The holidays are a great time to catch up with family and recharge, but they also present an opportunity to add an unwanted gobble to your gullet.
In light of the festivities on the horizon, I met with university dietician Brooke Pearson to discuss strategies students can use to stay healthy while enjoying the holidays.
Pearson said people should begin the holiday season with a realistic mindset.
“You need to have the right expectations,” she said. “If your goal is to lose weight, save that for January. Try to make your goal to maintain the weight you’re at so you can enjoy the holidays.”
Realistic goals are easy to stick with and maintain.
Vegetables and fruits are valuable allies in the fight against holiday flab.
“When it comes to eating, you want to make your plate as colorful as possible,” Pearson said.
The fiber in fruits and vegetables will help you stay fuller longer, and they’re full of nutrients.
Holiday tradition may be to chow down as soon as the gravy hits the table, but inhaling Grandma’s stuffing is a shortcut to a dieting disaster.
“Make sure you get up to have breakfast or a healthy morning snack,” Pearson said. “If you save up for a gigantic meal, you’ll be starved, and you’ll probably overeat on things that are less healthy.”
Pearson said those with a huge holiday appetite can also stick to multiple smaller meals throughout the day. Smaller meals encourage healthier eating habits and may also help you avoid turkey-induced lethargy.
Food certainly takes center stage during the holidays, but what we drink also affects our health. Carb-loaded beverages like soda and alcohol can add some serious calories to an already hefty holiday meal.
Pearson said to try to avoid calorie-saturated refreshments and stick with a tried and true dieting friend—water.
CUT THE CRAP
Unfortunately there are no universal foods health-conscious eaters can avoid. However, Pearson said there are common denominators everyone can cut from their Turkey Day traditions.
“I recommend people avoid things like trans fats, which you might find in a pre-made pie,” Pearson said. “Hydrogenated oils in things like crackers are bad too.”
Pearson said choosing homemade options, fruits and vegetables, and lean meats are also sure-fire dieting decisions.
Pearson said the focus of the holidays shouldn’t be lost in the quest for healthy habits.
“There are plenty of ways to enjoy the holidays,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to be creative and have fun.”