Editor’s note: Britt Rotberg is a senior program coordinator of the Emory Diabetes Education and Training Academy and the director of the Emory Latino Diabetes Education Program. She is also a member of the Emory University faculty.
We are all excited about the holidays because we get to spend time with our family and friends, but we also know that these social gatherings tempt us with delicious holiday food that can lead us astray from eating healthy.
The average person gains between 1-2 lbs during the holidays. This may not seem like a big deal, but this weight stays with us and adds up year after year.
Not to worry, though, you and your family will be able to enjoy delightful and healthy holiday meals by keeping in mind a few simple tips.
Do not starve yourself all day
Many of us do not eat a lot during the day of a large holiday feast because we are so excited to try everything at the party. This is not the best approach because it leads to overeating during the main event. Just like every other day of the year, it is important to start the holidays off with breakfast in the morning and eat foods high in fiber and protein throughout the day. This will lower your calorie intake while keeping you feeling satisfied. Also, before you head out to the party looking fabulous, eat something small — it will settle your stomach so you do not head for the food before greeting the hostess.
Do fill up on the good stuff
We will always have room for dessert, so make sure you eat your salad and/or vegetables first. We tend to eat the foods that are high in carbohydrates, fats and calories first because as human beings we thrive on instant gratification. Delay that gratification and eat the healthier foods first. I promise the other food will still be there and taste even more delicious.
Do not let your eyes get bigger than your stomach... or your wallet
A good way to save money is to simply reduce the amount you eat. Sound easy enough, right? When preparing foods or serving food on your plate, limit your serving sizes, especially when serving high carbohydrate items such as stuffing, rice, pasta, casseroles, bread, and dessert. A good way of measuring your carbohydrate intake is by using the “ Plate Method:” Fill up ½ your plate with non-starchy vegetables, ¼ of your plate with starches (like whole grains), and ¼ with lean protein. Add a piece of fruit for a complete meal. Include your children in the plate method project since it is a fun and educational activity for them. Children will always want to try what they make, so make it fun for them!
Do exercise portion control using your hands
It is difficult to know the “adequate” portions of everything we eat. When it comes to carbohydrates, use the palm of your hand to guide you. One carbohydrate portion is equal to the size of the palm of your hand. For weight maintenance, women should eat 2-3 portions per meal and men 3-4. Using smaller plates will also help you exercise portion control.
Do go for healthy carbs without breaking the bank
Try eating brown rice or quinoa instead of white rice, sweet potato instead of white potato and whole grain pasta and bread instead of white pasta and bread. The first ingredient in these items should have the word “whole” in it. Here are some examples of eating whole grains on a budget: 2 oz of whole grain pasta, ½ cup of marinara, and 1 cup of frozen veggies. Add ¼ lb of chicken breast and 1 plum for a complete meal. The total cost of this meal should be under $3 per person!
Do eat fruit as dessert
Opt for fruit as dessert instead of cakes and ice cream. This will lower the amount of carbohydrates and sugar you eat. For example, make a fruit parfait with frozen Greek yogurt, which is very high in protein and the fruits are high in fiber. And no need to pay for the already-frozen yogurt — freeze it yourself! Add a banana and ¼ cup of frozen berries and you’ve got a yummy desert for $2!
Do not eat and talk
Don’t stand by the appetizers when conversing with someone: You will find yourself munching mindlessly, especially if the conversation is not very stimulating.