6 Tips on How to Cut Calories this Holiday Season
Ah, the holiday season. A time of changing weather, retail sales, Christmas lights, giving, and endless treats. The holiday season typically brings not only tons of family events and some extra days off of work, but it also brings massive quantities of food and sweets. Remember all those times you had to change pants after eating Thanksgiving dinner? Or how upset your stomach felt after all the Halloween candy? Holidays like this put us in a tricky spot because we want to do what is traditional during that holiday, but we also do not always fuel our bodies properly when pursuing that tradition.
Typical Holiday Food and Treats
The typical holiday foods are tasty, festive, and bring family and friends together. However, they are also typically higher in fat, calories, and sugar. Oftentimes these foods are over-indulged which leads to a very high amount of calories eaten (far more than the needs of the person eating them). Now don’t get me wrong, I am all for indulging here and there and letting go of the “perfect diet” (hint: the perfect diet doesn’t exist!). However, sometimes we over-indulge too much and it can cause us to experience negative emotions and feelings like lethargy, irritability, and even feelings of guilt.
Follow these Tips to Cut Calories This Holiday Season
In an attempt to combat those negative consequences, here are 6 quick and easy tips to beat the temptations of over-indulging on holiday treats and dishes:
- Avoid ‘saving room’ then chowing down. Fasting before an anticipated meal will likely lead to eating higher calorie foods than if you had regular meals or snacks prior to the meal. Additionally, if one has been fasting and binges on food, it is likely that the flavors will not be savored along with the time and people the meal is being shared with.
- Do enjoy what you eat. Dish up whatever you are genuinely curious about tasting and/or decided is worthy of your taste buds, regardless of their calorie content. Do not tell yourself you cannot have something because it’s too high in calories, fat, etc.—this will only make you want it more! Next, refer to #3.
- Avoid the high calorie foods until you have eaten the nutrient-dense portions of the meal. First, try the vegetables, lean meats (like turkey), and whole grains to start filling the stomach with fibers, vitamins, minerals, and protein. Then move on to the pastas, potato casseroles, brownies, etc. The idea here is avoiding the higher-calorie foods with little protein and/or fiber until you have eaten the other nutritious foods. In this way, theoretically, fewer calories will be consumed.
- Do stop and think. Consider, “is this really something I will regret if I do not try it? Or am I just eating it because it’s there?” Asking questions like this will prevent overeating and instead promote a sense of truly savoring the food you have chosen.
- Do remember that there will always be another opportunity to eat something sweet. It is easy to eat a treat when you think you will never get to try it again. However, this is simply a lie. Trust me, you will have another opportunity to eat pumpkin pie, Halloween candy, or candy canes. As a matter of fact, you will probably see some leftover desserts when everyone returns to work and is trying to get rid of them!
- Do try to work in a little bit of physical activity during the holiday season. Something as simple as a walk outside or body-weight exercises at home will boost your energy and potentially release endorphins for that ‘feel good’ sensation.
Put Your Health First
Let’s be honest, the holidays are stressful. We could all use a little more energy and ‘feel good’ feelings during the holiday season. Family dynamics are hard, travelling is time-consuming, finances can be tight, and the dark, snowy days can just really bum you out. With all of this in mind, don’t let your nutrition be something that is contributing to stress. Being mindful with your food and choosing to be physically active can rid some of your holiday stress (or at least prevent any more from coming on). And if you do eat something high in calories, fat, or sugar? Enjoy it! Do not feel guilty, and do not create strict boundaries. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life!
In summary: savor your food by eating slowly and choosing carefully, savor your family and friends, and take advantage of the extra time to be physically active.
Have a healthy and happy holiday season!
These blogs are written by members of the CHI Health Nutrition Services team.