Happy (Healthy) Holidays!

Happy (Healthy) Holidays!

By Tarynne Mingione, RD
Registered Dietitian

The more that has been done to a food, the less it has to offer you. Fruits, vegetables, nuts/seeds, legumes and whole grains, enjoyed as close to their natural state as possible this holiday season, will keep your energy levels high, your appetite content, and weight gain off your worry list.

Reunite with Your Appetite

These next few months feel like the fast-forward button is stuck on…work demands remain high, yet family and friends require a significantly greater share of your attention. I fully support the extra shot of espresso to fill your tank this season, as long as you put the brakes on and slow way down at the dinner table.

It takes at least 20 minutes after you start eating for your stomach to signal your brain that it’s receiving food and to slow production of hunger hormones (ghrelin) and kick up production of leptin (satiety hormone). If you are shoveling food in your mouth like you are training to take on Takeru Kobayashi (hot dog eating champ), you are going to end up miserable. Slow down. Take time to chew thoroughly, put your fork down between bites, breathe, and enjoy the company.

Speaking of company…unfortunately when we are graced with the presence of loved ones, we tend to eat much more than we would by ourselves. Eating with just one other person encourages you to eat about 35% more, and in a group of 7 or more, you’ll eat roughly 96% more than you would if you were eating alone. Now you have an excuse not to invite that bizarre cousin right? Kidding. For those of us blessed with large families and parties of friends, make sure to pace yourself with the slowest eater at the table (anyone in a highchair is fair game), start eating last, and determine how much you are going to eat before you sit down. We eat about 92% of what we dish up in the buffet line, so now is the time to be chintzy (not on your Uncles gift). If there is a choice in plate size, go for the smaller one. Just a two-inch smaller diameter plate (from 12 to 10”) reduces your consumption by 22%. Stop eating when you are no longer hungry, not when you have reached the point where you are too full (it’s too late).

Put Vegetables on the Guest List

During the holidays we do a fine job getting our fix of fruits (apple pie, wine), grains (gingerbread), and meats (duck, turkey, or whatever other animals we aren’t willing to prepare the other 360 something other days a year). What about our true friends that are packed full of nutrients (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber), while contributing few calories and little fat? Vegetables! Displace 20% of your plate with these guys and you will save a couple hundred calories. There are 3,500 calories per pound, so do the math: Over the next two month celebration marathon, that’s a new years resolution besides losing weight gained over the holidays!

Embrace the season – focus on seasonal winter vegetables, such as:

  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Garlic
  • Greens
  • Leeks
  • Lettuce
  • Parsnips
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Winter squash

Try these recipes:

The spirited gatherings, parties and elaborate dinners will have come and gone before you have time to digest them, but the typical weight gain and grogginess that results from our indulgences this season will linger well into the next year. Don’t rely on your resolutions to put a halt to these behaviors. Instead, this season, enjoy the holidays, but celebrate in a way that makes you and your loved ones healthier and happier!

Cheers!

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