Slushy snow. Freezing winds. Bundling up in multiple layers of clothes. Looks like another Kansas fall. Despite the misery of walking to class in bone-numbing temperatures, these pains do come with a silver lining: The holiday season has arrived!
With great food often the centerpiece of celebration, the biggest challenge during the holiday season is finding a balance between indulgence and health. A few simple guidelines make this easy to do.
1) Snack smart. Planning for small meals throughout the day will help ward off temptations to taste-test and will control serving sizes when actual dinner rolls around. Kick snack power up a notch by choosing “dense” foods, such as fruits and vegetables over lighter options such as chips. This way, a smaller amount of calories will be consumed, while more effectively satiating an appetite.
2) Plan in exercise. The holidays are a time to catch up with family. So why not invite Cousin Timmy or Aunt Susan on a pre-feast power walk? Better yet, get some much-needed time away from the constant family gossip and strange distant relatives by blocking out some time for a run. Just load up the iPod with holiday music and hit the pavement.
3) Savor the food. For me, there is nothing like spending hours in the kitchen, diligently preparing a feast, to stir up a big appetite. When time comes to sit down to the dinner table, my general inclination is to dive straight in and enjoy the fruits of my labor. This becomes a problem when, only five minutes in, I am already making a third run though the buffet line.
Instead, I’ve learned the best strategy is to slow down and enjoy each bite. That way my stomach has time to process whether it is full or not and I can fully experience the food.
4) Go for small desserts. Somehow, no matter how stuffed I am, the very mention of dessert gives my stomach a second wind. I eagerly load up my plate with thick slices of pie and mounds of whipped cream. A few bites in and I already realize my eyes were bigger than my stomach. Again, time has taught me that instead of taking big portions of dessert, it is best to get small samples. That way, I get to enjoy more variety, while cutting back on post-binge regrets.
5) When in doubt, bring a healthy option. One of the best ways to ensure healthy eating at holiday time is to offer to bring a nutritious side dish. Some good options include veggies with dip, fruit and yogurt sauce or pita with hummus.
The moral of the story: No holiday feast is complete without a small sample of Grandma’s butter and heavy cream laden mashed potatoes. So go ahead, indulge. Just remember, it’s all about careful selection, thorough enjoyment and knowing that leftovers often taste better than the first time around.