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Making Smart Eating Choices at the Holidays

Making Smart Eating Choices at the Holidays

Maybe Aunt Edna’s fattening cranberry dessert is your downfall, or mashed potatoes piled with butter and salt. Maybe you’re in a family where there’s not just a turkey on the table, but also a ham or other main dishes.

Safe to say, it’s a struggle for many people to eat healthy and in moderation during the next few months, especially when potlucks abound at workplaces and candied treats overflow in the store aisles. 

But healthy goals can still be achieved in November and December, without a feeling of loss or denial. As we approach Thanksgiving, it may be time to get a plan in place to prevent weight gain, reduce your stress, avoid overindulging and carving out time for exercise or body conditioning.

Many health experts suggest that having a healthy mindset about eating is critical to making it through the holidays. Nutritionists suggest eating in moderation, so there’s not a feeling of denial or loss. Some suggest picking indulgence items you may only eat once a year but making small adjustments, such as having a small shot glass of eggnog rather than a full 8-ounces of the rich drink treat, or skipping the whipped cream or ice cream on your piece of pie — which you may also consider cutting in half in terms of portion size.

If you know there’s a day coming when you’re going to be eating more than usual, consider drinking a few glasses of water that day to get a sense of fullness. You might also eat some fruit, or take a walk around the neighborhood before sitting down to indulge. 

Once you do get to the table, take time to enjoy your meal. Slow down and taste each mortal — remember, it takes about 20 minutes or so for your brain to realize your stomach is full. If you’re eating quickly, you may overeat before your brain even realizes you’ve had enough food. 

During this food-centered time of year, you may consider allowing yourself to eat that small piece of pie — but not every day of your celebration. You might also consider the way you prepare food, and find healthier options. Perhaps this is the year to avoid frying your turkey, and consider baking or grilling. Try using Greek yogurt in recipes instead of sour cream, or make mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes. 

And if you’re the host this year, you might let your guests know ahead of time that you have ample take-home containers, which may help reduce overindulgence for everyone. 

For people with diabetes, the holiday season can also be especially difficult to navigate. The Centers for Disease Control offers some helpful tips for making sure the holidays stay healthy.

One of the top tips is to make sure you “holiday-proof” your eating plan. That means eating as close to your usual meal time as you can, to help keep your blood sugar levels steady. If the meal is due to arrive later than you typically eat, have a small healthy snack at your usual mealtime, and when dinner is served, eat a smaller portion. If you’d like to have a holiday dessert, be sure to reduce the amount of carbohydrates, such as potatoes and bread, that you eat during the main course.

Also, don’t consider skipping a meal so that you can have a heaping dish later. That’s likely to cause blood sugar fluctuations, and may cause you to overeat when dinner is served. Do some work ahead of time and see how your blood sugar might change depending on what you eat. For instance, if you have a small slice of pumpkin pie instead of pecan pie, you’ll reduce your calories and sugar by about one-third. 

If you’re dining buffet-style, consider using a smaller plate, and choosing the foods you like the most. Instead of lingering near the food offerings, walk away once your plate is filled. 

Most importantly, keep track of your blood sugar levels even more this time of year. Check your levels more often, and consider speaking with your physician about medication changes if necessary.

With all the extra food temptations, don’t forget to keep up with your physical activity. And remember, if you don’t get enough sleep because you’re binge-watching the Hallmark Channel, it’ll be harder to control your blood sugar. When you’re tired, it’s easier to want to eat more, especially higher fat and high-sugar snacks.

If you overindulge one day, get back on track at the next meal, or the next day. Get your friends and family to exercise with you, so there’s not a temptation to skip a day. Try a vigorous game of touch football or even the board game Twister to get your heart beating and blood moving. Take a brisk walk to look at the changing colors of leaves, or to see which neighbors already are decorating for the next holiday.

Remember to stay positive about eating this holiday season – and enjoy!