Navigate the Holiday Plate

Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner! The holidays are meant to filled with joy and celebration. The holidays can also bring feelings of dread and temptation for most, as well. This is because we lose sight of healthy eating and justify a month full of sweets and large portions at meals. We have been told that we are not in the holiday spirits unless we bake mountains of cookies and binge watch the food network. Cooks have had nervous breakdowns over making the perfect Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings. We all lose the mind/body connection during the holidays. Unfortunately, this way of thinking can lead to an extra 10# of weight packed on in this 4 week period. So how can you train your brain to treat this holiday season differently?

1.) The holidays are not the entire month:

Remind yourself that there are only a few days in the next 2 months that are actual holidays. If you celebrate Christmas then you will have celebrations on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Years Eve. These are the days that you may feel like indulging in a little extra, and fill your table with family food traditions. If you celebrate other holidays like Hanukkah or Kwanzaa then you may have a few more days of tradition to celebrate.

2.) Don’t neglect physical activity during the holidays:

If you have family in town for a while then find ways to involve them in your daily activity. EX: go for a family walk before or after dinner. Keeping your normal physical activity through the holidays can help you stave off weight gain.

3.) Put boundaries on baked goods in the house:

During the holidays my mother will ask us what is the one “treat or goodie” we really want to indulge in this season? Each of us kids must put thought into what cookie or cake we want in the house for the next few weeks. This helps to cut down on needless and endless temptation in the house.

4.) Bond with your family in the kitchen without baking:

Have your grandkids or siblings help you with the meal prep for the week. Get an assembly line going to prep the fruits and vegetables for the week. Try some unique recipes that you might not have attempted for the average Tuesday night dinner. Visit the USDA site for free recipes that fit into the plate method mentioned below.

5.) Limit alcohol intake:

It is very tempting to celebrate the holidays with more liquid libations than during the rest of the year. Just remember that alcoholic drinks are empty calories and can lead to unhealthy food cravings. Try to give yourself a weekly drink limit. EX: I will allow myself to have 4 drinks per week. I have two parties to attend this week and I will save my drinks for those parties and have 2 at each. Therefore, I need to stick to sparkling water and tea the rest of the week.

Here are some drinks that you can use to help replace alcohol:

  • Sparkling water with a fruit wedge. EX: sparkling lime water with a lime wedge.
  • Herbal teas. An apple and cinnamon tea could help give flavor without calories.
  • Low calorie mocktails: some links for recipes are below

6.) Use The Plate Method

Use the plate method when you are at parties, family dinners, and holiday meals. Following the plate method at every meal during the holidays is another great way to control calories and avoid weight gain. One fourth of your plate can be carbs/starches, one fourth needs to be protein and half your plate should be non-starchy vegetables. You can add in small portions of fat into the meal for satiety and flavor. Limiting your starches and increasing non-starchy vegetables helps with calorie control while also helping you feel full.

Here is an example of how to use the plate method at Thanksgiving dinner. Half the plate can be the green beans (if it is a casserole then that counts as a fat serving as well) and a side salad. One fourth of the plate is the turkey. The next part may be the most difficult, picking your starch. This takes some soul searching. One fourth of your plate can be a mix of the stuffing and a little bit of sweet potato if that is what you truly enjoy eating, or it can be two crescent rolls if that is what you want. Keep your condiments (gravy) to 1-2 tablespoons.

Using the plate method can help you keep your calories contained at any gathering, but it is especially helpful at these large meals. Let us know how you plan to navigate The Holiday Plate this year.