There is a lot to be excited about when the holidays roll around, and the food you get to enjoy tops the list for a lot of people.
Thanksgiving turkey, Christmas ham, pumpkin pie and mashed potatoes are more than enough to make your mouth water and stomach growl. Unfortunately, when you enjoy the food too much, you might find yourself carrying around a couple of extra pounds.
Luckily, you can have your pie and eat it too. With some willpower and healthy strategies, you can plan ahead to enjoy your holiday meals without overdoing it.
Here are some ways to keep yourself healthy over the holidays without abstaining from your favorite foods:
Eat your veggies
When you’re filling your plate, start with the vegetables. Fill up your plate with salad, green beans and other options before you move on to the meat and gravy. Vegetables are generally higher in water and volume but lower in calories. Eating the veggies first can help you feel satisfied with fewer calories. You can still enjoy your favorites, but you might find yourself putting less on your plate.
Fill your plate
Putting a few pieces of broccoli and a stick of celery on your plate while everyone else is piling on heaps of mashed potato and turkey is no way to spend your holiday. Don’t feel bad about filling up your plate with all the foods you love. Instead, grab a smaller plate to fill. People generally like to fill their plate and clean it too. Using a smaller plate and having less room to fill will naturally lead to less food in your belly, but you will still be able to enjoy the good stuff.
“Enjoying holiday meals and treats does not have to lead to regret later,” says Robert Gerken, administrator at Newport Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. “Even if your holiday fare is higher in calories and contains less-than-healthy ingredients, choosing sensible portions will help you avoid eating more than you should.”
Pick your poison
Choose your foods wisely to get the most out of your holiday meals. A green salad can be healthier than green bean casserole, and baked yams could be a better choice than mashed potatoes. When you are headed for the pie, pumpkin might give you more bang for your buck than a slice of pecan. Keep an eye out for foods that are lower in saturated fats and sugar. If you really want to make sure there are healthy options, find some alternate recipes for the classics that aren’t as taxing on your waistline.
Take your time
You really want to savor your delicious holiday meals — and you should. Take your time with your meal; spend more time chewing and enjoying the dishes. As you eat, your brain gets signals from your stomach and hormones that tell it you are full. Eating more slowly gives those mechanisms more time to do their job.
Work some exercise into your day to burn off some of the extra calories you may consume. You don’t have to run a turkey trot or spend hours at the gym. Instead, you can take a few minutes throughout the day when you have time and do some exercises at home. Find a workout online, use your stairs, or even find some chores to do around the house.
There’s no need to torture yourself by skipping all the holiday goodies. Make a game plan ahead of time that will allow you to enjoy some treats without having to loosen your belt.