This is the time of year when families and friends gather for big meals. Cleveland Clinic dietitian Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, declares that the holiday season actually starts at Halloween and ends at Super Bowl Sunday. This can be a challenging time for people who are trying to lose weight, maintain their weight or just eat an overall healthy diet.
Dining in a group causes most people to eat more calories than they would when eating alone. If you’re planning to make a New Year’s resolution about your diet, “don’t wait for January; start now,” advises Kirkpatrick. Here are more of her tips for this time of year:
1. Eat something before you go to a party. Enjoying a small snack of nuts, string cheese or a few whole grain crackers means you won’t arrive starving. If you go the party hungry, you’re doomed.
2. Serve or bring healthy foods. Ifyou are the host or you have been asked to bring food to a party, make it healthy. Stick with whole foods, and avoid highly processed foods. Focus on foods made from lean proteins, healthy fats and whole grains that contain lots of fiber and protein.
3. Go easy on the alcohol. Too much alcohol is a sure-fire way of losing inhibitions, including when it comes to food. And some of those holiday drinks are loaded with calories. A cup of egg nog can have 350 calories before the alcohol is added. Instead, mix 2 ounces of wine with diet 7-Up or a little cranberry juice for a wine spritzer.
4. Be the last in line. The untouched buffet table looks great. Once a large number of people have helped themselves, the food looks less appetizing. Never underestimate the visual power of food.
5. Use a salad plate and no stacking. Have you ever seen the guy with a tower of food on his plate? Don’t be that guy. Using a salad plate and not stacking food will help you control portions. Also, forget about the secondtrip.
6. Balance your plate with fruits and veggies. Make a conscious effort to choose a variety of brightly colored fruits and vegetables.
7. Watch out for dips and sauces. These add the most calories and fat to buffet tables. It’s easy to be in the middle of a conversation and dip a carrot into 100 worthless calories of ranch dressing.
8. Be mindful of what you’re eating. Keep a mental checklist of how much you’re consuming. Count the pieces on your plate and make it a goal not to go above a certain number. Take a second look at every bite before you eat it. Take a deep breath to slow yourself down at the buffet table.
9. Save your sweets for the good stuff. It won’t kill you to have some pumpkin pie, but make it a small piece. And eat only sweets you really enjoy, not just anything lying around with sugar on top of it.
10. If you’re asked to bring a dessert, buy it, don’t make it. Imagine the process of making chocolate chip cookies. First, you need all the ingredients, including chocolate chips, butter and sugar. Of course, you have to taste several once they come out of the oven. Then they remain in your house, where you can nibble on them, until the party. After the party, you still have the ingredients hanging out in your fridge. Buying something means you avoid all of this.
11. Be a great guest. Helping thehost out with dishes and serving drinks keeps you involved and prevents you from sitting around and eating. Your host will appreciate it and you’ll stay true to your dietplan.
12. Use a fitness app (such as myfitnesspal) on your smartphone or other electronic device to count calories. This keeps you honest about how much you are really consuming.
13. Focus on friends and conversation, not on the food. That’s what parties during the holidays are really about.
14. Don’t forget about exercise, stress management and sleep. They all affect how successful you are at staying healthy during the holidays.