making healthy choices at holiday gatherings
By Trisha Gedon
STILLWATER, Okla. – Anyone trying to follow a healthy lifestyle knows it is tough enough to stay on track on a regular day or week. It only becomes harder during the gauntlet of holiday gatherings.
The good news is no one has to give up their healthy goals or give in to temptation. By following a few common-sense strategies, it is possible to make it through the season without adding a few pounds.
“One, two or even three big meals aren’t going to lead to a substantial weight gain over the holidays,” said Janice Hermann, Oklahoma State University Extension nutrition specialist. “Your goal should be to consistently make positive choices throughout the season.”
Successfully managing parties and big family meals during the holidays actually starts well before arriving at the festivities.
In between gatherings, sticking to normal eating routines and physical activity levels will go a long way toward staying on a healthy track. On the day of the event, be sure to eat a sensible meal or snack.
“You want to avoid starving yourself because that could lead to overeating later,” Hermann said. “Eating breakfast is especially important as research indicates people who do so tend to consume fewer calories throughout the rest of the day.”
At a holiday gathering, take some time to mingle with others before heading for the food. If the meal is being served buffet-style, check out all the options first before beginning to fill a plate.
“Start with salad, if it’s offered, and use a vinaigrette rather than a creamy dressing, then go for the grilled, steamed and broiled options, if possible,” Hermann said. “Select foods you like and pass up dishes you don’t like as much.”
Choose water or unsweetened tea rather than a sugary beverage such as soda to save additional calories.
“Eat slowly and savor your food. Pay attention to your hunger cues. When you feel you’ve had enough, stop eating,” Hermann said. “Wait about 10 minutes if you’re thinking about getting a second helping.”
Finally, if there is an opportunity to get in some physical activity after the meal, take it.
“Going on a walk or organizing a basketball game, for instance, not only gets you active, but also is a chance to continue spending time with family and friends,” Hermann said.
OSU Extension offers additional nutrition information online.