3 strategies to control holiday calories

Why waste your calorie budget on this tired stuff?

Why waste your calorie budget on this tired stuff?

Check your calendar. Holiday calories straight ahead!

It’s coming!  The yearly onslaught of holiday calories.  Are you on a collision course with 6 weeks of overeating?  Are you feeling helpless about that?  Here are 3 strategies to help you seize control of your food intake, while still enjoying the season.  After all, food is an essential part of most holidays.  It’s not the time for grim cheerless diet deprivation.

1. Avoid pointless calories:

Most of these foods are available all year long.  Why waste your calorie allowance on them now, when there are more special things on the menu?

  • tasteless colored candies.  Why?  Better to think of them as decorations, not food.
  • same-old same-old boxed chocolates.  Really?  Those are available all year.
  • tiresome cold cuts, sliced cheese and cracker plates at buffets.  Again, nothing special.
  • Store-bought, unspecial cookies that basically have no flavor, despite the colored frosting and sprinkles
  • Holiday coffee drinks.  This is not the time of year to treat yourself to a daily peppermint latte with whipped cream.
  • chips and dip, pretzels, chex mix and the like.  Again, those are around all year.  They’re not special holiday foods.
  • salty seasoned nut mixes: too easy to overeat.
  • uninteresting white bread rolls or sliced bread served with meals.  Why?
  • junky high calorie snacks purchased on shopping trips. A giant cinnamon roll?  Dinner-plate sized cookies?  Super-sized muffins?  Why?

2. Get brutal about portion control:

It’s the ideal time of year to practice Mindful Eating.  Enjoy special holiday indulgences in small portions.

  • cocktails, punch, beer, wine and eggnog.  Limit yourself to 1 at buffets and parties.  Sip slowly, don’t guzzle.
  • desserts.  Don’t accept giant slices of pie just because it’s the hostess’ speciality.  It’s just as easy to slice a thin piece as a large wedge.
  • cookies: stick to once-a-year special home-made items in small sizes.  Just because someone used super-sized cookie cutters doesn’t mean you have to eat a super-sized cookie.
  • side dishes that make the meal for you (ex: stuffing or mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving).  One small spoonful is enough on your plate.
  • hot chocolate with marshmallows — if you’ve just been outside sledding, skiing, skating or doing some other physical activity.
  • interesting hors d’oeuvres that are fried or involve cheese, cream or other high calorie ingredients.  Fortunately these usually come in small portions, so you can just eat one and move on.

3. Focus on foods that:

are special and unique to the holidays:

  • Thanksgiving turkey, a holiday roast or special casserole or pasta dish only served this time of year
  • vegetables: roasted, steamed, raw, salads
  • home-made/from scratch foods like pan gravy or fresh cranberry relish
  • interesting hors d’oeuvres that involve fish, vegetables, fruit or other lower calorie ingredients

are healthy, lower calorie and filling:

  • vegetables: roasted, steamed, raw, salads
  • herbal tea
  • club soda, seltzer water or plain water
  • plain unsweetened coffee and black tea
  • fresh raw fruit, especially seasonal oranges, grapefruit, tangerines and pears

Other tips:

  • If you overindulged one day, be especially careful about your food choices for the next 2-3 days.  Stick to smaller portions, lots of vegetables and higher protein foods, and stay hydrated.
  • Exercise!  Not only does physical activity burn off some calories, it makes you feel mentally better and more in control of your life.
  • If you are hosting an event, avoid foods on the Pointless Calorie list above.  Offer smart food choices, using small plates and small cups for beverages.  Do leave room on the table for a few special unique indulgences.
  • Don’t make every holiday gathering about eating.  Get together with friends to play board or card games, watch a movie, go for a hike, go bowling or some other non-food activity.
  • Eat a high protein meal or snack before a shopping expedition.  If possible, carry a water bottle.
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