The holiday season is a great time for getting together with friends and indulging in bigger and more elaborate meals. But overdoing it isn’t wise, either; there’s no sense in ending up with Santa’s waistline.
That’s why Patricia Urrico, a nutritionist at the Jewish General Hospital (JGH), has some tips for enjoying the celebrations and avoiding the post-New Year’s weight-gain blues. The best place to start, she says, is by realizing what you’re up against: Holiday weight gain may be an important contributor to the rising prevalence of obesity. “So remember to make time for physical activity that’s fun, like a brisk walk after a large meal, or even an aerobics class. Keep in mind that weight maintenance is a much more realistic goal than weight loss.”
You might also want to tinker with traditional recipes by adding low-fat alternatives to creams and butter. If you’re invited to a pot-luck-style gathering, how about bringing a healthy dish where you can control the fat content. At buffets, it’s tempting to load up on mashed potatoes and stuffing, so Urrico recommends dividing your plate into three sections: half with vegetables and fruit (but beware of items like creamed spinach masquerading as healthy vegetables!), a quarter with a high-fibre starch (e.g., brown rice or whole grain bread), and a quarter with lean meat, fish or beans.
“How we eat — as opposed to what we eat — can also play a large role in determining whether we overeat,” she says. “Taking smaller bites, chewing properly and making the meal last longer can make you feel full, without feeling overstuffed. So put down your fork, savour every bite, and enjoy the company.” And don’t make the mistake of thinking that liquids don’t count. Whipped cream-topped hot chocolate and eggnog are chock full of calories, as are alcoholic beverages.
Remember, a treat doesn’t necessarily have to be a sweet. Indulgence during the holidays can mean sleeping in or spending more time doing something you enjoy. The idea is to stay aware of what you’re eating, and then to make the right choices. This will put you on the right path for the new year.
To find a dietitian in your area, visit the Ordre professionnel des diététistes du Québec at OPDQ.org.