The holiday spirit is in the air. And, for many people, just the thought of the holiday season brings on anxiety related to food. Many worry about the upcoming holiday parties, extra treats around the office, gift baskets filled with chocolates and cheese and of course all the free samples of holiday fare at your local grocery stores.
You can, however, take comfort in the fact that it is possible to stick to a healthy meal plan over the upcoming weeks. The holiday season does not have to inevitably bring with it a fluctuation in your body weight.
To help you reduce your anxiety, here are some tips to help manage your weight and hunger, this season:
- Try to maintain a healthy, balanced meal plan from day to day, even if you know you are going to a party or have extra treats around the office or home. This will ensure that you do not fill up on nutrient-poor, high sugar, high fat foods. If you are hungry for a treat, dessert or extra snack, you can fit it into your meal plan, as long as you have eaten well balanced meals and snacks that day.
- Resist the urge to skip meals. This will only lay the foundation for increased hunger and cravings later in the day, therefore increasing the possibility of overeating later.
- Balance your carbohydrates and proteins at meals and snacks. For instance, if you are going to have a piece of pie, have a small glass of lowfat milk with it. Or, if you choose the cheese appetizer, have some whole grain crackers or fruit with it.
- Prepare meals with lowfat dairy, lean meats, whole fruits and vegetables (fresh, frozen or canned), whole grains and healthy fats (i.e. olive oil, canola oil, nuts, seeds).
- Lighten traditional holiday recipes by reducing fat, sugar and sodium. This can be done by using egg substitutes instead of whole eggs, lowfat dairy products rather than whole fat versions, using lean cuts of meat and decreasing the amount of added sugars and salt you add to recipes and meals.
- An average amount of 2 cups of fruits and 2.5 cups of vegetables per day will help increase your fiber intake and ensure you are getting plenty of phytonutrients (plant compounds that help prevent disease). Depending on your personal nutrient needs, you may need slightly more or slightly less fruits or vegetables daily. A dietitian can help you determine your personal needs. Choose colorful produce for the best nutrient balance. Great produce options include broccoli, berries, spinach, tomatoes and winter squash.
- Try not to classify foods as “good” or “bad”. Most foods can fit in healthfully to a balanced meal plan. Placing foods into positive or negative categories can be detrimental to your overall meal plan, leading to feelings of anxiety if you break out of what you consider safe and unsafe foods for your diet plan. In other words, it is better to set goals to increase your fruit intake, for instance, or to decrease mindless grazing on food, rather than to require yourself to eat one apple a day or to avoid all desserts.
Julie Whittington is a Registered Dietitian in the Lake Norman area. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.