By Suz Redfearn WebMD Feature Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH
Enjoy a tasty and fulfilling December followed by a regret-free January. Here are 25 healthy holiday choices to make, starting now.
Eat early. Don’t skip breakfast, says Amy Jamieson-Petonic, a registered dietitian. “Don’t let last night’s big meal keep you from having a healthy breakfast today, and every day,” she says. If you don’t commit to breakfast, you may spend the rest of the day overeating.
Graze. Eat small meals throughout the day. It helps you keep your blood sugar and energy levels in check. You’ll be less likely to feel moody or stressed, and you’ll be less likely to overeat at parties. Also, if you don’t arrive at the party with an empty stomach, alcohol won’t hit you as hard.
Work out. Exercise keeps your metabolism going, helps you digest and burn off calories, and can stabilize your mood.
Pair drinks with exercise. “For every alcoholic drink you have during the holidays, tell yourself you need to be physically active for 30 minutes to burn it off,” suggests Jamieson-Petonic, who’s also an exercise physiologist.
Stay hydrated. Choose water or low-calorie drinks more often than not. A nifty tip: “Twenty ounces of water 20 minutes before each meal keeps you hydrated while reducing cravings and calories when you eat,” Jamieson-Petonic says.
Snack. Heading to the airport? Pack healthy snacks. Think trail mix, whole-grain crackers, or even a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Map it out. Road tripping? Don’t wait till you’re starving then hit a fast-food joint. Plan ahead, so you can stop where healthy food is available.
No comfy pants. Loose fitting clothes make it easier to overeat, Jamieson-Petonic says. Wear form-fitting garments that will let you know you’re overdoing it.
Lighten your drink. A wine spritzer is a festive way to keep calories and alcohol content low. Not into that? Consider light beer or a mixed drink with half a shot in it – make sure the mixer is low- or no-cal.
Simply sip. Make that drink last all night by taking tiny sips. You’ll lower your caloric intake – and the chances you’ll insult Uncle Mort later.
Window shop. Buffet time? Cruise the food before digging in. Think through what’s offered and pick only the things you really, truly want.
Veg out. Hit the crunchy vegetables. Hard. They’ll fill you up, making you less likely to overeat.
Go lean. Choose lean proteins: turkey (without the skin), fish (skip the fatty sauce), or pork. They can fill you up and give you lots of energy.
Embrace the season. Don’t completely avoid the festive holiday fare you can’t get any other time of year, like stuffing and pumpkin pie. Have those special foods in small amounts, but avoid things you can get all year, like mashed potatoes.
Give in. If a tiny portion of pie won’t cut it, then eat a full slice, just this once. But consider avoiding the crust, which is filled with saturated fat and calories.
Think small. Always use a small plate if there’s a choice. That way you can’t gather a mountain of food.
No touching. Don’t pile up your food. Play that game you used to play as a kid – don’t let your foods touch.
Do it yourself. Bring your own amazing dish you can turn to in times of need. Make your contribution a super-healthy, low-cal, extremely tasty dish that you can’t get enough of. If all the other offerings are too rich or fatty, you can rely on your own cooking.
Step aside. When you’ve had your fill at the buffet table, move away. The farther you are from the food, the less you’ll try to get back to it. If you have to stand in the same room with the food, keep your back to it.
Just a bite. Have all the desserts you want! But just a bite of each. That, Jamieson-Petonic says, is the way to not feel short-changed – but also not bloated or on the edge of a sugar freak out.
Choose fruit. Afraid of the treats and what they’ll do to you? Then contribute to the party by bringing a big fruit salad. The sugars in fruit can squelch your desire for other sweets.
Get chatty. Holidays are about catching up with friends and family you haven’t seen in a while, Jamieson-Petonic says. Focus on conversation and you’ll eat less.
Take your time. Savor the food. Appreciating each bite, Jamieson-Petonic says, can help you eat less and appreciate what you had.
Take stock. When holiday cravings hit, stop and ask yourself, “Am I really hungry?” Just a few seconds might reveal that you’re really just tired or sad. A little talk with yourself can spare you some unwanted calories.
Breathe and enjoy. Remember that the holidays are about love and time with relatives and friends. Take a deep breath, smile, and connect.