Most of us consider the holidays to officially start right on Thanksgiving Day and end at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s. In actuality, they start right before Halloween and end at the buzzer on Super Bowl Sunday. That’s because the season of eating and excess starts typically with the acquirement of pounds and pounds of candy and ends over a vat of chicken wings and nachos.
My patients often tell me that they struggle with keeping their eating and exercise habits under control during this time. Therefore, I put together a few guidelines to help get you through the holidays happy and healthy! My patients often tell me that they struggle with keeping their eating and exercise habits under control during this time. Therefore, I put together a few guidelines to help get you through the holidays happy and healthy!
Have you ever noticed how the Halloween candy display starts creeping into stores around mid-September? Candy that may make it into your house well before you actually need it and candy that is gone a week before Halloween (causing you the need to go out and buy even more candy). To combat that, buy candy you’ll be passing out the day of Halloween, and get varieties you simply don’t like. If you’re a chocolate person, get something gummy for example. Also, consider giving away at least half of your child’s candy as well. Many dentist offices will offer trade in’s for candy where your child can get a toy for every pound donated. Bottom line, when November 1 rolls around, make sure you don’t have candy stashed away – believe me, you don’t want a drawer full of peanut butter cups calling your name when a craving hits.
I remember my brothers avoiding all food the first half of Thanksgiving day in an effort to “save up” for the big meal. When the big meal arrived, they gorged. Instead, having a healthy breakfast with protein and healthy fats can help to keep you full and mitigate cravings later during the day. I also recommend not skipping your daily exercise as well. For the meal, focus on non-starchy vegetables (like Brussel sprouts), lean sources of protein (like the turkey), and whole grains (that means skip the dinner rolls and instead have some whole-grain stuffing instead). Finally, as funny as it sounds, I often tell my patients not to go into Thanksgiving dinner with extremely comfortable pants. As we eat (and overeat), our stomach does in fact expand. Having elastic pants on allows that expansion to occur without discomfort. Wear some jeans, don’t overdo it, and consider a walk around the block after dinner.
December Holiday Parties
These parties can be the holiday kiss of death. First, there are many, and therefore, you may find that you have a party every week or more. Second, they are typically not the picture of health. Excess alcohol and calorie-laden appetizers are available at every corner. Here’s how to combat both. Whether or not you have issues with drinking, avoidance of alcohol is always the best approach since it not only saves calories but also keeps your wits about you, allowing you to make better decisions. I recommend to my patients to have seltzer water spruced up with small amounts of juices or fruits. I also have my patients take one appetizer plate and fill it with whatever they want – but the rule is, you can’t stack. Even if you choose the unhealthiest options at the party, your portions will be small, and that alone will make a big difference in your night. You still get what you want, just in smaller amounts.
Kick Start Your Health
Finally, if your goal is to eat better, exercise more, or lose weight – don’t wait for January 1 to start. Instead, start NOW. Embarking on a wellness plan during the holidays may actually make you more likely to stick to healthier habits during this time of the year.
The holidays are about friends, family, and yes, food. That doesn’t mean that food has to take center stage. Enjoy the company and meals together, but don’t go overboard. You’ll only regret it once January 1st rolls around.
Next month, I’ll go more in-depth about starting the New Year’s resolution before 2019!
Written by: Kristen Kirkpatrick, MS, RDN, Senior Fellow of the Meadows