Tis the season to be jolly, spend time with family and friends, celebrate life’s blessings, and of course, eat.
“The holiday season and food go hand in hand,” said Dana Webber, RN, MSN. Webber is a certified bariatric nurse and bariatric coordinator at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center. “Whether it’s sweet potato pie, honey-glazed ham, buttery Christmas cookies or turkey and stuffing, holiday eating takes its toll on our health and our waistline.
“Preventing holiday weight gain is a challenge for everyone,” she said. “Having a plan before you begin will make those potential added pounds stay away!”
Webbers suggests these tips:
Headed for a holiday celebration? Don’t arrive hungry. Eat every three to four hours, and always have a healthy snack with you, such as a protein bar or raw almonds, so you don’t arrive feeling famished.
Chew gum. Chewing sugar-free gum can satisfy your oral fixation and curb your appetite at a party.
Bring a vegetable or fruit tray to holiday parties, and keep them readily available at home. Filling up on vegetables or fruit can keep you from going hungry or binging on unhealthy foods.
Tweak your favorite holiday recipes. You can enjoy some of your favorites without sacrificing your waistline. Making a classic green bean casserole? Choose fat-free mushroom soup instead of the heavier cream version. Sprinkle just a handful of fried onions on the casserole rather than the entire can. Try making your favorite dessert – pumpkin pie, holiday cookies, etc., with an artificial sweetener designed for baking.
Sit far away from the buffet or kitchen. Sit where food can’t be seen. This will help with the temptation of going back for seconds. At home, keep food out of sight. Grazing all day can lead to taking in extra calories.
Eat the turkey or ham first. Protein helps with metabolism, keeps you full longer, and can help you cut down on the carbs (such as sweets and holiday breads) that are so tempting.
Chew slowly. Eating a meal quickly inhibits the release of hormones in the gut that induce feelings of being full. Eating more slowly can help you feel full and eliminate overeating. Take time between bites and make time for conversation.
Drink water or other non-caloric beverages. Coffee and tea, which are very low in calories, are frequently served at holiday parties, and often come in festive flavors. Avoid sugary drinks. High-calorie beverages like egg nog won’t fill you up, so they are not a good choice. Alcohol consists of empty calories and can lower your inhibitions, making the buffet table harder to resist.
Socialize. Make your holiday about family and friends instead of eating. Move your focus from food to people.
Give it away. Don’t keep leftovers lying around. Donate extra food or pack up “doggie bags” for family members and friends.
Webber noted that if you do overeat, it doesn’t mean that you have failed and are destined to gain weight. “Remember that the holidays are also about forgiveness. If you overindulge, give yourself a break,” she said. “Get right back on track at the next meal by recommitting to healthy eating and regular exercise. Redirect your thinking by saying, ‘the past is done’ – and move on. Do better with your next snack or meal.
“Too often we focus on what’s going to be in the center of our holiday food table,” she said. “We need to stop and be grateful for opportunities to spend time with friends and family. They need to be ‘center ring’ in our holiday celebrations.”
If you have a significant amount of weight to lose or are dealing with weight-related health issues, bariatric surgery may be an option for you. To learn more or to register for a free informational seminar, call 865-331-BAR1 (2271).