Holiday Survival Guide

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and many of you may be a bit nervous about overeating. I have a few tips for you that I hope will help!

First of all, you should be aware that the average holiday dinner alone can have about 3,000 calories and most people will also munch away another 1,500 from appetizers and drinks before the meal even starts. Combined, that will be about 4,500 calories, which is more than 2 1/4 times the average daily calorie intake and almost 3 1/2 times the fat. In fact, the average person may eat enough fat in one holiday meal to equal three sticks of butter! Here are a few tips to help you stay a bit more on track.

1. Don’t skip meals! If you have learned nothing else from me, I hope you will at least do that. Starving yourself will result in a lower metabolic rate and will make you ravenous for food which will result in eating more than you may have planned. (Remember the hunger scale and don’t get below a “3”!)
2. Start meals with a salad or a broth based soup. Research shows when meals are started with high volume, low calorie foods such as these, people tend to eat 12% less calories than they otherwise would have.
3. Eat lower fat and reduced calorie foods for the days in advance of the holiday feast and for the days after.
4. Build your plate to be 1/2 fruits and vegetables, 1/4 lean proteins and 1/4 whole grains.
5. Avoid recreational eating. While some foods are more calorie-dense than others, no food will make you gain weight unless you eat too much of it. At parties and holiday dinners, people tend to eat (or keep eating) beyond their body’s physical hunger simply because food is there and eating is a “social thing.” (Remember the hunger scale!) To avoid recreational eating, consciously make one plate of the foods you really want. Eat it slowly and enjoy it. When you’re done, pop a mint or stick of gum in your mouth, get a tall glass of water and sip on it throughout the night. Position yourself away from the food as well.
6. Prepare for handling your worst temptations; if you want a piece of pumpkin pie, tell yourself you can have some and just watch the portion size. Remember, telling yourself you can’t or shouldn’t could lead to preoccupation and binges with that particular food.
7. If cooking, provide low-fat, low-calorie foods or ask if you can bring a side dish.
8. Make traditions with family and friends that have nothing to do with food. Take a walk, play games, or compete in a Thanksgiving Day Turkey Bowl! Celebrate what the holidays are really about!
9. Remember that the holidays are truly only 3 days, Thanksgiving, Christmas (or Kwanzaa or Chanukah which is 8 days) and New Year’s. Three days of indulging a little is not enough to do too much damage. It is the vicious cycle of not enough exercise and too many calories for the 3 or 4 months during the holidays that causes weight gain during this time of year.
10. Sign up for a 5K or fitness walk to keep your mind focused on fitness goals. Keep up with your exercise during the holidays and try to be even more active to offset the extra calories.
11. Limit alcoholic, carbonated and sugary beverages. Have one if you must and then switch to water.
12. Keep minimal snacks and goodies on hand. Only bake enough to give away or for a party. Out of sight, out of mind!
13. And finally, it may be more realistic to focus on weight maintenance rather than weight loss during the holidays. If you can continue to lose weight that is great but don’t give yourself unrealistic expectations.

Next week I plan on posting calorie counts for typical holiday foods, a sample holiday meal including portion sizes and a few reduced calorie recipes!

Emily Fonnesbeck RD,CD