The Top 10 Holiday TemptationsArticle posted in: Diet & Nutrition
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! There’s no reason you can’t enjoy the season at hand—even if you’re on a diet. As long as you approach the holidays with a healthy-living plan, you’ll enter January at the same weight you are now. (Or maybe you’ll weigh less!) Now let’s work on that plan and talk through those holiday temptations.
Here are the top ten holiday temptations and how you can avoid them:
From cookie walks and bake sales to cookie-baking day with the family, cookies and sweets are inescapable holiday temptations. One cookie won’t break your diet. Two or more—every day leading up to Christmas—will definitely be a problem. If you know you can’t eat just one cookie, consider baking your own batch from wholesome ingredients like oats, peanut butter and dried fruit. To avoid eating all of the cookies in a week, freeze half (and save some for Santa!) or share them with a friend.
Or beer, wine or holiday punch. Alcohol is never in short supply around the holidays. The best way to avoid drinking your calories is to make your single glass of beer, wine or punch last. Take really small sips, carry a glass of water in your other hand, or put your drink down while you’re socializing so you’re not tempted to keep drinking. You can also volunteer to be the designated driver or host of the party so you have a reason to stay sober.
Or stuffing. Worse yet: stuffing slathered in gravy. Some holiday temptations should REALLY be avoided because they’re loaded with carbs, calories and saturated fat. Gravy, stuffing and desserts are three of the worst offenders and they’re right at the top of the “holiday favorites” list for many. If gravy is mandatory on your table, try making it with chicken broth, herbs and cornstarch. Mushrooms can add a “meaty” flavor. Consider using rice, quinoa or farro instead of bread to make stuffing. For dessert, try Flourless Black Bean Brownies > or a 1-Minute Chocolate Ricotta Mouse. >
4. The Feast
You wait all year long for things like latkes, figgy pudding and prime rib (and don’t forget that gravy!). The most important thing to remember as you approach the dinner table is portion control. Trading your dinner plate with a salad plate can keep your portions small. Loading half of that plate with veggies can fill you up without filling you out. Try not to go back for seconds. If you find yourself at the food table for another round, however, get one spoonful of your favorite dish.
5. Waiting to Eat
If your family eats at lunchtime, don’t skip breakfast or your mid-morning snack to save calories. If dinner is served later, eat plenty of nutritious, high-fiber foods all throughout the day so hunger doesn’t take over. “When we feel that we are starving, we tend to cram food in quickly taking in too much before the body can tell us we’re full,” says Dr. Jan Chozen Bays in her book, Mindful Eating. The same thoughtless eating happens when we eat our favorite foods—like stuffing or apple pie. “You would think that we would naturally eat our favorite food more slowly in order to savor it, but instead the opposite is true,” she says. “The more we like food, the faster we chew and swallow it.”
6. Allowing Yourself a Cheat Day
Bloated. Tired. Guilty. And consumed with cravings for more of those holiday temptations. Cheat days can wreak havoc on your mind and body. Registered Dietician Courtney McCormick says cheating isn’t worth it. “Remember that all foods can fit into a healthy diet; just enjoy indulgent treats in smaller portions,” she says. If you start to make mistakes, don’t throw your hands up and quit. Get right back on track: Drink plenty of fluids, load up on extra fruits, veggies and whole grains (so as to not reestablish a taste for fatty, sugary foods), and last but not least, exercise.
7. “Taking Off” from Exercise
What happens when you take off work during the holiday season? You probably get more sleep. You probably eat more food. And since it’s your day “off,” you just might decide to skip the gym. One day of skipping can lead to two days. Multiple days of skipping the gym can set you way back in your diet journey, making it difficult to rebound. Even when your routine isn’t “routine” during the holidays, set aside time to clean, chase your kids around the yard, walk the dog or hit the gym. Every minute of movement counts!
8. Congregating in the Kitchen
It’s inevitable. People always gather in the kitchen and eat while they socialize. Cheese balls, sliders and dips with crackers are popular holiday temptations and you can end up eating an entire meal while chitchatting with friends and loved ones. If you have to be in the kitchen, get your own plate and eat from it—don’t keep taking bites of things here and there. When your plate is empty, stop eating. Tell yourself you’ve had enough. If you don’t have to be in the kitchen and can steer your sister-in-law to another room to chat—or maybe even take a walk outside—even better. Temptation removed.
9. Late-Night Snacking
There are presents to be wrapped, foods to be prepared and parties to host. The busyness of the holidays can trigger stress eating—especially at night when we’re trying to fit it all in. “When we are anxious, depressed or stressed we are more likely to eat in an unbalanced way,” says Dr. Jan Chozen Bays. “Stress can also change how the body processes and stores food, and stress can raise levels of cholesterol in the blood stream.” If you’re feeling stressed, don’t eat—prioritize your tasks, cut out extra steps and ask for help. Meditating for a few minutes can help you refocus.
10. Mom’s Urging
Food is a form of love and those who prepare holiday favorites love nothing more than to see their food enjoyed. Have a conversation with your mom, dad, grandma—and everyone—before you gather together. Tell them you’re on a weight-loss journey and you just can’t eat or drink like you used to. Maybe you won’t be pressured to go back for seconds and thirds. Maybe grandma will bring you fresh apple slices with cinnamon instead of your very own apple pie. Only good things can come from having your family’s support and understanding.