Easy tips for healthier eating during the holidays

November 26, 2017

It’s that time of year for holiday gatherings that always seem to revolve around food, but a few simple tricks can get you through the season without overindulging.

Are you truly hungry?

This is the first and most essential question you should continually ask yourself. The body often confuses thirst for hunger, and many Americans are chronically dehydrated. One of the best habits to get into is to drink a large glass of non-alcoholic and non-carbonated beverage, preferably water, before sitting down to a large meal. You’ll give your body the hydration it’s craving, while satisfying a bit of your appetite.

Don’t go to parties on an empty stomach. Loading up on hors d’oeuvres and cocktails when you’re hungry can really sabotage your caloric intake, so it’s best to have a light, balanced meal beforehand. As for those libations, try alternating your alcoholic drink with a club soda and lime, and cut your liquid calories in half.

You know that feeling when you can’t decide if you’ve had enough? That’s because it takes a while for your stomach to signal the brain that it’s satiated. Only eat when you feel hungry and stop when you feel about 80 percent full. Wait 15 to 20 minutes to determine if you are still hungry before getting seconds.

The skinny on portion sizes.

We live in an age of super-sized meals, but the truth is that it hasn’t always been this way. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/wecan/eat-right/distortion.htm), restaurant meals are now two to three times larger than they were just 20 years ago. And our expectations have grown for home-prepared meals as well. Sandwich bread is almost twice the size as it was in the 1970s, so now our sandwiches are, too.

The easiest method for taking control of portion size is to use a smaller plate, such as a salad plate, that is only about eight inches in diameter. Another good strategy is to serve meals plated or buffet-style from the kitchen, as opposed to family-style at the dining room table. Guests will be more likely to put less food on the plate and less tempted to get up for seconds.

Last but not least, those sweet empty calories.

Julia Child is credited with saying “all things in moderation,” and that includes decadent sweets. Just make sure you are earnestly practicing moderation. That means one cookie or one small slice of pie.

If we only eat when we’re hungry, stop when we’re not, and remold our expectations of portion size, we can enjoy the holiday feasts and treats with little to no guilt or weight gain.

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Author of this article

Addison Haynes, DO, specializes in family medicine. He is a guest columnist and located at IU Health Physicians Primary Care – Tipton Medical Office Building East; 1010 S. Main Street, in Tipton. He can be reached by calling the office at 765.675.1400.

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