Six healthy eating strategies for the holidays
Last updated 12/1/2021 at 12:19pm | View PDF
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 1 in 2 U.S. adults have prediabetes (take a minute to check if you're at risk) or Type 2 diabetes. Now we're all about to enter that annual carb carnival of cookies, cakes, casseroles and eggnog - the holiday season.
This can be a challenging time of year if you have diabetes or prediabetes or are just trying to eat healthy. At home, at the office, at family gatherings, our heads are going to be dancing with visions of sugarplums and other confections piled high before us. But I bring tidings of comfort and joy: you can still celebrate the holidays to the fullest without having to eat like Tiny Tim! Just keep the following strategies in mind during your merry making.
• Offer to host
When you host, you get to pick the dishes which means you can craft a low-carb three-course menu with a seasonal flair that everyone will enjoy (even if they have dietary needs of their own).
And if someone else insists on hosting, not to worry! Offer to bring a delicious low-carb side dish such as roasted vegetables tricolore, keto cauliflower stuffing with sausage or potato and cauliflower mash. Visit https://www.amitahealth.org/blog-articles/fitness-and-nutrition/healthy-holiday-eating-strategies for recipes.
• Swap out processed sugar
Many of us have seasonal family recipes we treasure, whether it's Mom's spritz cookies or Uncle Andrew's hamantaschen. It doesn't feel like the holidays without them. Thankfully, with a few creative twists, on some old classics, you can still enjoy festive cheer without compromising your health goals - or your taste buds. Substitute sugar or processed carbs with fruit, almond flour and savory herbs in a variety of recipes available on the website listed above.
• Play with portions
Typically, it's not the food that should go on Santa's "naughty" list. It's how much of it we eat. Try these tricks for indulging in your favorites without overindulging.
Downsize your dinner plate. Instead of a full-size dinner plate, select the next size down. Preview your options before you start to fill your plate and prioritize the foods you like most. Start with the protein and vegetables. Fill half your plate with veggies, fill a quarter with your protein and then reserve the remaining quarter for whatever you like.
Take dessert in halves. Consider having half a slice of pie instead of a whole slice.
Still hungry? Go back for a second helping of veggies.
• Feast with focus
Eat normally beforehand. Don't "save up" for a big eat by going to the party hungry. All that does is disrupt your blood sugar, make you "hangry" and more likely to overeat.
Stay hydrated throughout. We often mistake thirst for hunger. The best way to ward off "false hunger" is to sip from a glass of water throughout the evening.
Go out of your way to make conversation, which causes you to eat more slowly and gives your mind a chance to catch up to your stomach. It can take 20 minutes for our brains to realize we're full.
• Say "No" without saying "No"
Maybe it's the Midwesterner in me, but I'm not always comfortable saying no.
And when I'm at a dinner party, I often feel compelled to try every dish to avoid giving offense to anyone.
If this sounds like you, too, I'm going to give you the advice I wish I had gotten sooner: it's not our job to please everyone, especially at our own expense. Your health must take priority over any anxieties about what others will think of you.
Luckily, we all know a lot of ways to say "no" without saying "no."
Keep it simple ("No thank you"), offer compliments about other qualities of the food ("It looks/smells amazing, but I just couldn't eat another bite!") or tell a white lie ("I had some - it was delicious!").
• Be kind to yourself
If you end up eating more than you intended, don't beat yourself up. It's easy to attach too much importance to everything we do during the holidays. Remember, it's only one day.
- Courtney Southwood is a practicing registered dietitian for Amita Health who specializes in weight management and pediatric nutrition.