So many parties! So many buffets! It can be difficult to watch what and how much you eat when crab dip, eggnog and pecan pie are staring you in the face. But it doesn’t take super-human self-discipline to curb your eating during the holiday season. Just follow these five tips from Nicole Patience, a registered dietitian at Temple University, to keep your diet from derailing in December.
1. It’s not all or nothing.
It’s easy to load up on less healthy foods, especially foods that taste good but aren’t good for you. If you’re going to a party and you know you’ll be indulging in high-calorie foods, begin your day with a healthy breakfast. “It doesn’t have to be all or nothing,” says Patience. “Just because you’re not eating a healthy lunch or dinner doesn’t mean you should just give up and forgo a healthy breakfast. Think of each meal as a separate opportunity to give your body the nutrition it needs.”
2. Get the lay of the land.
When you arrive at a party and see so much delicious food, it can be tempting to load up your plate immediately. Resist that urge. Instead, survey the buffet before you dig in. Decide what you would most enjoy eating and have that. “It’s not necessarily about denying yourself those wings or meatballs, but figure out which foods will bring you the most satisfaction,” says Patience.
3. Don’t drink your calories.
Most holiday celebrations include some type of alcohol. While dieters don’t necessarily need to abstain from drinking, it’s important to know where those extra calories come from. “People might choose a light beer over a regular-calorie beer, and that can help cut your calories in half if you’re just having a few. But if you think that you can drink more of the light beer because it has fewer calories, you’re really doing yourself a disservice.” She does advise avoiding heavy, syrupy drinks like margaritas, because they’re full of extra calories.
4. Keep it colorful.
Think of your dinner plate as a box of crayons and include lots of different colored foods. “Drawing a picture with nothing but browns and tans is boring,” she says. “In the same vein, a plate full of the brown meats and tan starches is boring to your diet. You want to fill your plate with other things too, like cranberries, green bean casserole, broccoli rabe or salads. Even though some of those dishes have creams or butter in them, chances are they’ll still have fewer calories and be more filling than things like mashed potatoes or stuffing.”
5. Be realistic.
Do keep the time of year in perspective. “Everyone knows it’s a season for eating, and you’ll be eating less healthy foods than you might at other times of the year. Listen to the cues your body gives you for being full and stop when you feel them,” says Patience. “That way, instead of worrying so much about calories, you’ll be more focused on spending that time with the people you care about.”