I love the holidays for many reasons, but one main reason I enjoy the holidays so much is because of the FOOD! Being a group fitness instructor and personal trainer, I am always conscious of what I eat, but honestly, trying to eat healthy during the holidays can be especially challenging. For this week’s post, I decided to seek out counsel about how to eat healthy during the holidays from our registered dietician right here on campus! Ashley Pinet has been a wonderful resource to me, personally, as well as many other NC State students. Hopefully, you will find her tips on how to control eating through the holidays as helpful as I did!
1. Portion control during the holidays can be a struggle for some people because there is always so much yummy food to eat! Can you offer any tips on controlling portion sizes during the holidays?
Start by filling at least half your plate with vegetables, one quarter with carbohydrates, and one quarter with lean protein. This is an easy way to keep your calories in check. Limit additions like gravy, butter, and jellied cranberry sauce as these are typically high in fat, sodium and/or added sugar.
One of the biggest mistakes that I see people make is intentionally skipping meals to “save up” calories for the holiday feast. This ultimately leads to over-eating later in the day. Make sure you begin each day with a balanced breakfast. If it will be several hours between breakfast and the large meal, snack on a handful of nuts, yogurt, fruit, or vegetables with hummus.
Another important step to portion control is slowing down when eating meals and being mindful of the food in front of you. It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain you have had enough to eat. Put your fork down and take a sip of water between bites. Eat slowly and savor the food in front of you. Finally, when you begin to feel full, remove your plate from the table so that you aren’t tempted to re-fill it.
2. How can people enjoy their favorite holiday dishes without indulging too much?
When deciding what to eat, choose wisely. Carefully select your favorite food items, but make sure your plate is still balanced. Eat mindfully as this will make a smaller portion much more satisfying. It’s also a good idea to try out a healthier version of your favorite holiday treats. In most recipes, sugar and butter or oil can be reduced without sacrificing flavor. Health Promotion has a great resource on healthy cooking substitutions that shows simple solutions to save you calories.
3. Are there any foods or beverages that you suggest limiting during the holidays?
‘Tis the season when people drink their calories! This can quickly lead to weight gain. There are many specialty beverages that are only available this time of year such as pumpkin spice lattes, peppermint mochas, and eggnog. One 8oz cup of eggnog has about 350 calories and 19g of fat. Most people don’t compensate by eating less when they have a calorie dense beverage and these extra calories can quickly become extra pounds. Try spiced cider or unsweetened cocoa to satisfy cravings for warm beverages.
4. What are some examples of food products that have a lot of nutritional value that many people forget about during the holidays?
Many of our favorite holiday foods are very nutritious. The biggest problem is that our preparation methods often negate the health benefits. Turkey is an excellent source of lean protein, selenium, niacin and vitamin B6. Sweet potatoes and pumpkin are loaded with vitamin A, vitamin C, fiber and the powerful antioxidant beta carotene. Cranberries have both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties in addition to vitamin C and fiber.
Maximize these nutrient benefits by modifying your recipes. Prepare homemade cranberry sauce in place of canned. You will get all the same benefits without all the sugar. Roast sweet potatoes with cinnamon or mix mashed sweet potatoes with crushed pineapple to sweeten naturally. Try adding puree canned pumpkin to smoothies or yogurt parfaits. These are delicious healthy foods that can be enjoyed year round.
In conclusion, I hope Ashley’s advice has helped you as much as it did me! It’s important to truly enjoy all of your favorite holiday foods. I think the key to feeling satisfied, and not miserable, after a big holiday meal is to eat moderately…at least that is what I have discovered in my experience. University Recreation would like to wish everyone a safe and happy Thanksgiving, and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter!
Until I’m back, GO WOLFPACK!