Having a healthful holiday season - JuniperCivic.com
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Originally published in the December 2016 Juniper Berry Magazine

Having a healthful holiday season

The holiday season is here and for most people, food is the first thought that pops up. Gathering with friends and family around a dinner table is what many people imagine and look forward to. With food being the central aspect, the so called holiday weight gain also comes in the picture. The holiday weight gain is not really attributed to the actual food consumed but rather the mindless eating. Holidays such as Thanksgiving where food consumption happens all day are an example of this. There is something about the word holiday that makes many forget about their satiety. There are some ways to avoid this however.

Plan your meals

Just because there is food out does not mean that it has to be consumed. If you are going over to your aunt's house and looking forward to the turkey and the stuffing that is being served at 4:00, save room for that. You do not have to continuously eat the food laid out beforehand.

Control portions

Everyone has heard of portion control but this tactic is especially helpful when there are large amounts of food to choose from. Start off with a slice of meat and 2 spoonfuls of each dish. This does not sound like much food, but when there are more than 10 different dishes on the table and you are planning on going in for each one, this will quickly add up. Remember – YOU CAN ALWAYS GO BACK FOR MORE FOOD.

Slow down

It takes about 20 minutes for our minds to register that we are full. Many people would be surprised at how long 20 minutes actually is while eating (especially a meal we really enjoy). The holidays are about spending time with the ones you love, so take time to have conversations and engage with those around you. This will not only slow down your eating, it will make for a more joyous occasion.

Healthy Swaps

There are some dishes that can be made healthier without much change or effort. Sodium can always be reduced in dishes and replaced with more spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, bay leaves, garlic, ginger, etc. You can also use brands such as Mrs. Dash that do not use sodium in their spices. Mashed cauliflower is a healthier version of mashed potatoes with less starch. If there is a dish that you love but also know how to improve it health wise, offer to make it. The best way to know what is in the food you consume is to make it yourself.

Just say, No, thank you.

This applies to both family dinners and office parties. Many people do not want to hurt someone's feelings, especially if it is someone they love. Your aunt made that pecan pie especially for you, but you hate pecan pie and only eat it out of guilt. This is hard but you can say, No, thank you. Even if you have to make up an excuse, I'm just too full. I will take a slice home with me and have it later. This strategy works in the office too. We do not want to be that mean coworker and say no to Susan's holiday cookies. Just say, Wow, those look delicious but no thank you. But if that will not work take one and only one.

Remember the holidays are a time to enjoy not only those around you but also a time for reflection for yourself. If indulging one day, and one day only is something you look forward to, do not stress about it ‒ account for it. Plan physical exercise and plan your eating habits around that one indulgent day. Go for a walk in the park with your loved ones or treat yourself to that spin class you always wanted to try. There is no reason to feel stuck in an unhealthy rut. There are always little changes that can be made so that new New Year's resolutions can be honored for losing weight or getting in shape.