Here are some helpful tips to keep you from looking like the guy in the picture above during the holiday season.
Don’t Deprive Yourself
Allow yourself some holiday treats – just don’t go crazy. If you abstain for too long, you’ll likely break down and binge eventually. By eating small portions of the things you’re craving, you’ll feel satisfied and won’t go on a food bender.
Same as above. Have some of your favorite treats, but keep your portions under control and try to pick healthy versions of a recipe if possible.
Cut Smaller Pieces
Instead of trying to cut the sugar or butter out of recipes to reduce calories and fat, simply divide the dish or dessert into smaller pieces when it’s ready to be served. This will make you eat less in one sitting, but still give you the same delicious taste of the recipe.
Pick Healthy Snacks
For a quick bite on a busy day of shopping or cooking, choose a protein bar, a small smoothie, a mozzarella stick or some veggies to quiet the tummy rumbling until your next meal. This will keep you from grabbing a sweet treat at Starbucks while you’re out.
Skip the Second Helping
Usually, you simply want more, but you don’t need more. Wait for at least 20 minutes before going back for a second helping. It takes about that long for our bodies to fill up, so wait to see if you actually feel full after this short amount of time. Often, you’ll find that you don’t need more to eat, and you can save some leftovers for the next day.
Follow Your Head, Not Your Stomach
A lot of our hunger comes from thinking about, smelling, seeing or being reminded about food. This makes our minds think we are hungry, when we physically do not need food yet. Consider when you last ate and if you really need to eat again. If you can’t resist the urge to eat, just have a few more bites to satisfy the craving, and walk away from the food.
If you know you’re having a big holiday dinner, have a lighter breakfast and lunch. Don’t make a big breakfast with sweets, like pancakes or cinnamon rolls, and sausages on the same day as your Christmas dinner. Try to have less carbs and eat more fruits and vegetables before the big meal. Limit yourself to only one big meal per day.
Store tempting foods in the freezer, which will make it less likely that you’ll overeat in a short period of time. You’ll spread out the eating over a week instead of a couple of days. Keeping things out is sight, really can keep them out of mind – another helpful mind trick.
Bring Your Own
When you know Grandma will have 12 desserts, 3 kinds of potatoes, bread, cheese snacks and turkey, but no vegetables… volunteer to bring a veggie dish. Buy a veggie snack tray from the grocery story on the way to her house, or make a green bean or broccoli casserole for dinner. Not only will you have healthy alternatives, but you’ll also look generous and helpful by bringing some food to share.
Buy Your Sweets Instead of Baking
If you’re constantly tempted by baking ingredients like chocolate chips, it’s best to not have them in the house. If you need to take a dessert to a party, buy it at a bakery or grocery store. Even better, choose a store like Whole Foods, which uses more natural and healthy ingredients than some places.
Water is great in many ways. Before a big meal, drink a glass to fill your stomach a little. You’ll feel full sooner, and eat less. If you’re at a holiday party, keeping hydrated is important to void a nasty hangover. Alternate between water and an alcoholic drink and you’ll feel much better the next day!
At a buffet or party, it’s not easy to eat while standing and holding a plate at the same time. The inconvenience and difficulty of eating while standing will deter you from going back for more. Also, standing helps with digestion and burns calories.
Distract Your Mind
Find something to do after eating a big holiday meal. Help with the clean-up in the kitchen, play some Wii games that keep you moving with the kids, take the dog out for a short walk… even just watch the football game on TV. Anything to get your mind on something other than more food.
Freshen Your Breath
Chew gum, suck on a breath mint or brush your teeth (if you’re at home). Eating some foods right after brushing or a breath mint makes them taste bad, so it will deter you from eating. And you won’t want to ruin that fresh, clean breath either.
Don’t Go to a Holiday Party or Dinner on an Empty Stomach
This one is self-explanatory. It’s the same concept as not going to the grocery store when you’re starving. You’ll buy too much, or over eat at the event, which may be serving high-calorie foods. If you’re not really hungry, it’s easier to control your portions and you’ll be less likely to overdo it.
Watch for Calories in Alcoholic Drinks
Holiday cocktails can be loaded with a lot of calories, so be careful about which drink you pick and how many you have. Pick drinks with less calories, like a martini (176 calories) or a rum & diet soda (96 calories). Drinks to avoid: long island iced teas, margaritas, mai tais, mud slides and egg nog. Obviously, choose a light beer over or pale ale over a darker beer. As for number of drinks, the usual rule is that women should only have one alcoholic drink per day, and men can have two, depending on body weight. (Yes, this is hard to do, and can take the fun out of the party.) But drinking less has many other benefits, like avoiding the hangover and NOT making a fool of yourself at the holiday work party!
Recover the Day After
To overcome that bloated feeling after a big meal, eat a normal breakfast with protein, such as yogurt or eggs, the next morning. The rest of the day, avoid refined carbs, drink lots of water, and fill up on fruits, veggies, and more protein. Don’t skip breakfast, which will just set you up to eat more at the next meal.
If all of these good intentions lost out to your urges, and you ate just a little too much, don’t be too hard on yourself. We all do it sometimes. Try to make up for it by getting some exercise and burning some of those calories! This can be done outside if weather permits, or in the gym. When you feel like you just don’t have time, incorporate more exercise into your errands or cleaning. If you’re out shopping at the mall, do a few extra rounds of walking the floor. Take the mall stairs instead of the escalator; park far away from the door. Use those shopping bags as weights and do a few bicep curls with them. Carry your groceries yourself, instead of having someone help. These little things help burn calories throughout the day!