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‘Tis the season for the “inevitable” weight gain for some partygoers. But for others, their focus can shift from the season’s greeting of weight gain that many holiday shindigs provide, to being mindful of their intake wherever they are throughout the season.
Bethany Thayer, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, said the theme for the season is mindfulness and focus on the reason for holiday parties: socializing. Thayer suggests some easy tips that won’t make you a holiday party outcast.
1. Be mindful
During the holiday, there are so many choices and situations that you’re not usually thrown into; it’s important to keep in mind what you eat and the amount of intake. “Mindfulness is important no matter what season you’re in,” Thayer says.
2. Don’t go hungry
Not going to a party hungry may seem counterintuitive. Thayer suggests having a snack with protein before you attend, and that will save you from calories and over-eating. “When you go hungry, your defenses will be down,” Thayer says.
3. Have a plan
Having a plan is important for whatever you choose to eat. Thayer also reminds partygoers that exercise is a component for weight loss, not just watching what you eat. “When it’s time to eat, peruse what’s available and make selections in your head,” Thayer says. Think about what foods you don’t want to miss out on.
4. Don’t lose focus
Thayer suggests to make choices wisely and don’t feel deprived. “Just because something is there,” she says, “you don’t have to eat it.”
Thayer advises doing the socializing part versus the food part. “You’re at a party to socialize, and don’t lose that aspect,” says Thayer. “At any party, don’t make food a focus,” she says. “Keep your back to the table and socialize.”
5. Portion size is essential
Getting one of each food item is the key to portion control. Thayer suggests that if you try many of the food items; get something that you can share with others. Thayer reminds us that you don’t have to eat everything you put on your plate.
6. Don’t be an outcast
No one likes the third degree and some people have a tendency to point out if your eating habits have changed. Stick to your guns and “if you’re on a diet, go for the smaller plate and then fill that,” she says. “Fill your plate with fruits and veggies and low calorie foods, while getting a few treats.” And again, don’t deprive yourself. Thayer suggests that if you carry your plate around and don’t wolf it down, you’ll be able to enjoy your food without questions.
7. Just say “No”
Having alcohol available at parties pressures some to drink (a lot of calories.) “You don’t have to partake,” Thayer informs. “Your defenses go down with two drinks and you’ll tend to over-eat.”
A healthy, social alternative is to have wine spritzer. Having spritzer with fruit looks a lot like wine without the calories, and you’ll have something in hand throughout the duration of the party.
8. Substitute ingredients
“Play around with recipes and use low calorie, low fat alternatives and still enjoy the meal,” Thayer said. A few of Thayer’s substitutions include using fat free milk, fat free evaporated milk, and skim milk instead of dairy. Also, cut back on sugar. Thayer suggests asking yourself if you need as much as the recipe calls for. “The sugar substitute depends on the recipe,” she said.
For traditional holiday meals stuffing is common. Use whole grain bread instead of white bread. Cut back on butter and oil. Cheese is a higher fat ingredient. Once more, decide how much fat you can cut back on and still enjoy the product.
9. Have an eating strategy
Again, come with a plan. Thayer says if you’re at the mall and you know the smell of cinnamon will grab you, come with a plan, and be aware. While shopping, if you always get a certain unhealthy snack while passing by a certain store, then change your routine. Or even “have your hands full of packages” so you can’t pick up anything else.
10. Take Control
Thayer assures us that weight gain is not inevitable. You must be mindful through the season and take control of your eating habits. Thayer stresses to remember that it’s holiday, singular! There’s Thanksgiving day, Christmas day, and then Hanukkah, which is eight days. Thayer suggests enjoying the day, and then picking up your normal routine. “If you have the mindset of the season you’re celebrating instead of the day, then you will gain weight.”