How to Indulge in a Holly, Jolly (and Healthy!) Holiday
By Nancy Kalish
No one wants to begin the new year feeling sluggish and overweight from overindulging during the holidays. And yet, many of us -- our kids included -- repeat this pattern every single year, packing on a few extra pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. “That’s a shame because it’s possible for everyone to enjoy their favorite treats and eat healthfully even during this season of food, food and more food,” says Stefanie Barthmore, a psychotherapist at the Methodist Weight Management Center in Houston. “All it takes is some advance planning and mindfulness.” Here’s how to prevent your holidays from becoming a feeding frenzy for your entire family.
Rule No. 1: Make a meal map.
Many people feel like food is out of their control from Thanksgiving through the end of the year. But you can take charge by mapping out your meals in advance. “If you know that you’ll be eating high-calorie fare one night, counteract it with healthy meals -- focusing on vegetables and lean meats -- on every other day that week,” says Barthmore. Write out menus for each breakfast, lunch and dinner, then make a master grocery list and go to the supermarket. That way, you’ll have a fridge stocked with good-for-you options that you won’t need to think about.
Rule No. 2: Indulge more often.
“My clients often get into what I call a ‘once a year’ mentality -- meaning that since they get to eat pecan pie just once a year at Christmas, it’s OK to go crazy,” says Barthmore. “Of course, if they didn’t feel deprived the rest of the year, they wouldn’t feel this need,” she adds.
It’s counterintuitive, but Barthmore suggests serving small slices of pecan pie -- or your family’s favorite treat -- every once in a while so you’re less tempted to demolish the whole pie at holiday time. This is especially important for kids so they develop moderate eating habits instead of getting into a cycle of deprivation and gorging.
Rule No. 3: Don’t save all your calories for the big meal.
This common practice often backfires. “You think you’ll eat less total this way, but just the opposite happens,” says Barthmore. “When you start off ravenous, your body has a much harder time judging the amount you’ve eaten and signaling your brain when you’re full. As a result, you’re dooming yourself to overeating on a grand scale.” Instead, encourage everyone in your family to have a hearty but healthy breakfast consisting of high-fiber foods, such as whole grains and lean protein, along with a similar lunch so that none of you will be starving when you arrive at your celebration. You’ll still have plenty of room to eat your favorite dishes -- but you’ll probably eat less of them.
Rule No. 4: Leave leftovers for someone else.
Often, a big party is just the beginning of an unhealthy holiday binge. “The leftovers are far more dangerous,” says Barthmore. “They’re delicious and it doesn’t feel right to waste them. So, you continue to eat them for days on end.”
Barthmore advises leaving all such goodies at the party or giving them away if the celebration is at your house. Go ahead and bake your famous holiday cookies, she says, but don’t keep any of the extras. Can’t bring yourself to do this? Reserve enough for one more meal or snack and get rid of the rest. That way, you can prevent one or two indulgences from turning into many.