Those Christmas Cookies Don’t Own You: Seven Tips for Eating Well During the Holidays

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Christmas cookiesIt’s the holiday season and edible temptations are everywhere.  They even show up in the most unlikely of places, like this past Saturday when a trayful of homemade fudge greeted me at the hair salon!

It’s easy to see why so many people gain weight this time of year.  But you don’t have to be one of them!  Whether you’re traveling for an extended vacation or just need some help making it through a few holiday parties, here are some tips to make it through the New Year with your waistline intact:

1. Travel with healthy snacks.  It can be hard to find smart food choices at airports and rest stops.  Make sure you pack some healthy, portable snacks to take along during your travels, such as apples, carrot sticks, and almonds.

2. BYOS (“Bring Your Own Staples”).  If you find yourself away from home for a few nights and know your host will have few healthy food choices to offer, pack some staples with you or make a trip to the grocery store as soon as you arrive at your destination.  You’ll be armed with a figure-friendly alternative when the cinnamon rolls come out for breakfast.

3. Get plenty of sleep.  When we’re tired, we tend to eat more and have cravings because lack of sleep throws our hormones out of whack. Aim for at least eight hours of sleep each night to keep hunger, energy, and cravings balanced.

4. “Crowd out” bad foods with good ones.  Think fiber, water, and protein.  These are foods that make us feel full.  Here are three ideas to take with you to the dinner party:

  • Vegetables are mainly water, so eat a large salad at the start of the meal along with a glass of water before heading back to the buffet.
  • Lean protein is good choice for an appetizer because it takes several minutes for its sating effects to kick in. If you’re feeling the munchies when your host passes the tray of hors d’oeuvres, score yourself some chicken satay or turkey meatballs.
  • Not only does fiber make us feel full, it also keeps our hormones balanced, which keeps hunger and energy in check. Keep your eyes peeled for high fiber choices on the dinner buffet, including lentils and beans (especially split peas), raspberries, and green peas. But eat slowly: like protein, 15-30 minutes may pass before you feel its sating effects.

5. Don’t arrive at the party on an empty stomach.  If you know your healthy options will be limited, make sure you eat something BEFORE you go.  Again, think fiber, water, and protein.

6. Eat a cookie (but not a plate of them).  Don’t deny yourself things you love.  Learn to eat in moderation.  Not only should we be allowed foods we enjoy, it’s a more sustainable way to live and eat.

7. Learn from your mistakes.  Say at the end of the day you utterly fail.  The closest you come to eating a vegetable is the spinach artichoke dip.  You DO eat the entire plate of cookies.  How did you feel afterwards?  Pretty lousy, if I had to guess.  Take THAT experience with you moving forward.  One of these times you WILL succeed, and you’ll see how much better you felt.  That’s what leads to lasting lifestyle change.

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