We are very excited to announce that we have a college intern as the guest writer for this blog post. This article was written by Lauren Dublinski, WKU Dietetic Intern.
Is it that time of year already?! If you’re anything like me, with colder weather and the holidays just around the corner, you may prefer the warmth of the indoors while indulging in comfort foods. Overlooking temptations may be hard. Restaurants are serving sensational “holiday” beverages and treats. Families and friends are having Thanksgiving dinner with turkey and “mouthwatering” sides. Eggnog is paired with your favorite sweets and baked goodies too. I like to take a break from some of my “usual” healthy habits and enjoy all the festivities with family and friends. I am sure you also take pleasure in doing the same. However, mixing healthier options in with celebrations is possible. Here are just a few fun, simple suggestions that will greatly benefit you during the season. Make being healthy part of your special holiday traditions.
Mindful Eating – “Strategizing” is the key. Most of the season consists of parties with meals typically served buffet style. To decrease your cravings and reduce overeating, it’s best not to attend on an empty stomach. Instead, drink a glass of water or eat something light to fill you up beforehand. Try some Greek yogurt, raw veggies, or apples dipped in almond butter.
Also, eat slowly. It takes 20 minutes for your brain to realize you’re full. Ask yourself “is this worth it”? Sometimes you are not as hungry as you may think. Try starting with the vegetable and fruit dishes. They are full of fiber and decrease hunger. Thereby, lessening your chances of overeating foods higher in fats and sugars.
Don’t be restrictive or hard on yourself either. Eat the foods that you look forward to and eat only once a year. That could be Aunt Susie’s famous pecan pie or Mama’s cornbread stuffing. Try not to load up on foods you can eat anytime of the year. Another tip is bringing your own healthy dish to the party! Vegetable or fruit platters are popular along with homemade dips like salsa and guacamole.
Control Your Portions- Eating in moderation is important. You can maintain blood sugar levels while not overeating and adding excess calories. When dishing up your food it’s wise to use a smaller plate and smaller serving spoons. This helps with putting less on your plate while tricking your brain to thinking you’re eating more. Serve smaller dishes too, for example, cut a pie into 12 pieces instead of 8. Make “mini” cupcakes or other baked goods to control portion size. Offer smaller snacks and treats to cut calories and allow you and your guests more variety of options.
Watch your Alcoholic Beverages – It’s easy to go overboard on the alcohol during the holiday season, especially when cocktails have additional flavorings from eggnog to sodas. Alcohol is loaded with additional calories and can lead to dehydration. Try drinking a glass of water between alcoholic beverages. Drink moderately as well. Women are advised 1 drink and men up to 2 drinks per day according to Dietary Guidelines. Another great idea would be making “mocktails”. Mix sparkling water with a little bit of juice and use some fresh fruit as garnish. Be creative!
Healthier Holiday Staples – We all love our traditional meals at holiday gatherings. However, modifying recipes with healthier ingredients cuts back on fats, sugars, and calories while maintaining delicious flavors. Replace butter with olive or canola oils. Even applesauce and avocados can be a fat replacer! Try using low fat or skim milk, or milk substitutes (unsweetened almond, soy, or cashew) in replacement of whole. Utilize egg whites for whole eggs and steam, bake, or broil to avoid frying in your cooking methods. Additionally, increase your fiber by adding more whole grains to baked goods. For instance use whole-wheat flour instead of the white.
Another useful tip is to use vegetables and fruits that are in season, which will also save you in cost. Pumpkins, squashes, sweet potatoes, leafy greens, cranberries, carrots, turnips, pears are all items you can use in your family recipes.
Making use of spices and herbs instead of salt will not only add flavor; but will decrease sodium too! Try using smoked paprika for your Thanksgiving turkey or adding minced garlic or cinnamon to your mashed sweet potatoes. Here is a great link to follow if you are in search of recipe ideas: https://eatrightpa.org/members/blog/thanksgiving-sides-desserts-registered-dietitian/
Get Moving! – Although temperatures have dropped, that doesn’t mean you should stop physical activity. Try going for a walk with the family after dinner. If there is snow, then find yourselves a hill and take the kids sledding. Ice skating rinks are popular during this time, so go ahead and lace up a pair of ice skates! Exercise indoors as well. Walk a few more laps around the mall while doing holiday shopping. Let the kids play at the mall playground. Add some fun to the parties with dance contests or a few more active games, like twister!
Rest Up – The stresses of holiday shopping, traveling and hosting parties with family/friends can lead to long hours and you can easily begin to lose sleep. Sleep deprivation can lead to consuming foods higher in fat and sugar to compensate blood sugar levels. Make sure to set your alarm and aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
Comment below on your favorite ways to make the holidays healthier, and be sure to add more topics you would like to see covered in this blog.
I hope these tips are of good use. Enjoy your holidays this year, and remember good health starts with small steps!