The holidays are right around the corner and so are the heaping helpings that often come with them. Nutrition experts estimate that a traditional turkey plate with all the fixings has 3,000–4,500 calories. That may not sound too detrimental, but this does: A 160-pound person would have to walk 30–45 miles to work off that one meal. And who only eats one big meal throughout the holiday season?
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do ahead of time to help you lighten your load – and still savor the seasonal flavors of turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole or pumpkin pie.
“The most important thing you can do to avoid overeating over the holidays is take a few minutes by yourself before you attend events to strategize,” says Vikki Lane, MD, internal medicine physician at Scripps Clinic Carmel Valley.
Dr. Lane has five recommendations to help keep the holiday feeding frenzy in check.
Think through the spreads at holiday parties and dinners, and set limits as to what and how much you’ll eat. If you’re concerned about the offerings at a party, arrange to bring a healthy side dish. Or if you’re hosting, consider providing healthier alternatives to traditional foods. Simple swaps like skim milk in mashed potatoes, low-sugar cranberry sauce and baking with applesauce can go a long way without affecting the taste of your favorite dishes. With a bit of planning, you can cut both calories and fat without cutting taste or serving sizes.
The body processes calories from foods differently than from drinks. It’s much easier to gain weight from consuming sweetened beverages like wine or soda, so stick to no-calorie beverages like water (add lemon, cucumber, or orange slices for flavor), unsweetened tea and black coffee.
Pile your plate with hot and cold vegetable dishes like steamed broccoli, roasted Brussels sprouts or squash – vegetables that are high in fiber are naturally filling and high in vitamins. Add minimal dressings, choose lean meat without the skin and select low-fat or nonfat dairy products. Also, decide in advance how many dessert items you’ll have and try to stick to that.
Eat slowly and savor each bite.
If you end up overeating anyway, reflect on what triggered you to eat more and focus on what you can do in the future when you encounter a similar situation.