Healthful Holiday Eating Tips

The 2013 holiday season is just around the corner! This is a great time of year where we all get together with family and close friends. This is also the time of year where food is the centerpiece of the holiday social gatherings. Many people (including myself) tend to overindulge during the holidays, all while making future plans to eat healthier in the New Year. I’ve heard many myths about holiday weight gain. The one that stands out to me is that “the average person will gain seven pounds over the holidays”. Thank goodness that this is not true! Most adults, on average, will only gain one pound over the holiday season.
One pound per year – no problem, right? It doesn’t sound so bad in one pound increments. But what if, year after year, we gain one pound over the holidays and never lose it. Twenty years later and I’m twenty pounds heavier? No thanks! So just for fun, I’ve calculated a standard turkey dinner with all the fixings including the pumpkin pie for dessert. The calculation turned out to be about 1,600 calories and 80 grams of fat. When I added in a few alcoholic beverages and some party appetizers the total goes up to 2,300 and 120g of fat. Wow! And those are just with moderate portions, so based on the portion sizes of individual and the way certain items are made, the total could be really much higher.
Obviously, the holidays are a time to enjoy ourselves and yes, even splurge a little. But here are a few tips to keep in mind this Thanksgiving and future holidays to come. Hopefully they help to save us from gaining that aggravating one pound per year!
What can you do?
1) Portions are important. You can save hundreds of calories if you just mind your portions! Try using a smaller plate and taking a small helping of each food. You will get to try everything and your plate will look full. You will most likely be satisfied afterwards without being too stuffed.
2) Make a plan, but be realistic. For example, if you normally eat two slices of pie after dinner (because there are probably 3 or 4 different kinds on the table) make a plan to eat only one slice of your favorite pie, or significantly smaller slices of two.
3) If you are making the meal, you can always substitute healthier ingredients when preparing food. Swap out the extra butter and heavy cream for smaller amounts of whipped butter and low fat milk. Omit or use less sausage for the turkey stuffing, load it up with more vegetables instead. If you aren’t the one preparing dinner, offer to bring a healthy dish.
4) Don’t skip meals before the “big meal,” this will likely lead to over-eating due to being extremely hungry. Make sure to eat your normal breakfast and if the main meal is being served late afternoon, have a small healthy snack before heading out to the party.
5) Avoid unnecessary snacking on appetizers and drinking excess alcohol before the meal. This can provide countless additional calories on top of an already high calorie day.
6) Eat slowly. Try to focus more on the conversation than the meal itself. Chances are that you will be surrounded by family and close friends that you don’t see often so enjoy the good company!
7) If you can go without it, leave it! Let’s say that pumpkin pie really isn’t your favorite but you eat it every year anyway just because it’s there – why spend extra calories on something you don’t really like? Save them for something else or just omit it all together.
8) Learn to say no thanks! The host or hostess may try pushing second helpings on you so they don’t end up with lots of leftovers. If you are full, politely say that everything was delicious and “no thank you”!
If you are interested in learning more about nutrition counseling sessions with a registered dietitian at Noble Hospital, please call 413-568-2811 ex: 5671 for more information.
Allison Mitchell RD,LDN, is the Clinical Nutrition Manager at Noble Hospital.

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