With the wine pouring, the waft of delicious food oozing out of the kitchen and loved ones all around, overindulging during the holidays is fairly common. Even so, here are nutritional tricks of the trade to help you avoid that icky "I overdid it" feeling altogether.
Follow the 10 tips below and you'll be able to enjoy the treats of the season and feel great throughout the holidays.
1. Do as the French do
They've been known to eat their fair share of chocolate and croissants and yet, French people are so svelte. Their secrets lie in their portion sizes. Research shows that while the French eat what they love, they do not eat a lot of it. In fact, according to a study in a September 2003 issue of Psychological Science, the average portion size in Paris was 25 per cent smaller than in Philadelphia. Limit your portion sizes and you'll limit opportunities to overeat.
2. Listen to your body talk
Pay attention to your true hunger signal. Avoid eating out of boredom, for social reasons or simply because there is food available. When you enjoy a meal or snack, eat until you are fairly full -- not stuffed -- and you'll avoid the discomfort of bloating, fatigue and indigestion.
3. Plan your indulgences
It is not realistic to avoid all of your favorite foods at the holiday season. In fact, denying yourself of all treats is not realistic and often results in food binges at a later date. The key is to pick your favorite one or two indulgences (whether is it Aunt Sally's homemade chocolate cake or your mom's cheesy broccoli casserole) and enjoy! A little cheating here and there allows you to satisfy your sweet or salty tooth and puts an end to any feelings of deprivation.
4. Eat nutrient-dense, calorie-light foods
Try to focus on filling foods that are calorie-light but are filled with health-promoting vitamins and minerals and filling fiber. Definite holiday winners include veggie trays with dips such as low-fat ranch dressing or hummus, bean salads, puréed soups and fruit.
5. Avoid food pressure
Maybe it's having another drink to please our boss at the office party when you've had enough to drink or eating an extra piece of our mother's cake just to make her happy when you're already full. Unfortunately, by falling prey to pressure from loved ones and colleagues, we often end up feeling lousy. Honour your body this holiday season by gently speaking up and sticking to your guns about the amount and type of food and drink you want.
Page 1 of 2 -- Discover the difference between your body's hunger and thirst cues on page 2.
6. You're not hungry, you're thirsty
Often times, what we perceive as hunger pangs are actually due to dehydration. Before diving into a plate of appetizers, test your hunger signal by drinking an 8-ounce glass of water. Wait a minimum of five minutes and pay attention to see if you are indeed still hungry.
7. What about the booze?
To avoid a nasty next-day hangover, alternate alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic beverages. For every glass of wine or beer you drink, follow it with bottled water. If you arrive home and suspect you've over-indulged on alcohol, have one or two 8-ounce glasses of fresh distilled water with a shot of orange juice prior to going to sleep. By doing so, you will help to alleviate some of the headache, dehydration and stomach upset often experienced after a night of partying a little too hard.
8. Eat breakfast
Many people skip breakfast because they do not feel hungry in the morning or are trying to save on calories. Unfortunately, skipping breakfast often results in over-indulging later in the day on the wrong types of foods such as muffins, cookies, cakes, doughnuts and sugary coffee. Even if you are not hungry, start your day off with a light breakfast such as cut-up fruit and yogurt or a protein shake.
9. Lights out, baby!
Over-indulging often occurs when mindlessly munching and drinking in the evening. As a general rule during the holiday season, stop eating by 7 p.m. If you feel the urge to munch, keep a stock of healthy food -- such as air-popped popcorn, cut-up fruits or veggies, herbal teas and healthy trail mix -- in your home.
10. Take care of you
December right through to January is often a time of "overdoing it". If you have overindulged, do not beat yourself up. Simply get back to your healthy eating and workouts the next day and you will balance out all the cheating you may have done.
By taking a little extra care this holiday season, you will be able to enjoy some great food and drink without overindulging and celebrate the new year with health and vigour.
Dr. Joey Shulman D.C., RNCP, is author of Winning the Food Fight (Wiley, 2003) and The Natural Makeover Diet (2006). For more information, visit www.drjoey.com.
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