That time of the year is fast approaching when there’s copious amounts of delicious food all around you! December comes with great joy, celebration and food! Be ahead of the season this year and be mindful of the food options that are present rather than indulging in everything. A healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to start on the first day of the year of 2020 – become proactive now!
This December, think about these tips before plating your meals:
1. Do NOT “calorie bank”
Don’t starve the whole day before a grand dinner thinking that you can eat all your favourite foods during the dinner. This type of restrictive eating can trigger binge eating episodes. Indulge in small portions of meals throughout the day so you can feel satisfied without being uncomfortably stuffed. We all know that awful tummy-ache and sluggish feeling that comes with overeating. Avoid that by eating slower to ensure you are thoroughly chewing and enjoying your food. That way you enjoy your dinner and don’t feel like you’re cheated yourself!
2. Do the “minute glance”
During the holidays, it can be easy to get overwhelmed by all the options and wanting to indulge in some of everything. A little bit of potato salad, a little bit dessert… next thing your plate is overflowing. We have all been there! This year, before grabbing a plate, take a minute to assess what are your options. Followed by thinking about which items “you want” vs “you need”. Aim to have half your plate full of vegetables, quarter with protein of choice and quarter of grains/starch.
Eg. When picking between in-season pumpkin pie vs strawberry shortcake – indulge in one item which you want the most. Followed by picking the smallest slice you can be happy with – that way you can satisfy your need without going overboard. Yum!
3. Dodge those sneaky condiments
‘Empty calories’ is a term that dietitians mention quite often – referring to foods with little to no nutritional value but have significant number of calories. Condiments usually contain empty calories! They are usually high in sodium and/or sugar without any good nutrients! This holiday season skip the gravies, sauces, syrups and creamy salads. Add flavour with simple homemade ingredients such as mustard, pesto, lemon/lime juice, guacamole or hummus.
4. Beware of Alcohol
Alcohol is another place where hidden empty calories are commonly consumed especially within mixed speciality drinks and cocktails. Alcohol provides 7 calories per gram; compared to fat providing 9 calories per gram. A standard drink has ~13.6 grams of ‘pure’ alcohol – which is roughly 95 calories from the alcohol alone. When alcohol is mixed with carbonated sugary drinks, it can become easier to consume ~150 calories per drink. With that in mind, try choosing for simple liquor-based drinks with club soda (0 calories)** or squeeze of lime. Or a standard 5oz glass of red wine so you can benefit from those antioxidants. Or avoid the alcohol completely and choose water as your beverage this holiday season!
** Remember club soda and toxic water are different, latter providing calories
5. Set physical activity goals
After all that food, the worst thing you can do is sit back down on the couch. It can be a busy time of the year but it’s important to prioritize physical activity the same way we prioritize eating or sleeping. It does not have to going to the gym for one-hour! It can be as simple as doing a 15-minute brisk walk around your neighborhood with your family after dinner every night. Set simple and timely goals that you can achieve daily! Being active for 150 minutes per week can reduce the risk of stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes. Breaking that time into smaller intervals throughout the week can make your goals more attainable.
Bottom line: Enjoy the holidays and the amazing food that comes along with it! But do not treat the holidays as a free-for-all period where your body is your last priority! Mindful eating is all about listening to your body’s cues and treating it with respect. These tips should be used daily, not just during the holidays! Take control of your health and wellness! Break the “I will start in 2020” mindset, initiate the “I will start now”.
Til next time,
Sumeet Chopra, RD