PORTSMOUTH — Nutrition experts say you can have that holiday cake, as long as you plan ahead.
No guilt is the catchphrase for the holidays. That does not mean overindulgence, but instead mindful planning.
“Really, holiday food management is simple common sense, and being aware of that,” said Megan Patten, a registered dietician at York Hospital. “Set realistic goals. The holidays are not a time for weight loss, and are instead a time for maintenance. Set goals to help you maintain your weight. There should be no guilt associated with eating, with attending holiday parties.”
“This is about having no post holiday regrets,” said Christine Wyrch, manager of the Patient and Family Learning Center at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital. “As a health coach, I talk a lot about mindfulness. We all want to have fun at the holidays and it can be challenging. Instead of saying, ‘I am not going to have that piece of pumpkin pie,’ make a plan so you can.”
Instead of thinking about, and obsessing over all those delicious buffets, Patten said to focus first on socializing, on seeing people you might not have seen in a while. It is a subtle shift in thinking, in being mindful, that can help.
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“Eat mindfully,” said Patten. “Enjoy fully the flavors, textures and colors of the food. I fully support the MyPlate concept. Fill your plate with half vegetables, and a quarter each with a starch and a protein.
If you are attending an event where you are asked to bring a plate, Wyrsch said bring something healthy.
“That way you know there will be at least one healthy choice there for you,” she said. “Taste the others, but keep portion control in mind. Let yourself indulge, just know what you are doing.”
“Do not skip meals,” Patten said. “Have breakfast, lunch, and choose items with protein and fiber. Drink lots of water. You do not want to arrive at a party hungry because that increases the risk you will overeat. Avoid eating until you are stuffed. Go for comfortably full and choose what you eat. My family begins holiday meals with a salad, which is healthy and takes the edge off your hunger.”
Diets do not work, especially during the holidays, Wyrsch said. Instead, she suggests staying hydrated and making sure to get enough sleep.
“Diet is a four letter word,” said Wyrsch. “They may work in the short term, but you can’t carry it through long term.”
Patten said people should be aware that there are food items where the calories can add up quickly without you realizing it.
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“Sauces, gravy, butter, turkey skin, creams and alcohol are big culprits,” she said. “Be very aware and use those things sparingly.”
Getting enough exercise, even if it means going for a walk each day, will help create a healthy metabolism.
“Keep active,” said Patten. “After a heavy food day, maybe increase your activity. Take a slightly longer walk. Increase your stride, your steps. Take care of yourself and it will be fine.”
If, despite of your best efforts, you find there is an extra five pounds after the holidays, Patten said to be kind to yourself.
“Try not to go off the deep end,” she said. “This is not an excuse to throw in the towel. Pick up right where you left off. Maybe add a bit more exercise and eat carefully for a few days. You’ll soon be right back on track and not lose all you have achieved before.”
“During the holidays, we stretch ourselves thin,” said Wyrch. “Give yourself some grace. Make choices you will respect and let family and friends support you. Remember – everything in moderation.”