The holidays are scary times for people trying to stay on their diets. That's according to Johnny Slick, a personal trainer for Frederick's YMCA. "The biggest problem I see with my clients is with the holiday parties. People are eating things they normally wouldn't eat, especially when they're trying to stick to their diet. They can't control it, because they're out and that's all of the food that's there," said Slick.
He says with all of the tempting and fattening foods being passed around, it can prove to be a challenge to keep eating healthy during the holiday season. Here are a few tips:
TIP 1. Focus on the people, not the food. Remember that holiday parties and social functions are meant to be times to get together with loved ones. Get in the spirit of the holiday season by celebrating your personal relationships, and recognize that you're not just there for the food.
TIP 2. Make the occasional party the exception to your diet, not the rule. Splurging once in a while is not generally a major problem, as long as you get back to your diet the next day. Don't let one or two holiday events be the excuse for falling off the wagon till New Year's.
TIP 3. Consider volunteering to host the party yourself. There's no better way to ensure that there will be diet-friendly, healthy choices on the menu than by throwing the party yourself. If someone else is hosting the party, offer to bring food to the party so that you can be sure that there are food options that fit into your diet program. At least there will be one dish on the buffet that you can enjoy without worrying about the calorie count.
TIP 4. Prepare so you don't arrive at a holiday party on an empty stomach. Have a light, healthy snack shortly before leaving for the party. Choose protein-rich foods, such as low-fat yogurt or cottage cheese, as the protein will stick with you and help you feel full longer. Alternatively, eat a small green salad as the fiber will also fill you up; another good choice is to boil a sweetcorn cob. By taking the edge off your hunger, you can approach the buffet table with control and be less likely to make impulsive choices at the party.
TIP 5. Choose wisely from the foods available at holiday functions. If you look carefully, you'll find there are often acceptable healthy choices available to you. Concentrate on the cocktail shrimp, smoked salmon, and fresh fruit, salads or vegetable platters. Go easy on the accompanying sauces and dips. Raw mixed nuts, particularly almonds, are good sources of protein, but be wary of candied nuts or extremely salty nut mixes.
TIP 6. Eat slowly and mindfully. It takes our body about 20 minutes to realize that we are full. Also, the more slowly you eat, the less food you'll eat as opposed to eating fast in the same amount of time. As you eat, appreciate the food and acknowledge how it tastes--mindful eating is a way to slow down the process of gulping down food.
TIP 7. Drink responsibly. Consider sparkling mineral water or non-alcoholic drinks, such as a "virgin Mary." If you decide to drink alcohol, choose white or red wine, rather than champagne or hard liquor. Intersperse all alcoholic drinks with water, and you can even use sparkling water added to water down alcohol. Bear in mind that alcohol can take away your willpower to resist overeating.
TIP 8. Stay active during the holidays. Mingle, dance and do what you can to stay active (and as far away from the buffet table as possible). Keep your metabolism up by staying active and including lots of healthy exercise during the holiday season.
TIP 9. Be careful of leftovers. Don't eat a lot of calorie-laden food for days after a special event just because the food needs to be eaten up. Portion all food in small amounts and ensure that everyone is sharing it, so that you're not tempted to finish off the remaining half of a cheesecake or crackling by yourself.
TIP 10. Reward yourself. It's the holiday season, so general deprivation is not the way to go. Simply shift rewards from food to activities, like going to the cinema, going ice skating, visiting friends, or buying yourself a new CD. By moving the focus off food and onto doing fun things, you'll continue to enjoy the spirit of the season and stick with your diet.