The Skinny on Holiday Eating
With these seven simple tips, you will make it through the holidays with all of the jingle, but none of the jiggle. And you can thank us when the ball drops on New Year's and you're still fitting into your "skinny" pants!
1. Don't go to a party hungry.
You know not to grocery shop on an empty stomach, so don't hit a holiday shindig on one either. "It's way too difficult to make healthy decisions when you're that hungry," says Samantha Heller, MS, RD, senior clinical nutritionist at New York University Medical Center. "Everything looks good—even the ornaments." Take the edge off before you go with a piece of fruit or small container of yogurt so that you're not starving and tempted to storm the buffet table upon arrival, says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, Nutrition and Exercise Specialist for The Wellness Institute at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
2. Don't eat just to be polite.
"I couldn't refuse the apple strudel—Aunt Gertie spent hours slaving over it!" Sound familiar? We often fall off the wagon during the holidays for fear of crushing our hosts' fragile egos, but that's a poor excuse, says Heller: "Your thighs don't care that you didn't hurt their feelings." The next time you're being strong-armed into eating a high-calorie confection, simply say, "No thank you, it looks great, but I'm trying to lose weight." If Aunt Gertie's on clean-plate patrol, that's her issue.
3. Get your priorities straight.
The holidays come but once a year, and so do some of the season's quintessential treats. Ask yourself which foods you won't likely see again until next year—then savor them in moderation, says Jackson. For instance, pass over the mashed potatoes, which will likely reappear at the next family dinner, and make a beeline for the pumpkin pie.
4. Keep a friendly distance from the food.
Stay an arm's length away from the buffet table, says Jackson. You'll be less tempted to mindlessly nosh while you're mingling if you back up a step or two. And when you're finished eating, ditch your empty plate—it screams for second helpings. Instead, grab a glass of club soda so you'll have something to do with your hands while you talk.
5. Add it up.
Never leave a party without knowing how much you've eaten, says Jackson. Yes, that includes those seemingly innocent yet addictive canapés! At a cocktail party, allow yourself one pass of the hors d'oeuvres so that you can pick your favorites. Zero in on those you like best and keep count—it's a good idea to keep a "diet diary" and log what you eat. This technique works well on baking days, too—your diary won't let you "forget" those extra tastes.
6. Go easy on the drinks.
Alcohol, which tends to flow freely during the holidays, packs a double whammy. It's chock-full of calories, and it lowers our inhibitions, making us dive into dishes that we'd have a fighting chance at resisting if we were sober. Try following every drink with seltzer or diet soda, Heller suggests. "You'll save yourself extra calories, a hangover and embarrassment at the office the next day."
7. Get moving.
Sure you have a shopping list to plod through, but that's even more reason to hit the gym. After a half-hour on the treadmill, your mother-in-law's impending visit and the holiday cards you have to mail won't seem quite so overwhelming. "If there's ever a time to exercise, it's during the holidays," says Jackson. "It's one of the most stressful periods of the year!"