The holiday season has begun! Last night, I got to attend the Colorado Thought Leadership Forum‘s holiday charity event with my friend Kelly, and I had a blast. However, it reminded me that this season is going to be full of yummy drinks and endless buffets of tasty appetizers. And cheese plates galore – my downfall! I don’t think it’s realistic to try for weight loss during the holiday season, but I would like to make it to January 1st without any weight gain, and I think that’s a reasonably attainable goal.
So I thought it was really timely that this morning, I received an email with some healthy holiday tips from Christy Maskeroni, the nutritionist at CLAY Health Club and Spa in New York. I wanted to share her tips with all of you, along with some commentary and tips of my own.
1. Make a plan. If you know you will be going to a party, take time to make a plan. If you are going and plan on eating the equivalent of a meal, a good rule of thumb is 1 glass of wine, liquor, or beer and 3-4 appetizers. Or you can decide to eat before you go and just have a glass of wine once you get to the party. Whatever you decide, make a decision and stick to it!
Laura says: Yes, yes, yes to all of this. I like to set rules for myself (e.g., “I will not drink more than two glasses of wine tonight”). If you already know what the specific rule is, it’s a lot easier to stick to it versus just thinking something generic like, “I am going to try to be healthy here.” So easy to break the rules when they’re vague!
2. Don’t go hungry. We’ve all been there before — “hangry”. Going too long without food will leave us ready to eat and drink everything in site! Have a good protein rich snack a few hours before the party to keep your blood sugar and energy stable. Try a nonfat greek yogurt with some fruit or a large whole grain cracker with hummus and fresh sliced turkey.
Laura says: Hmmm. Yes and no for me. I really love that Christy frames it as “eat a few hours before the party” vs some of the advice I’ve seen about “don’t arrive hungry.” I know that I am going to eat when I am at a holiday event with yummy food, so I’d rather plan ahead for that rather than pretending I’m not going to eat at the party and then doing just that. I usually try for a really filling but fairly low-calorie lunch (like a big salad), so that I’m both reasonably full but am also saving some calories for the fun. However, I don’t snack if I know I’m going to be indulging a few hours later.
3. Put it on a plate. Instead of standing by the appetizers and grabbing as you go, put it on a plate (or napkin) first. This will help you stay mindful of what you are actually putting into your mouth and help control the amount that you take in or at the very least, keep you aware.
Laura says: Ugh, I need to be better about this. When food is in front of me, I eat it, so the advice about moving away from the buffet is really important! And I agree that it’s so much better to fill a plate and not go back for seconds rather than continually munch (like I frequently do). If possible, don’t let a passing waiter take your empty plate until you’re sure you’re done eating for the night – when they take it away, it can psychologically “clear the slate” for you and make you feel like it’s open season to go take another plate and get more food. Resist! If you are planning to go back up for seconds, using the same plate with the remains of what you had before (e.g., shells, wrappers, etc) will remind you of how much you’ve already eaten so that you aren’t just mindlessly indulging in way more food than you actually need.
4. Bring something. If you are going to a party, offer to bring a dish. This is a great way to add some healthier foods to the holiday mix.
Laura says: Most of the parties I go to are the catered kind where you can’t bring something, but if it’s at a friend’s house, I love this idea. There are so many healthy holiday recipes out there!
5. Change your focus. This time of year can be so hectic that we miss out on the joy of what it is. The holidays are a great time to spend with friends and family. Take your focus off the food and stay present in this festive time.
Laura says: I agree, and really need to get better about this. Of course I am there to see my friends/family, but hey, I can do that with cookies in my mouth right? Oops. As I’ve mentioned lately on the blog though, I want to start having more “just because” get togethers rather than trying to manufacture some kind of occasion, so I think this can kind of be an addendum to that goal: focus on the friends, not the food!
6. Go small. Choose a smaller plate. Normal serving sizes fit on a smaller plate, appear larger, and can help you control portions.
Laura says: Lots of holiday parties tend to use smaller appetizer plates anyway; just make sure that you aren’t going back and constantly refilling it. (Eek, I am so guilty of that – see tip #3.)
7. Be consistent. Individuals that are consistent with an exercise routine have been known to stay consistent with their weight. Find a time of day or a routine that works best for you and stick to it.
Laura says: I work out every morning as one of the first things I do for the day, and have been really great about sticking with this habit lately. Of course exercise isn’t going to burn off all the indulgences I eat, but it can help to keep your weight in check. And if you’ve had a particularly indulgent night and wake up feeling kind of yucky, I’ve found that “sweating it out” can do wonders to make me feel less lethargic and help get me back on track.
8. Enjoy yourself. A cookie or a glass of wine at one party isn’t going to cause an out of control holiday. But, when you do it several days in a row, it will add up. Don’t over-do it at every party. It’s not the last time you are ever going to eat again. So, choose what you want and enjoy it.
Laura says: This is the most important rule of all! The holidays are supposed to be fun, and you definitely have to indulge a little bit. Where possible, I try not to plan back-to-back nights of celebrations/drinking, and then the day after a party, I make a concerted effort to eat extra-healthy (but not starve myself!) the next day.
Thank you, Christy, for all those great tips! Now let’s see if I can stick to them…