Along with the holidays comes an abundance of temptation –mounds of mashed potatoes and stuffing, trays of mouthwatering sweets, and piles of fresh, home baked treats–all conspiring to break your will and bust your waistline. New research shows that adults gain an average of one pound between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. That’s less than the common wisdom, but the problem isn’t the amount–it’s that once it’s on, we tend to keep it and accumulate more the following year. Twenty pounds later, we’re wondering what went wrong. This year, cast aside that crash diet you’ve planned for the new year. Planning a radical crackdown on your eating habits only encourages binge eating during the days leading up to your diet. This battle doesn’t have to be won all at once. Instead of putting pressure on yourself to shed pounds during a time of year when food is all around you, shoot for maintaining your current weight through the holidays. A slow reduction in weight can come later.
If you do most or some of the holiday cooking in your household, you can lower caloric intake by controlling what’s on the menu and how it’s prepared. Choose leaner meats like turkey for your protein. Prepare stuffing separately from the bird. Baking it inside will cause it to absorb fat. Substitute vegetables for bread with every meal. Serve them first so that family and guests can fill up before the main course. Do away with serving high-calorie fluids like alcoholic beverages, soda, or eggnog. Save these for dessert or as a nightcap and you’ll consume less. Look for ways to cut calories in ingredients. Use egg whites instead of whole eggs and substitute skim milk for whole milk. Refrigerate gravy and then skim the fat from the top before serving.
Small changes in your eating habits add up over time. Try some of these ideas for the holiday season and then see if you can’t apply them year-round. Eat breakfast every day. This will kick-start your metabolism, keep you awake and energized, and help control cravings later in the day. Limit your portions. An easy way to accomplish this is to use a smaller plate. Eat more slowly and wait 10-15 minutes before going back for seconds. Your stomach fills up faster than your brain is able to receive the signal that you’re full. Eat before attending holiday parties so you don’t load up on high-calorie foods. Stick with high-fiber foods. They make you feel more full. Make sure your calories are worth it. Do a drive-by “recon” at holiday buffets before piling up your plate, then pick only your favorites.
Exercising restraint is important, but give yourself some leeway. There’s nothing wrong with indulging yourself occasionally. If your grandmother makes the world’s best pumpkin pie, give yourself permission to have seconds. Just don’t do it every night.
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