By Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD,
Experts offer their top tips on handling holiday diet temptations.
Holidays bring family and friends together to celebrate traditions and spread good cheer. They also bring lots of opportunities for socializing, eating, and drinking. Even the most disciplined people struggle with temptation during the holiday season.
To navigate the party landmines with your healthy diet intact, you need a strategy. Experts agree: Having a plan in place will help you handle night after night of eating and drinking.
“Think of your appetite as an expense account, and figure out how much you want to spend on drinks, appetizers, entrees, and dessert,” advises Michelle May, MD, author of Am I Hungry? What to Do When Diets Don’t Work. She suggests giving yourself permission to enjoy your favorite foods — in sensible portions. To help you survive the seasonal parties without packing on the pounds, WebMD consulted diet gurus across the country for their best holiday diet tips. Here are their top 10 recommendations:
1. Trim back the trimmings. Go all out and deck the halls with boughs of holly, glitter, and lights, but when it comes to holiday food, accessorize with care. To shave calories, go easy when adding nuts, cheese, cream sauces, gravy, butter, and whipped cream — additions that don’t add much to the meal, but can add plenty to your waistline. Trim calories wherever you can so you leave the party feeling satisfied, but not stuffed, recommends Carolyn O’Neil, MS, RD, author of The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous.
2. Wear snug clothes and keep one hand busy. When you wear snug-fitting attire, chances are you’ll be too busy holding in your stomach to overeat. While you stand around looking posh in your holiday finery, hold a drink in your dominant hand so it won’t be so easy to grab food, recommends obesity expert Cathy Nonas, MS, RD.
3. Chew gum. When you don’t want to eat, pop a piece of sugarless gum into your mouth. This works well when you’re cooking or when you’re trying not to dive into the buffet, says Nonas.
4. Be a food snob. If you don’t love it, don’t eat it, says American Dietetic Association spokeswoman Melinda Johnson, MS, RD. Scan the buffet for foods you truly treasure and skip the everyday dishes that are available all year long. And don’t think it’s your responsibility to sample everything on the buffet. Go ahead and indulge in your personal holiday favorites, then find a seat and, slowly and mindfully, savor every mouthful.
5. No skipping meals. Always eat normally on the day of a party. “People who skip meals to save up calories tend to overeat everything in sight once they get there,” says Katherine Tallmadge, MA, RD, author of Diet Simple. “Eating sensibly throughout the day will take the edge off the appetite and empower a bit of restraint.” Start with a nourishing breakfast, have a light lunch, then a small snack or salad shortly before the event.