How to Handle Eating During the Holiday Season

HealthGal Health Guide
  • With Christmas imminent, and New Year’s Eve to follow, the season of eatin' is in full swing.  Some experts suggest that rather than depriving yourself of your favorite foods, you should take a gentler path that allows some indulging, albeit with portion control in mind.  That means that you can enjoy family events, holiday buffets, and open bar parties with the caveat that you employ some “mindfulness and attention to quantities” while being festive. 


    You also need to be aware of situations that may trigger emotional eating, and try to employ a technique other than food to self-medicate your mood swings.  Here are some tools and tips to help you achieve a balance between food pleasure and food gorging:

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    • Scout out the entire line of food first, so you make some initial choices mentally.
    • Take a smaller plate and place a layer of undressed salad or cooked vegetables as a base, and then pick and choose measured amounts of some choice special dishes.
    • Choose lower calorie alcoholic beverages that are mixed with tonic or club soda and pour “half glasses” of wine. 
    • Drink a glass of water in between alcohol-based drinks.
    • Use a smaller appetizer plate for your entrée.
    • Search out crudités and fruit as “fillers.”
    • Look for healthier protein sources like fish and beans and eggs and keep sauces, especially creamy ones, to limited teaspoonfuls.
    • Nurse a hot beverage like tea to slow down your eating.


    Home meals:

    • Start with plain tomato juice, a broth-based soup, or use a hearty vegetable soup to fill up first.
    • Only serve healthy salads, fruit salads and cooked vegetable dishes family-style at a sit down dinner.
    • Choose grilled or baked chicken or fish or very lean cuts of red meat for your main protein.
    • Add beans and nuts to salads for additional protein and fiber satiation.
    • Bring a fruit-based dessert.
    • Pay special attention to grains and breads, using strict portion control.
    • Dilute wine with club soda to make a spritzer, and favor water and unsweetened teas as your go-to beverage.
    • If you have an emotional confrontation with family members, or just feel escalating feelings in general at family gatherings, try to use something other than food for comfort – go for a walk, take a shower or bath, meditate, go for a workout session or talk it out.
    • Stand up to help clear the table after each course so you are moving about, rather than sitting and nibbling.
    • Send the leftovers with the guests when they leave.


    Office parties:

    • Avoid grabbing “handfuls” of treats or snacks from bowls – always measure into a small dish or cup.
    • Weigh in on the food being ordered, if possible, to ensure that there are some healthy options.
    • If it’s a potluck event, bring a bean salad or another healthy protein-based dish.
    • Instead of a punch bowl, flavor water with lemon and lime slices or melon balls, or freeze berries in ice cubes and place in chilled water pitchers.
    • Create several vegetable-based dishes – chicken and bean casseroles, slow cooked fish and vegetables are all hearty and healthy.
    • Watch alcohol consumption since it blurs your hunger cues and sets you up to overeat.
    • Swap out cream or whole milk for evaporated skim milk for dessert coffee.
    • Chocolate-dipped berries or strawberries and Greek yogurt can be a light and delicious dessert.

    One of the best tips to help temper how much you eat is to always wear a belt to a party and never loosen it while you eat.  Always have a glass of water in one hand or a cup of hot tea, so you need to stop and put it down in order to eat.  That will slow your eating cadence quite a bit.  Finally, talk a lot so you eat less!!


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    Amy Hendel is a Physician Assistant and Health Coach, journalist and host of Food Rescue, Simple Smoothies and What’s for Lunch?  Author of Fat Families, Thin Families and The 4 Habits of Healthy Families, she tweets health headlines daily @HealthGal1103.  Catch her guest appearances on local and national news and talk shows, and check out her website.  Follow her blogs.


Published On: December 16, 2013