The biggest loser
During the holiday season there are numerous dinners, parties and other social situations where eating is the main focus. It’s a double whammy — not only are you consuming extra calories but all these extra social events will likely cut into your gym time, says Montreal-based dietitian Thida Ith. If you know your week is packed with nighttime events, move your workout routine to the morning and try for at least 30 minutes a day, even if it’s just a walk at lunch.
Where, what and how
“It’s not always about what you eat but how much,” says Ith. Keep an eye on portion sizes. Just because the hors d’oeuvres are small and plentiful, doesn’t mean you should eat as many as you want. It all adds up.
Starving yourself before a party or get-together increases the odds that you will over-eat when the festivities begin, says Ith. The day of your soirée, eat foods like high-fibre cereals, non-fat milk or yogurt, vegetable soups, cut up peppers, baby carrots, and fruits such as apples, bananas or mandarins. These foods can provide bulk and a feeling of fullness and decrease the temptation to over-eat at a party, she says.
Stick with grilled foods such as chicken skewers instead of fatty fried ones like crispy rolls. Instead of a bowl of chips or high-fat and salt-laden crackers go for the crunch of the veggie tray — load up a plate of fresh zucchini, cucumber spears, broccoli florets or carrots with a low-fat dip or spreads such as hummus, yogourt or fresh salsa. You can also eat crispy pita triangles, flatbread or melba toast.
Keep in mind the ingredients you can’t see. Those little ‘extras’ like butter, margarine, mayonnaise, salad dressings, bacon, sauces and gravy can add plenty of fat and calories. If something looks rich, it probably is.
You want to acknowledge your host’s efforts but at the same time you want to manage your weight. Ith’s tricks? Ask for a smaller portion size or say you’d like to wait a few minutes before adding anything to your plate to give yourself time to decide if you really do need another serving.
Sadly, your favourite cocktail may be contributing to your muffin top. Alcoholic drinks can be loaded with calories and simultaneously dehydrate you and lower your food inhibitions. (Doesn’t that wheel of brie always look better after a glass of vino?) Have water or soda water with a slice of lemon or lime between each drink to pace yourself. This will not only fight your hangover but will also save you some calories. Good choices? A light beer has 99 calories, and both vodka and a glass of wine have 100 calories. Bad choices? A daiquiri and other such fruity mixed drinks have at least 260 calories in a 7 oz. glass.
Keep a routine
Just because it’s the holiday season doesn’t mean that you can throw your schedule to the wind. Eat at regular meal times, don’t skip breakfast, and enjoy healthy snacks. Buy groceries even if you’ll be eating out so you’ll have a good stock of healthy, lower-calorie options in the fridge. Remember the 80/20 rule—by eating nutritious higher-fibre, lower-fat foods 80 percent of the time, you can indulge in a few treats (20 percent of the time) without giving up your healthy eating pattern, says Ith.
There’s an app for that
Track your eating and activity level over the holiday season. The Dietitians of Canada EATracker is one option or you can use the Recipe Analyzer to help modify your favourite recipes with lower-fat, lower-sodium and lower-sugar options that will still be tasty enough for the holidays. Find these tools at www.dietitians.ca.
The bottom line: “The holidays are a time for socializing with friends and family—focus on the occasion, not on the over-abundance of food. With some wise planning, losing weight won’t have to be your New Year’s resolution!” says Ith.
Thida Ith is a registered dietitian based in Montreal and the Media Relations Manager, Dietitians of Canada at www.dietitians.ca.