Satisfying ways to deal with all the food that comes with the holidays.
Many people don't begin eating healthier until January 1. In any case, the holidays are filled with stress and extra portions of rich foods, so why bother?
This, however, is an ideal time to adopt new habits, so dismiss that negative thought. According to Teresa Fung, a registered dietitian at Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the dietary changes you make now will help you manage stress and avoid overindulging in holiday foods. You can also start the new year with momentum and determination if you switch to a healthier diet.
Four keys to healthy holiday eating
Fung recommends four excellent strategies for a healthier diet that will give you a head start towards a healthier 2023.
Concentrate on portion control and conscious eating. During the holidays, tempting food options and larger portions—think family dinners and party spreads—often lead to overeating. Fung states that this is a wonderful opportunity to practise portion control. For instance, if three different cakes are available at the party and you enjoy all of them, take a small portion of each. Fung says, "This way, you can enjoy a variety of treats without overindulging."
Eating at large gatherings provides an opportunity to practise mindful eating, which can help prevent overeating. Fung advises, "Concentrate on eating slowly and savouring the flavours, and take breaks to converse and socialise." "The slower pace allows your body to register what you've consumed and send a signal to your brain that you're full, so you're less likely to go back for seconds or thirds."
Push the plants. Make plant-based foods a top priority when planning your holiday meals. The Mediterranean and MIND diets, for instance, emphasise the consumption of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, as well as the use of healthy oils. These diets contain a lot of fibre, vitamins, and minerals, which lower blood pressure and help you stay at a healthy weight (both welcomed gifts during the holidays).
"The holidays are an ideal time to transition to a plant-based diet, as you will be cooking more than usual and will frequently need new meal ideas," says Fung. Here are some ways to initiate a plant-based lifestyle.
Eat more salads. These are great for holiday parties and family dinners because they can be made in large quantities. Fung suggests incorporating a side salad into at least one daily meal.
Adopt a vegetarian day. Once per week, devote an entire day to eating only fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. "This can help you recognise the types and quantities of foods you need to consume without feeling constantly compelled to do so," says Fung. As you become more comfortable, try exercising twice a week. One fun idea is to have different meals or foods on different days of the week, such as whole-grain Wednesdays and stir-fry Fridays.
Try new dishes. Creating just one new vegetarian dish per week can make meal preparation easier. Fung states that there are many simple, healthy recipes available on the Internet. Find a dish that uses your favourite ingredients and requires few steps or minimal cooking skills.
Spicy up. With all the additional baking and cooking, the holidays are the perfect time to increase your intake of spices. Numerous spices are rich in anti-oxidants, flavonoids, and other healthy substances that control inflammation and mood.
Fung explains, "There are many spice mixes available that combine a variety of spices and can be used on a variety of foods, including poultry, soups, and side dishes." Even better, try your hand at creating your own spice blend. Fung says, "You don't need to know what you're doing; just give it a try and enjoy your creation."
Reduce your intake of alcohol. During the holidays, the average adult consumes three alcoholic beverages per day, according to a survey. In addition, a new study suggests that even one drink per day may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. There are also the additional calories to consider. Depending on the type of beverage (beer, wine, or spirits) and the quantity, the number of calories per serving can range from 120 to over 200.
Fung suggests switching to sparkling water or a cocktail made of one-third fruit juice and two-thirds sparkling water after two alcoholic beverages if you enjoy drinking. "This can prevent you from drinking excessively and help you realise that you can enjoy social situations even after the holidays are over without consuming alcohol," she says.