Our culture generally revolves around social eating, so when the holidays come charging toward us, the frequency of over-eating hits maximum levels.
Banana pudding? (Sure, spoon some of that on my plate.)
Pumpkin spice muffins with cream cheese frosting? (Yes, give me a bite and a lick of that.)
Most fatty and sugar-laden foods are tantalizing -- that’s why millions of overweight Americans sacrifice health for taste in the grand scheme of things. That’s also why holiday-goers cram their plates with the likes of candy-cane sugar cookies and glazed meatballs when celebrating at work parties, neighborhood events and holiday soirees thrown by family and friends.
What exactly are we celebrating? We’re not celebrating the birth of ground beef nor are we ringing in the New Year by way of sugar cookies. And come on -- does Santa really need milk and cookies at each stop? (Maybe he should opt for some granola and Ensure, instead.) In reality, we over-associate food with the meanings of traditions, and that’s when the meter on the scale tips to those higher weight levels.
When holiday spreads look too good to pass, Kathy B. Glazer, MS, RD, of Glazer Nutrition Counseling Services and Director of Nutrition Services for The George Washington University Weight Management Program, is your go-to gal for pointers.
Similar to most dieticians and health experts, Glazer recommends eating in moderation and plating up with vegetables and fruit.
“At a party or holiday dinner, it’s best to use the plate method," she said. "Fill one-half of your plate with vegetables, hot or cold, one-fourth of your plate with lean protein and one-fourth of your plate with starch.”
Glazer further notes the types of calorie-empty foods that should be eaten in small amounts, if at all. In particular, fried foods like chicken wings and mozzarella sticks are a should-not, as are dips made with creams and cheeses. Sauces like gravies, hollandaise sauces and Alfredo cream sauces can pose as a danger-zone, too.
“I would avoid sauces with unknown amounts of butter or oil," she said. "All of those are very high in fat, which translates into a lot of calories."
What about those cheer-inducing alcoholic drinks? Well, by a general rule of thumb, you should be wary of your alcoholic intake and pretty much avoid heavy drinks like egg nog.
“Alcohol can lower your inhibition and cause you to drink more, eat more or both,” Glazer said.
Let’s admit, though, that not all of us typically abstain from the bar -- more often than not, it’s the first stop upon entering a holiday soiree. For that reason, Glazer teaches her students at GW the importance of establishing a mental alcohol allotment prior to the event, so that they’re less likely to reach for glass after glass.
She also recommends that guzzlers opt for healthier drinks, like wine. If you’re known for consuming five, maybe six glasses of wine in one night, try slowing down your wine consumption by diluting it. In particular, if a diet lemon-lime soda is available at the wet bar, mix it with white wine to create a fizzy spritzer.
Should you have to drop by a ton of parties, then meal plan what you’ll be eating on that day as well as the rest of the week; count calories and keep within your projected range. Prior to attending the likes of an ugly sweater party, eat several small meals beforehand, so you’re less apt to splurge on the baked brie platter.
Glazer also tells students to decide on the level of eating they plan on doing -- in other words, determine if eating at the party is going to be more of a snack-like affair or an entire dinner meal, and base your calorie intake around that.
Last but not least, make it a point to exercise.
“If all else fails, plan to do more physical activity in the next week to compensate for the calories you just ate,” said Glazer.
Pushing a workout to low priority on a things-to-do list can be detrimental to your health, because physical activity is a must-do for maintaining and losing weight. Keep in mind that an hour workout isn’t that big of a time commitment during your day-to-day routines, and so honor your workout time as you would another appointment, such as a doctor’s.
In all honesty, if fried and fatty foods didn’t taste so amazingly delicious, we wouldn’t have to worry about the battle of the bulge, particularly around the holiday season. But the truth of the matter is that we, in accordance with holiday cheer, have to practice self-control in order to avoid weight gain.
Maybe the gift we should give to ourselves isn’t crammed with calories, fat and sugar this year -- instead consider giving willpower, determination and love toward your overall healthy well-being.