The holidays may bring gifts and joy, but this festive season may also feel like a challenging time of year to stay on track with a balanced, healthful meal plan. It may feel as though everywhere you go, there’s an abundance of temptations and indulgences. The following tips may help you navigate this hectic, food-filled time and help you stay on track.
Plan ahead. Strategizing for parties, family meals, and errand-packed days will help you make healthier decisions throughout the holidays.
- Don’t go to a party hungry. Give yourself enough time to have a small snack before leaving home. Wherever you’re going, you’ll eat less if you’re not famished when you get there.
- Make a mental list of the kinds of foods you want to eat before you arrive. If you’ve planned ahead to have the steamed shrimp or veggies and dip, you’re less likely to be tempted by the batter-coated chicken wings and cheese crostini.
- If you think there may not be healthy choices at a party, take something to share that you know you’ll be able to eat. Most hosts will be glad to make room on the buffet for a roasted vegetable salad or a platter of sliced turkey breast, fresh vegetables, and a healthy dip.
- Holidays can wreak havoc on your usual eating schedule. Try to carry a snack with you when you are away from home and may not have control over when meals are served.
- If you spend the day at the mall, plan a meal at a sit-down restaurant as far away from the temptations of the food court as possible. You’ll have a relaxing break away from the crowds and a better chance of having a healthy lunch that fits into your meal plan. Don’t forget to pack some snacks. A few carrot sticks, almonds, or apple slices will keep you going if there’s a wait for a table.
- Before the holidays are in full swing, take an afternoon to make a few healthy “emergency” meals and freeze them. When you’ve got an evening of holiday tasks to do, you can heat up turkey chili, vegetable lasagna, or lentil soup and skip the potential need to call for pizza delivery.
Indulge – a little. If the holidays pass by and you haven’t allowed yourself any treats, you’re likely to feel left out of the celebrations. I advocate enjoying and indulging, but follow these tips to help stay on track:
- Make trade-offs by cutting back on some carbs in a meal so that you can treat yourself to something you find irresistible. You can have a slice of pie, your mom’s best-ever sweet potatoes, or a small piece of that fudge you love so much – just not all in the same meal.
- Skip store-bought cookies and the deli ham that are available any time of year. Instead, consider focusing on the homemade stuffing, pumpkin pie, decorated cookies, or other treats that you can only get during the holidays.
- Practice saying, “No, thank you” graciously. During the holidays, friends and family make their favorite – almost always high carb – treats and expect everyone to sample them. Choose your favorites and indulge in moderation, but don’t take every sweet offered at the office, parties, or in friends’ homes. Your health is important, and most people will respect your commitment to take care of yourself.
Celebrate the smart way. Food brings us together at the holidays and it’s the highlight of any festive get-together. Keep these tips in mind for having a great time while still being mindful of your health:
- Take the smallest size plate available for your trip through the buffet. Researchers have found that the smaller the plate, the less food you are likely to eat.
- Choose a lot of what’s more healthful for you, and a little of what isn’t. Fill most of your plate with veggies and leafy greens, have a small amount of protein, such as lean beef, turkey breast, or steamed shrimp. Then I suggest adding an indulgence – a thin slice of cake, a cookie, or a piece of chocolate – because it’s also important that you feel like you’re taking part in the festive food aspect of the holidays.
- Put all the food you are going to eat on your plate at once. It’s easy to lose track of how much you have eaten if you keep going back to the buffet for more.
- Watch out for the liquids. ‘Tis the season of carb-loaded eggnog and hot chocolate, and we often forget that drinks have calories (and carbs) just like everything else!
- Instead of making food the focal point of holiday parties, remember ‘tis the season of friends and family, as well! So be merry by focusing on socializing, making new friends, and catching up with people you don’t see often. Season’s Greetings!
Jackie Mills is the author of The Big Book of Diabetic Desserts. She is also a food writer and registered dietitian who develops recipes for such national magazines as Cooking Light and Family Circle, as well as for books such as the American Medical Association Type 2 Diabetes Cookbook. She was formerly the food editor at Redbook magazine. Mills is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.
© 2013 The DX: The Diabetes Experience