According to recent research, the average North American consumes up to 600 extra calories per day during the weeks between Thanksgiving and the new year. That can translate into a gain of five pounds per week if you’re not careful. But don’t despair, you can navigate everything from the 4 p.m. snack attack to Aunt Betsy’s buttery baking without going up a pant size. Just keep these smart nutrition tips in mind when healthy eating seems impossible.
Healthy eating dilemma: Desperate for a snack
Whether you’re working late, en route to an appointment or having a casual coffee break with a friend, sometimes the urge to snack just can’t be ignored, and your healthy eating efforts fall by the wayside. Having a stash of fruit, nuts or whole grain granola bars on hand for a quick bite is one of the best nutrition tips, but not everyone has the foresight to be that prepared. Here’s what to do to avoid the calories and sugar of a candy bar.
• Drink an eight ounce glass of water. Then wait 10 minutes and decide if you’re still hungry. Sometimes the body mistakes thirst for hunger.
• At the vending machine, opt for pretzels, crispy rice bars, whole grain granola bars, fruit bars or nuts instead of chips, cookies and candy.
• At the convenience store or gas station, steer clear of the refined sugar and sodium and look for unsalted nuts, cheese sticks or single serve containers of nonfat yogurt.
• At the coffee shop, beware of the muffin – some have upwards of 400 calories! Most coffee shop franchises now have nutrition information available and some (like Starbucks) even post calorie counts right beside the delectable treats. A nonfat latte, yogurt parfait or half of a whole grain bagel are reasonable choices that are low in calories.
Healthy eating dilemma: At a catered work function/buffet lunch
It’s employee appreciation day but you don’t appreciate the vast array of bagels, pasta and desserts that are available.
Skip the club sandwiches, pasta salad and pizza, and load up on the chicken, beef or whatever meat entrée is available. Fill half your plate with cut up veggies, tossed salad or fruit, and start schmoozing with your boss.
Healthy eating dilemma: At a cocktail party
You’re looking svelte in a new party dress. So how do you keep away from the hors d’oeuvres and bevvies?
Nutrition tips: Have a protein-rich snack (such as an egg, some Greek yogurt, cottage cheese or nuts) before you go to the party. Then, spend most of your evening mixing and mingling. Nurse a glass of champagne (three ounces of Brut is only 60 calories) or a white wine spritzer (half Perrier, half white wine) so you look the part. Alternate between water and alcohol as the evening wears on. For nibbling, choose veggies and protein-rich finger foods such as shrimp cocktails, devilled eggs, or slices of turkey or ham.
Healthy eating dilemma: At the movies
Did you know that the average large popcorn with no butter contains 1,100 calories, 60 grams of fat and 1,235 milligrams of sodium!? Going for something sweet isn’t much better with the average oversize bag of candy sending 15 mindless teaspoons of sugar into your bloodstream while you’re gripped by the latest flick.
Nutrition tips: Share the popcorn between two or three friends and skip the extra flavour toppings to save yourself some sodium. And, instead of a soft drink, opt for water. You’ll need it after all that salt. If you feel you need to chew on something during a movie, bring a pack of long-lasting gum to keep your tastebuds happy.
Healthy eating dilemma: Special family dinners
Whether it’s your family or (gasp!) the family of a significant other, you don’t want to offend your host by not eating the feast she probably slaved over for the last few hours.
When you get invited, ask if there’s anything you can bring, which gives you an opportunity to ensure that a salad is on the menu, or a lighter dessert. If you can’t make a contribution to the meal, try everything, but keep portions small and eat slowly. Finally, keep in mind that one decadent meal is not going to completely derail your healthy eating habits. Enjoy the occasion, then get right back on track with some lighter meals and more exercise in the days that follow.
By implementing the simple tips outlined above, you can make healthier choices in any situation!
Joey Shulman, DC and registered nutritionist, is the author of the bestselling book The Last 15: A Weight Loss Breakthrough (Wiley, 2007) and founder of Shulman Weight Loss Clinics. For more information, please visit shulmanweightloss.com or drjoey.com.