It’s that time of year with holiday feasts and parties galore. It’s also that time of year when you’ll hear lots of recommendations for tackling those festivities in a way that keeps excess weight at bay. Not all such advice is worth following. Here are nine of the worst holiday healthy eating recommendations, and how you should approach eating this season instead:
1. Wear tight or fitted clothes to a holiday party to prevent overeating.
You should be able to wear whatever makes you feel your best instead of letting food dictate your fashion choices. Your body’s hunger and satiety signals will work regardless of how you dress. The holidays are about connecting with family and friends, not being preoccupied with how uncomfortable you are.
2. Don’t eat all day to save all of your calories for the feast or party.
Not eating quality food with protein and fiber throughout the day is a surefire way to cause you to dive headfirst into the dip bowl because of extreme hunger. I always recommend having packed breakfast or brunch and a small snack like a hard-boiled egg or Greek yogurt with berries before leaving for your celebration. That way, you can take a more rational approach to the appetizers and avoid filling up too quickly on high-calorie and high-fat snacks.
3. Fill your plate with salad and crudités at the holiday buffet so you don’t overdo it.
This advice is just plan sad, plus it sets you up for a buffet binge later in the night when the cocktails may have kicked in. You can get baby carrots anytime! Instead, acknowledge your desire for something special and be mindful of your choices. Take a small portion of just those items that you can’t get at other times of the year or that are most special to you.
4. Don’t make a plate; you’ll eat less.
No! Make a plate. Fill your plate once so you know exactly how much you consumed and won’t be tempted to keep revisiting the buffet. Finger foods can be dangerous since you can easily walk by the buffet table and grab more than you realize. Before you know it, you are full of sausage balls, cheese cubes and cookies.
5. Go on a liquid cleanse the day before the feast or party to negate the excess calories consumed during that meal.
Depriving yourself of adequate meals prior to a day when mindful recipe options may not be available will lead to excessive eating because your body is seeking nutrients and food. You will find yourself overeating on this day to compensate for the lack of food the day prior. If you keep your meals balanced throughout the week, however, one day of splurging on that pumpkin pie and seconds on the gravy and stuffing will not hinder your health (or your weight).
6. Make a totally different version of your favorite holiday dish to reduce calories.
While using, for example, less butter or cream may not make a difference [in taste], if you make mashed cauliflower instead of grandma’s creamy mashed potato recipe that you only have once a year, you likely won’t feel satisfied. This ‘strategy’ not only takes away from a holiday tradition but can also lead to overeating on the food to attempt to feel more satisfied.
7. Eat more to prevent food from going to in the garbage.
While food waste is a big concern, there are other ways to put leftovers to use than eating them all in one sitting. Leftover turkey can be used to make sandwiches or a homemade turkey soup, while the extra vegetables and potatoes can be combined with eggs to create a colorful frittata.
8. You can work off all those extra calories with some exercise.
Just because you did a turkey trot doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to eat two turkey dinners and waddle home. It’s a great idea to keep up with your exercise routine during the entire holiday season but be careful not to use that as a constant reason to overindulge.
9. Skip the party!
Holidays are not about the food – they are about the friends, family and fun to be had with all. Live fulfilled and enjoy them! Food brings us together to nourish our bodies; people around us nourish our spirits and knowing you will be OK nourishes your mind. Keep yourself on track and embrace every holiday by practicing mindful eating.
Terri Mozingo, RD, LDN, CEDRD is a Certified Eating Disorder Registered Dietitian passionate about helping her clients achieve overall wellness.