Typically around the holiday season people become busier and find they have less free time. As a result, many good habits that have been gained over the year go by the wayside. Healthy habits get omitted from the routine. In addition, the holidays seem to have turned into an extended holiday season, lasting a few months over the winter. This time of year can be challenging even for the most organized individual. Many find themselves attending more parties and family gatherings, running around on their free time to shop and prepare, consuming excess food and beverages, exercising less. This can be a recipe for falling off prescribed diets and weight gain. The relationship between diet, weight and disease has been well-established. Remember that two thirds of all cancers are related to diet and lifestyle.
Here are a few tips to keep your waistline in check this holiday season:
- Be mindful not mindless. Concentrate on meals as you are eating. Pay attention to food choices, how you fill your plate, the number of high calorie foods at the meal.
- Portion size – Limit portion size of high calorie foods. You do not have to necessarily refrain from eating holiday foods – just put a boundary on the portion size.
- Frequency – Monitor how often you have high calorie foods.
- Do not drink your calories. Avoid sugar sweetened beverages (like soda, lemonade, iced tea), juices, drink mixers. Opt for unsweetened iced tea, seltzer, or water instead.
- Make substitutions whenever possible. It is possible to alter your favorite holiday recipes to have less sugar or fat, by substituting some of the ingredients. For example using lite butter instead of regular butter in a recipe, using low-fat sour cream in a dip, or adding less sugar than the recipe may call for.
- Improve one or two habits. Reflect upon some of your less healthy habits (what you usually eat at holiday meals or when dining out) and make a few changes. For example, avoid the bread at the next holiday meal, have water instead of soda, have a half portion or share dessert.
- Fill half of your plate with vegetables at holiday meals, cocktail parties, office parties. This can help fill you up and leave less room on the plate for the high calorie options. It can save a lot of excess calories.
- Add in exercise. Try to keep up with your exercise routine. Target days off to exercise and it is never too late to start an new exercise routine.
- Do not leave the house hungry. Try to eat your meal at home before running errands, shopping, attending cocktail parties.
Lori Magoulas, PhD, RD is a registered dietitian at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey.