We are closing in on time of year again: the dreaded caloric nightmare that is the holiday season. You’ve got stuffed turducken with all the fixings, bacon-wrapped sausages, pumpkin pies topped with globs of whipped deliciousness and the sugary-goodness which somehow finds its way into every dish imaginable. Cranberry jam? Check. Casserole everything? Check. 10 lbs. of unwanted belly fat? Check, check, check.
But fear not, feasters – you don’t have to say goodbye to your slim, summer self in anticipation of the holiday meal madness; you just need a few smart strategies to survive.
Shane Griffin, a certified nutritional practitioner and CEO of Whole Life Balance – an international nutritional coaching company – has a few tips for all of us to say on the leaner side of the holiday table and still enjoy all the pleasures the season has to offer.
1. Snack before you attack: Time to head over to grandma’s for dinner? Prep your growling stomach before going to battle! If you remember to munch on a healthy snack like almonds, carrots or fruit, by the time you get to dinner – a.k.a. the battlefield – your brain will have registered that you are in fact not dying from hunger and don’t need to consume ALL the food in the house to survive. Trust me – your waistline will thank you later!
2. First is the worst: In this case, being first in line is not the ideal place to be. Never underestimate the visual power of food – specifically untouched food. A brand new, hot-out-of-the-oven casserole topped with fried onions looks a lot more appetizing when 10 people haven’t destroyed it trying to get at the best parts. If you let others go ahead of you, by the time you reach the most calorie-packed items they’ll have lost some of their appeal. Less appealing = less on your plate.
3. Remember #PlateGate: Controversial as your decision may be amongst loved ones, choosing to use a smaller plate than everyone else is not a crime against the Turkey gods. In fact, our brains equate a full plate with a full meal, and by reducing the size of your eating apparatus you can trick your brain into thinking that you’re eating more. According to the Calorie Control Council, we eat an average of 3,000 calories per holiday dinner. Swapping out your full-size dinnerware with a smaller salad plate can help you eat 40% less food, cutting out up to 1,200 calories. Not to mention, this just saved you a bunch of time spent coming up with a clever hashtag for when you inevitably post a picture of the glorious meal you just consumed! #stuffed
4. Stop, Drop the Roll: Easy to remember in case you catch fire and also for when you’re approaching the bread basket! The baked white bread roll is not your friend, and its companions are not your friends either (ahem, butter, jelly, etc.). Simple carbs like white breads are digested quickly by the body, leaving you feeling hungry faster and more likely to go back for a second helping. Instead, fill yourself up with more lean protein like turkey which there is bound to be plenty of and will keep you feeling full longer.
5. Fight the Bite: Slow and steady wins the race here, so resist the urge to engulf your food in less than five minutes. In fact, play a game with yourself to see if you can eat slower than everyone around you. Your brain takes up to 20 minutes to register the chemical signals from your stomach letting it know you’re full, so slow down and take note of how you feel. If you’re starting to feel full, you’re probably already there and should take a few minutes to let your brain catch up to your belly.