With the holiday season upon us, it’s easy to get caught up in an indulgent flurry of food. Deserts, flavored cocktails and large portions are not uncommon during this time of year. With just a little shift in focus and understanding your options, you can keep your diet healthy and ward off unwanted pounds. “The holidays can be tough, but by planning ahead you can maintain, not gain weight, this holiday season,” says registered dietician and certified culinarian LaChell Miller.
The truth is, there’s something comforting about coming home to be surrounded by loved ones and a big meal. “It can be so hard to say no to traditional, secret family recipes that you grew up with. The point is not to say NO, but rather, “This bite is sufficient.” You never want to deny yourself of savory family dishes, but you always want to remember to first and foremost take a moment to enjoy the company of your loved ones you’re dining with,” Miller advises.
Here are few of Miller’s suggestions on how to enjoy your holiday meals without the guilt:
1. Watch Your Portions: Portion control is key for any meal, but especially during the holidays when piling your plate is common. Says Miller, “You want to savor every morsel at your holiday dinner table, however, when you linger around the food you can get caught up with eating way to too much, way too fast. It is important to use a smaller plate when you eat and first load up on a plate of veggies before tackling the main course and sides.”
2. Don’t Be Afraid of Substitutions: Butter, salt, and sugar are the major culprits for all holiday dishes. Miller suggests sautéing with olive or grape seed oil instead of throwing an extra spoon of butter in the pan. You can also substitute Greek yogurt in place of dishes that require cream. If you want to cut the salt, get to know the herbs and spices in your pantry. Rosemary, thyme and sage can really do wonders on your main dishes along with onion, garlic and lemons. As for sugar in your favorite desserts, always try baking with a natural baking sugar substitute blend to enjoy the sweeter side of the holidays.
3. Listen to Your Body: “Knowing the difference between hunger and thirst can really prevent weight gain during the holiday season,” says Miller. She suggests drinking water throughout the day to stay hydrated. “Drinking water can also help curve your need to drink other calorically dense beverages- such as eggnog, wine, and hard ciders- which rack up excess calories fast,” said Miller.
4. Embrace Seasonal Foods: ‘Tis the season to relish in Mother Nature’s bounty. Miller recommends sautéing dark leafy greens such as kale, collards and Swiss chard to get a powerful pack of vitamin A, C and K along with calcium, iron and fiber. Also try to find ways to include antioxidant-filled red cranberries, pomegranates, sweet potatoes and butternut squash in your relishes and side dishes.