11/19/09 Eat Right for the Holidays

They’re coming — the Holidays —
How are you going to handle the gorgeous, fattening foods that inevitably accompany every party, gathering or event?

Food is a big and wonderful part of the holiday tradition…. From Thanksgiving to New Years, we stuff our faces with Aunt Linda’s famous pumpkin pie to Grandma’s N.Y. style cheese cake. (Actually, it all starts with Junior’s Halloween candy.)

Learning to deal with the mass quantities of fattening food doesn’t have to be painful. Here are 7 quick tips on getting through the feasting without sabotaging your weight loss efforts.

1) Eat as much vegetables and pumpkin as possible…before the turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy. Pumpkins, onions, celery, sweet potatoes, yams, squash, green beans, and fruits such as cranberries and apples are high in fiber and tend to make you fuller faster. The presence of these foods in your gut will also decrease fat absorption from the other more fatty foods, such as the meats and cheeses, so prioritize consumption of these foods, and get them on your plate before the others.

2)Eat slow. Eating slowly allows you to feel full before you’ve eaten more than you actually need. By taking smaller bites, enjoying the conversation around you, and focusing on the meal as just a small part of the celebration, you’ll be more likely to spend 20 minutes on one plate, rather than starting on thirds inside of 15 minutes.

3) Choose your pie wisely. You will literally save hundreds of calories by choosing a fiber-rich, lower sugar pumpkin pie over rich, buttery apple, or even worse, pecan pie. The pumpkin pie takes up just as much room in your stomach, which will still satisfy your appetite.

4) Take a walk. The post-meal physical activity will boost your metabolism, and keep those fatty acids circulating in the bloodstream so that they’re less likely to get deposited as fat on the waistline, butt and thighs.

5) Snack beforehand. Don’t fast all day because you know you’ll be eating a big meal later on. The last thing your body needs is to be in starvation, fat-storage mode when the feast arrives. Instead, eat a healthy, complex breakfast (like a bowl of oatmeal with fresh fruit), and snack throughout the day on 100-250 calorie meals, like a piece of raw fruit, a handful of nuts, or a small salad. You’ll be less likely to overeat at any big meal if you practice this habit.

6) Don’t overdo exercise. I know those Thanksgiving day exercise classes and early morning workouts feel great and make you feel less guilty, but just don’t overdo it. A 3 hour marathon of lifting, cycling, and running is only going to increase stress on your body and raise the level of fat storage hormones, just before the food goes in. Follow this rule: don’t exercise any more than you would on a typical day.

7) Have fun! For those of you on a strict diet-exercise regimen, this is one of those times of year to really enjoy yourself. Everybody needs a break once in a while, and one piece of pumpkin pie, or a tablespoon of gravy, is not going to sabotage your routine and make you fat. As a matter of fact, occasionally indulging yourself is a great way to feel mentally and physically excited about getting back into your routine. So try to follow the simple rules in this article, and at the same time, break loose and have fun!

-Shannon Flanagan