Thursday, November 21, 2013

Healthy Eating Tips for the Holiday Season

Lori M. Noble, MD, a primary care physician at Spruce Internal Medicine, located at the new Penn Medicine Washington Square building, discusses some healthy eating tips for the holiday season.

As winter arrives, if you're anything like me, you just can't wait to put on that cozy, bulky sweater to keep warm. It also helps to camouflage those few extra holiday pounds the sweet potato casserole and stuffing are likely to leave behind.

But, have no fear; this season can still be enjoyed without needing to buy a new wardrobe when it's over. With a few simple tips and some pre-meal planning, you can still eat the foods you love without sacrificing taste or your waistline.

Keep Your Plate Green

This is actually a great tip for any meal, not just around the holidays! If you dedicate half of your plate to healthy veggies, you've already won half the battle. You can’t give in though. If you go back for seconds, remember the half-plate rule. Veggies are high in fiber, so they will keep you feeling fuller longer and help to prevent over-indulging on some of the less healthy options.

If you intend on bringing a dish to someone’s home, volunteer to bring roasted veggies or a big salad. This way, you know you will like the healthy option.

Don't Leave the House Hungry

One of the most common mistakes individuals make during the holidays is skipping breakfast in an attempt to "save up" calories for big meals. This tactic actually slows your metabolism to a halt. When you do eat, your body wants to hold onto every last calorie it can. Plus, when all that delicious food is put in front of an empty, growling stomach, it becomes an irresistible temptation to overeat. Be sure to eat a healthy, satisfying breakfast, such as oatmeal with a handful of dried fruits and nuts or egg whites with veggies and low-fat cheese.

Healthy Holiday Eating Tips
Pick your "Poison"

We all have our "Achilles heels" when it comes to holiday meals - mine happens to be...well, anything on the dessert table. If you know what you're likely to over-indulge in, you can make a plan to keep yourself on track. For instance, if you're a sweets or carbohydrate-lover like me, you might avoid the "pre-dinner" snack foods and limit the stuffing and sweet potatoes at dinner to one serving each (~1/2 cup). This allows you to have that nice piece of pie for dessert without any guilt!

Keep the Food off the Table

This is a sneaky trick that I have used for years. If the food isn't kept on the table, grazing isn't nearly as easy. In order to get seconds, you have to make the conscious effort to get up from the table, get more food and maybe even heat it up if it's gotten cold. You'll be forced to ask yourself, "do I really want to get up from the table?" rather than just picking at whatever tasty treat is casually left in front of you.

Don’t Forget about Liquid Calories 

Holiday cocktails and wine with friends add up to a lot of empty calories. For example:
  • One cup of eggnog – without added liquor – has about 350 calories and 19 grams of fat.
  • One cup of champagne has about 182 calories.
  • One, four-ounce serving of red wine has about 100 calories.
Try to stick to water or unsweetened tea. If you do choose to have “a drink”, stick to wine, low-carb beer or spirits.

So, enjoy your holidays. Just remember, a little preparation and a modest amount of self-control can go a long way. What better way to start the New Year than with a positive resolution.
Any questions? Any tips you'd like to add?
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