Thursday Thoughts: Holiday Eating

It's Thursday, so you know what that means...

Thursday Thoughts

If you are new to my blog, or haven't been reading on Thursdays, this is a segment where I post my thoughts about various nutrition and health related topics, or maybe even something else if it is really an intriguing topic.  Most of my current views and opinions come from experience working as a dietitian and as college instructor in nutrition courses.  Most of that learning is science based or observational from the clinical setting.  In general, I hate over-generalizations, so for many of the things I post, I expect there is one or two exceptions because broad sweeping generalizations are always bound to miss out on something. 

With the holiday season in full swing and Christmas right around the corner (I know most of you probably celebrate that although I don't), I wanted to talk about some holiday eating tips.  I also want to keep this post short as I am recovering from what I think was the flu.  My fever is down a whole 6 degrees now if you can imagine that, which is still mind boggling to me.  I think my holiday vacation will be spent resting!

Here are my thoughts:

1) I know people love to claim they gain so much weight during the holidays.  I have 2 thoughts on this.  My first is that an excess of 3500 calories would in theory be a one pound weight gain.  To gain those ten pounds (for example), one would need to eat 35,000 excess calories in a short period of time.  I am sure some people could do that, but I am thinking not every person on the planet claiming a 10 pound weight gain was able to eat that much in excess.  This leads me to believe, especially with all that salty food that some of this is actual weight gained form excess fluid.  My other thought about this would be that an excess of 100 calories a will lead to a slow weight gain of 10 pounds over the course of the year, so is it so unreasonable to think that this slow 10 pound weight gain was the result of the past year (plus a little during the holidays).  If someone hasn't weighed themselves for a few months, they may not have realized the slow weight gain, and then during that holiday weigh in we so often put ourselves through we see a big jump on the scale from the last time.  I am inclined to believe that it is a combination of all of the above.  I know that with some of my clients in the past, when I asked around the holiday time about the last time they weighed themselves it was more towards the summer time, even up to 6 months ago, so they really did not know how much they weighed just before Thanksgiving.

2) Do not stop your regular workouts!  Whatever it is you do for physical activity keep it up.  Maybe you are too busy to do it every day, but try for as many days as possible.  If needed, try to fit it in at home with some light weight lifting.  Do some dancing to holiday music while decorating if you want, or dance around the kitchen while preparing food.  This is important because if you usually exercise and then stop, even if not eating much more than usual, you may see some weight gain because you are not burning what you normally would with those gym workouts.  A nice idea is a family walk outside after a holiday meal, if weather permits.

3) Get your fruits and veggies in!  Do not assume other people will bring these dishes.  Ask your host about what others are bringing of it the meal is at your place make sure to include these dishes.  I used to always hope for the best but I often found other people's ideas of veggies meant ones slathered in butter or cheese sauce.  I try when ever possible to bring a dish that includes veggies in a healthy way.  Even just a raw veggie or fruit tray will often get people to pick at what is around.  If you want veggies at your meal, make sure you bring them.  I also try to hype up my dishes because I am always the wacky vegetarian and people look at my things funny.  I find that when I describe it to people they will try it, but then again they probably just feel obligated.

4) Scope out everything in advance!  This is really important.  How do you know what you want to eat if you don't know all your options?  This is the same trick I teach when reviewing buffet eating with clients.  Scope it out and build your healthiest meal without feeling like you missed out on anything.  You might find broccoli at one end of the table, but it may have cheese sauce and at the other end it was just steamed.  This can save you a few calories.  Find what you want and take reasonable portion sizes of each.  Don't load up because you are worried there won't be more later if you really want seconds.  You may find yourself eating everything on your plate just because and you may not have really wanted seconds.  There is no real reason to go crazy and eat more than you normally would.  It seems more like a psychological aspect and many of those dishes we only see once or twice a year.  Again, enjoy yourself, but don't treat the meal like you will never eat again.

5) It might be a little to late for this year, but start thinking about healthy substitutions for next year.  I bet you can alter a recipe to reduce fat and/or sodium by maybe 25% without anyone really noticing too much or missing it.  You have a whole year to perfect those holiday recipes and create new versions that your families can use for years in the future and will be better for them.  There are always substitutions and there are always ways to add in more heart healthy items like fruits, veggies, fiber and heart healthy fats.  I know this may seem like a lot of work, but you only have to do the work once to get a healthy recipe that will benefit your friends and family for the rest of their lives.

Just some things to think about.  I know I could go on about this topic and share tips and hints for healthy holiday eating all day long, but I think I want to go enjoy some hot chocolate by the heater.  I wish everyone a safe holiday break/vacation.

QUESTION: What are some of your holiday eating tips?


Special K said...

I hope you are feeling well...or at least better soon.

Can I say that I LOVE these posts....and 1) got to me.

I think the stories we tell behind how we gain weight, or any negative event in our lives are powerful predictors of how we will respond to changing ourselves and making new goals.

Are you doing a post on "resolutions?" next week? Would love to hear your thoughts about what makes people change.

Unknown said...

my tip is to become Jewish :)

Beth said...

What great tips! I always try to just eat in makes a big difference!

Kristen (swanky dietitian) said...

Great tips! I agree that it is so important to keep your workouts. I think people just have an indulgent night and then its all over.

Emily said...

I agree...some people seem to gain weight much more quickly than others, and I think a lot of this is due to water fluctuation.

I also think you have to know your weaknesses. If I don't keep random cookies and desserts in the house, I won't eat them! I also make sure I keep working out or even up my workouts a little when I know I'm going to be indulging.

Hope you feel better soon!

Ameena said...

My tip is to consider Christmas/NYE just another day. My eating habits don't change at all, except that maybe I'll have a dessert I don't normally have.

I never really understood why the holiday season turned into an eating should be about spending time with family and hanging out!

Forgive me if this sounded wasn't my intention at all. And your tips are great - especially scoping things in advance.

chow and chatter said...

great tips I would say its only one day just be careful the rest of the year

hugs Rebecca

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