Tis’ the season for a calendar full of family gatherings and parties. And food, lots of food! Between the holiday buffets and too-good-to-pass-on hors d'oeuvres, maintaining the healthy eating routine you've worked so hard to establish can be tricky.
We’re here to tell you that it’s 100 percent OK if your diet looks a little different this time of year. Be kind to yourself. Research shows that having black-and-white thinking about food (labeling it as either “good” or “bad”) isn’t productive and can backfire, causing you to throw your hands up. A middle ground is especially important to find during the holidays. So rather than aiming for perfection, how about trying to eat *slightly* healthier when you can. Here are some tips on how to make that happen.
1. Scan the buffet
When there’s amazing food around, it’s easy to grab a plate, go down the line and load it up. (Your eyes are telling you yes, and yes, and yes.) But before you do, experts suggest taking a few moments to scope out all of the offerings and deciding what you really want before you help yourself.
2. Veg out
Veggies pack a health punch, of course—like boosting immune function. And research shows that eating more produce can reduce weight gain and even keep the scale numbers moving down during your weight care journey. When you fill up on crudité before moving on to the pigs in a blanket or cheese tray, there’s evidence you’ll eat less overall. Bonus: In addition to delivering lots of nutrients with fewer calories, many veggies are rich in fiber, which can help you feel fuller, longer.
3. Focus on protein
When building your plate before or during a party, make protein a priority—oh hey, chicken breast, salmon, beans, and lentils. This macronutrient helps you maintain lean body mass, keeps your appetite under control, and prevents overeating— which translates into consuming fewer calories overall.
4. Make healthy meals and snacks a priority
It may be tempting to skip meals to “save up” for dinner at aunt Val’s. But this can lead to a dip in blood sugar, causing fatigue, irritability, and increased hunger and cravings. In fact, research has found a significant association between those who forgo regular meals and weight gain or overweight and obesity. This may be due to how ravenous you’ll inevitably feel when you finally have food in front of you. Plus, skipping meals is also associated with a lower-quality diet, which can negatively impact your health.
So, pay attention to your body’s signals. If your dinner plans are later than normal and hunger strikes, reach for a healthy snack to support your weight care goals.
5. BYO dish
Making healthy food choices can be tough when you’re not in control of the menu. Here’s what you can do: Ask if you can bring a dish to share. Maybe it’s a side dish of roasted sweet potatoes or green beans and slivered almonds.It’s helpful for the host and you. And if you want to share that you’re trying to be mindful of your diet, they’re likely to be supportive.
6. Avoid or reduce your alcohol intake
We get it—the wine’s uncorked, the champagne’s popped, and uncle Steve’s practicing his mixology skills. It’s a party! But you probably know that alcohol can impact your weight care goals. Here’s the science: The body doesn’t store alcohol. It has to be oxidized and eliminated first. That means that any food in your system will take a digestive back seat—which can lead to increased fat storage, affecting the number you see on the scale.
So the next time uncle Steve makes a toast, try clinking a glass of sparkling water flavored with muddled mint leaves. And throw a fancy garnish of fresh fruit on that bad boy, too! And when you do want to enjoy a cocktail, we’ve got you covered! Check out our alcohol cheat sheet on how you can, all while still prioritizing your health.
7. Slow down at meals
Taking time to savor your food could help with weight care. According to research, eating too quickly is associated with excess weight, higher triglycerides, and increased LDL cholesterol levels, which may up your odds for metabolic syndrome. And a survey published in the Journal of the American Diabetic Association found an association in women between faster eating and higher BMIs compared to those who ate more leisurely.
How long should meals take? There’s really no magic number. However, a good rule of thumb is to focus on thoroughly chewing each bite to slow yourself down. You can also practice mindful eating by ditching electronics during mealtime and setting your utensils down while chewing.
8. Don’t dwell
Had a “bad” day of eating? Well, first, let’s not label food that way. Some choices may be healthier than others, but the next day brings new opportunities to keep working toward your goals.
Found is among the largest medically-supported weight care clinics in the country, serving more than 200,000 members to date. To start your journey with Found, take our quiz.