The most wonderful time of the year is here. But let’s face it. While these upcoming celebrations will be full of good cheer, they can also make our waistbands feel uncomfortably snug and the dreaded heartburn flair. Did you know that during the holiday season, the average American gains roughly 10 pounds? Yikes!
The holidays are a special time for everyone and it’s human nature to sneak in an extra cookie now and then. It’s hard to hold back when there are so many delicious choices right under our noses. However, it’s important to strike a balance between maintaining a healthy diet and joining in with the fun and festivities.
Portion Distortion – Portion control is crucial. Average portion sizes have grown so much over the past 20 years that sometimes the plate arrives and there’s enough food for at least two people on it. Growing portion sizes are changing what Americans think of as a “normal” portion at home too. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) refers to this phenomenon as “portion distortion.” Here is a serving size cheat sheet from NHLBI to help you choose the proper portions during the holidays and all year long.
- 3 ounces of meat, fish or poultry is equivalent to a deck of cards
- 1 cup of cereal is about the size of a fist
- ½ cup of cooked rice or pasta is equal to about ½ baseball
- 1 tsp. of margarine is about the size of 1 dice
- 2 tbsp. of peanut butter is equal to a ping pong ball
- 1 slice of bread is equivalent to a cassette tape
- 1 piece of cornbread is about the size of a bar of soap
Food Forethought – Know when you’re going to have special foods and plan ahead. If you’re having a big holiday dinner, then eat a lighter breakfast and lunch, or focus on higher-fiber fruits and vegetables. Fiber makes you feel fuller longer, so you can avoid some of the endless snacking associated with the holidays. Limit those big meals to one a day. Grandma’s triple-decker pancake surprise should not coincide with the Thanksgiving dinner and all the fixings. Spread out the special treats and compensate with healthier choices at other meals.
Ditch Deprivation – “Everything in Moderation” is a good motto for the holidays. Part of health is pleasure. If we deprive ourselves of our favorite foods or feel we cannot (or should not) join in with special meal sharing with our friends and family, it affects our health in other ways. Getting stressed over food is counterproductive. Give yourself permission to enjoy the holiday meals. The holidays do not need to mean the choice between weight gain and deprivation. Find the middle ground and enjoy your favorite foods this holiday season, but in moderation. Plus depriving yourself of something in the moment usually leads to craving it intensely later on – and overeating!