Beef Wellington. A well-dressed turkey. Kugel. Latkes. Pumpkin pie. Many of the savory and sweet holiday dishes we all enjoy are offered only once a year due to tradition or because they can be expensive or difficult to prepare. It would be a shame to miss out on such rare treats, so our Registered Dietitians have some tips for you to eat healthy yet still delight in those special holiday meals.
1. Skip it. If you can easily obtain it any time of the year, and it’s contrary to your diet, skip it. Save those calories for something special.
2. Offer to cook. As chef, you will have control of the salt, fat, and sugar while you are preparing something festive for friends and family to enjoy.
3. Fill up on vegetables first. Harvest season provides one of the best opportunities to eat the freshest, most flavorful fruits and vegetables of the year. Enjoy them!
4. Limit drinks to water as much as you can, not only for the health benefits, but also to avoid the added sugary calories of juices and alcohol.
5. Be picky, and eat what you love. Not a pumpkin pie fan? Eggnog not your thing? Skip it. Don’t feel obligated because it’s the holidays. If you aren’t enjoying it, don’t eat it.
6. Eat small portions. Look over the whole table first, then only pick your favorites. Buffet? Bring a small plate and fill it with several tasty bites rather than full portions, and don’t go back for seconds.
7. Savor each bite. Eating slowly will help your brain realize your body is full.
8. No need to clean your plate. Once you’ve tasted those rare treats you were so looking forward to, you don’t need to finish them. Leave room for the next treat, and definitely pay attention to when you are full.
9. Increase your physical activity. Plan extra time in your day to double your steps, take on that holiday dishwashing, play a winter sport, have a snowball fight, or dance the night away. The extra activity will help counter some of those extra calories.
10. Continue tracking what you eat. Once you give yourself the freedom to enjoy holiday eating, it’s easy to go too far and hit an alarming number of calories a day. Give yourself extra room in your calorie counter or food diary, but talk with your Registered Dietician about defining how high is too high in calories for you.
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While the holidays are meant for quality time with friends and loved ones, there’s no doubt that there can be delightful pleasure in those once-a-year holiday dishes and treats. With a little planning and extra attention, you can certainly enjoy a hearty, healthy holiday season. Want some help? Learn more about Saratoga Hospital’s nutrition services here.