and care you tend to readily give to others. When it comes to creating a happy and healthy holiday season, your goal should be to give and receive, so be sure to put yourself on your list!
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Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA, RD, CDN, has been owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC, for more than three decades and she is the author of Read It Before You Eat It. As a renowned motivational speaker, author, media personality, and award-winning dietitian, Taub-Dix has found a way to communicate how to make sense of science. Her website is BetterThanDieting.com.