Changing traditions can prevent weight gain from holiday foods and special party dishes

Holiday Treats, Party Dishes and Weight Gain

CHANGING TRADITIONS CAN PREVENT WEIGHT GAIN FROM HOLIDAY FOODS AND SPECIAL PARTY DISHES

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read it here.

If you’re worried about gaining weight during Q4 (fourth quarter) with all of the holiday treats around, it may be time to rethink your annual food budget. Not the amount of money you spend on food, but how you eat throughout the year that makes holiday foods so costly in terms of calories.

It works something like this.

You deprive yourself of foods you love all year, and then when party dishes show up at traditional year-end gatherings, you cash in. The faulty logic of this approach is believing you can have all you want of the Hanukkah honey puffs or Christmas rum balls because you only eat them once a year. If only the math worked in your favor.

The sad truth is you can’t average out the calories you ate today over the other 364 days of the year.

What Makes Some Foods So Special?

The menus for most holiday feasts originated at a time when food was scarce. Being able to celebrate special occasions with foods you rarely got to eat, or foods that had historical or religious significance, helped make the events and the foods seem more important. Over time, the two got so cemented together in our psyches that we reserved eating those foods just for those occasions, even if we could enjoy them on any other day of the year.

The problem is we now have an abundance of food all year round and endless opportunities to eat more than we need. There is no longer a shortage of eggs, oil, or sugar, yet the symbolism of these ingredients and the holiday foods they’re used in lingers on.

One way to avoid over-indulging in them may be to start preparing your favorite party dishes at other times of year. By giving yourself permission to dip into those treasured recipes whenever you like you can diminish some of the pull they may have over your self-control when you confront them during the holidays.

What Else Can We Celebrate?

Gathering extended family around the same table has become a rarity in our 21st Century lives, yet is as important to our survival as the first Thanksgiving at Plymouth Rock was nearly 400 years ago. Maybe now, instead of focusing all of our attention on the food we serve, we can use these special occasions to reconnect with one another.

One way to do that would be to start a “tech-free tradition” that requires everyone to leave behind their smart phones and tablets. Imagine all the verbal messages and hugs that might be exchanged when talking face-to-face with hands free!

What favorite holiday food would you like to eat all year?

Start the holiday party season with a plan to control excess calories

Simple Solutions to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

This post was originally written as a guest blog for TheSkinnyOnLowCal.org. You can read the original post here.

I know it can seem impossible to control what you eat during the holidays due to all of the parties and special occasions that occur, but weight gain is not inevitable! Instead of worrying about weight loss during such an overwhelming time, focus on maintaining your current weight and adding in exercise when possible- a game of touch football while Christmas dinner is in the oven or a walk with family before dessert. Below I’ve put together five simple substitutions for a happy and healthy holiday season.

BE SELECTIVE

Whether you have 3 social engagements in the same day or 3 in the same week, you can’t walk into each one and eat and drink as if it’s the only party of the year. Instead, you need to be selective about where your calories are going to come from so you can stay within your personal calorie “budget.” A good place to start is with the beverages. A no calorie diet soda or glass of seltzer with a twist of lime can save 150 to 300 calories compared to a glass of wine or fancy mixed drink. And choosing a non-alcoholic drink will also help you make the rest of your food decisions with a clear head.

MAKE TRADE-OFFS

When it comes to weight control, every calorie counts! That means you need ways to offset the added calories you’re likely to eat when the tins of homemade cookies and boxes of assorted chocolates are passed around. It’s possible by making lower calorie substitutions throughout the day. For example, order a Skinny Latte made with a low-calorie sweetener, like aspartame, and nonfat milk instead of your usual mocha coffee drink. Or you can swap out your mid-morning muffin for a reduced-calorie, high fiber granola bar. How about passing on the croutons at the salad bar and taking an extra scoop of crunchy cauliflower for another calorie-saving trade-off? By saving calories throughout the day, you can enjoy a few more later on.

BE PREPARED

We can’t add more hours to the day to get all those extra errands done we have this time of year, but keeping plenty of better-for-you foods on hand can help fuel us while doing them. The best choices provide protein and fiber so we’ll feel satisfied longer. Try a container of light yogurt with chopped walnuts sprinkled on top, a cheese round or wedge with a few whole wheat crackers, or a small container of hummus with some baked soy chips for great grab-and-go snacks that can curb your hunger until your next meal.

PLAN TO EAT

Even if it feels like your “to-do” list gets longer every day, skipping meals is not a good way to catch up. Eating on a regular schedule keeps your energy levels on track so you can get to the bottom of that list! It will also help prevent the impulsive eating that can occur when you get too hungry and face a food court full of temptation. You can make your meals as simple as a healthy frozen dinner heated up in the microwave or a soup and sandwich combo from the nearest deli. The key is to take the time to stop and eat a planned meal instead of over eating an unplanned one.

DON’T LET STRESS GET THE BEST OF YOU

The holidays are meant to be enjoyed, so make sure you keep your sights focused on the fun, not just the work. Delegate, improvise and take shortcuts to reduce some of the demands on your time and the stress eating that can go with it. Wouldn’t a massage, a facial or long soak in the tub make you feel more relaxed? Making time to pamper yourself is often all it takes to put things back into perspective.

WISHING YOU ALL A HAPPY, HEALTHY HOLIDAY SEASON!