Smart Holiday Eating

Written by Christine Rosenbloom, PhD, RDN, FAND, author of Food & Fitness After 50 on Wednesday, 20 December 2017.
Tagged: guides, health, healthy eating, healthy lifestyle, nutrition

Smart Holiday Eating

As an American, I was fortunate to spend two Christmas holidays with Australian friends many years ago. My friends shared their childhood memories of finding surf boards or fishing rods under the Christmas tree, and how they couldn’t wait to spend Christmas Day on the beach playing with their gifts and enjoying a barbecue with family.

Holidays and food

Holidays are special times where families and friends get together over food... sometimes, too much food. While there are many unfounded stories of massive weight gains from Christmas to New Year, the truth is we don’t tend to gain more than a 0.5 kilogram over the holidays, but, and here is the kicker, we don’t lose it in January when the holidays are over! Half a kilo may not sound like much, but fast forward 20 years and 10 extra kilos could be the result.

Researchers also found that those who were already overweight tended to gain more weight than those who were at a healthy weight.

What can you do?

For starters, self-monitoring appears to prevent holiday weight gain. Weighing yourself every day during the festive season can keep you aware of your weight.

You can also use apps on your phone to log exercise and food; journaling helps you to be more mindful of the calories you eat and those you use up.

Seven useful tips

Here are seven of my favourite tips to keep your six-pack from becoming a 2-litre bottle or letting small love handles become muffin tops:

  1. When faced with a buffet, walk around and assess everything with your eyes before you dig in with your fork. With so many options, choose only the foods you really love or that are special treats during the holidays. You can eat Aunt Sue’s chocolate chip cookies any time, but Uncle Alan’s holiday berry cheesecake may come only once a year. Choose wisely.
  2. Serve with a tablespoon, not a serving spoon. Go for smaller portions to enjoy a bit of everything without inhaling everything. One of my horrific holiday memories was when I hosted a holiday buffet for 20 people; there was plenty of food, but I only had 18 plates. I grabbed my husband and told him to use a bread plate to make sure the guests got the dinner plates. Family praised us for using smaller plates so we would eat less; we never let on that it wasn’t by choice!
  3. Don’t forget your body still needs nutrients during the holidays. Many people are slaves to their food trackers, but they usually track the energy-containing nutrients of carbohydrate, protein, and fat and not vitamins and minerals. Nutrient-rich foods, like colourful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and calcium-rich dairy foods provide much needed vitamins and minerals.
  4. Rethink your drink. Liquid calories can really add up during the holidays. Switch to a wine spritzer with sparkling water and lime wedges and have one glass of water for each alcoholic beverage you consume. Light beer and “skinny” cocktails can also help lighten up the calories.
  5. Don’t go to a party or holiday meal hungry. It is fine to eat lighter on the day of the big holiday party, but if you go on an empty stomach you are likely to over indulge. Instead, eat a protein and fibre-rich snack, like 6-ounces of Greek yogurt with a handful of nuts to keep your hunger at bay.
  6. Slow down. Eating isn’t a race, so take your time, enjoy the company and conversation, and chew every bite. We all have that one relative or friend who has cleaned his or her plate well before everyone else has been seated around the table. Don’t be that person.
  7. Lastly, if you do over eat, don’t let it be an excuse to say, “I’ll wait until January 2 to eat healthfully.” Start at the very next meal to make smart choices!

About the author

Chris Rosenbloom, PhD, RDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist in Atlanta, Georgia and a Professor Emerita at Georgia State University where she taught nutrition for 30 years and now provides nutrition consulting services to food companies, health organizations, and food marketing firms. Her book, Food & Fitness After 50, with co-author, Dr. Bob Murray, is now available. Follow her blog, Fit to Eat,  for inspiring stories of adults who eat well, move well, and be well over the age of 50.