If the holiday season fills you with dietary anxiety, take a break this year. That doesn't mean you should forget all your healthy eating habits – just go easier on yourself and give guilt a holiday. Here are some strategies.
• If you love your mother's mincemeat pie, don't refuse it; just eat a smaller portion and savour each mouthful.
• At cocktail parties, circle the room and take your time to find the best picks. Many hosts serve lower-fat and lower-calorie items such as seafood (it's OK as long as it isn't deep-fried), sushi, skewers of chicken, wraps and vegetables with dip. Go easy on the chicken wings, chips and egg rolls and anything fried. Focus on making conversation rather than eating.
• At a buffet, always start with a little less than you think you'll eat. If you're still hungry, you can always go back for more.
• Don't go to a party hungry. It makes it harder to resist overeating. A light snack – veggies, crackers and low-fat cheese, a bowl of soup – or something cool to drink before you go can take the edge off your appetite.
• If you're a host, don't snack after the party. Send tempting leftovers home with guests or freeze them for nights when you're too tired to cook.
• Keep things in perspective. Healthy eating is about how you eat on a day-to-day basis, not at one meal or party. If you eat 30 meals over the holidays and three or four are larger, don't worry. There are still more than 25 that can be healthy meals.
• Don't make yourself miserable by trying to avoid all of your holiday food favourites. Allow yourself to eat without guilt – in moderation. You'll have time in the new year to get your eating and exercise habits back in order.
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