Healthy Holiday Eating Habits

By: Steve Fullhart & Dr. Alan Xenakis Email
By: Steve Fullhart & Dr. Alan Xenakis Email

Eating habits around the holidays can change in a variety of directions. So how do you keep on track with a diet and stay healthy?

Dr. Alan Xenakis from the Texas A&M Health Science Center joined Brazos Valley This Morning Tuesday to provide some tips for a busy, stressful time of year.

Check out Doc X's tips below, or watch the video from BVTM attached to this story.

1. Sit down with yourself and deciding ahead of time what you will and won't eat. Maybe you'll decide to avoid some items, such as the whipped cream on the pie or the egg nog, while setting a limit on favorite foods.

2. Keep your eating schedule on track. Many people skip meals in an effort to save calories this time of year. Big mistake. This plan backfires and inevitably increases cravings and lowers resistance later in the day, which can lead to overeating at holiday festivities Instead, keep yourself on schedule by stocking the kitchen with low-fat munchables and eating a nutritious light breakfast and lunch the day of a social event.

3. Remember eat consciously and only when you're hungry. You'll save 100s of calories if you don't graze unconsciously, eat while cleaning up the kitchen, or nibble while talking. While fatigue, emotions, expectations, and stress are high during holidays, eating more than you want or need won't bring you closer to a friend, calmer at a party, or more energetic.

4. Be aware of your emotional state when you're eating during the holiday. The holidays bring with them a wealth of emotions, both good and bad, and some people turn to food to sooth their feelings. Family reunions can be a mixture of joy and conflict, expectations for the holidays can lead to disappointments and loneliness, and even the stress of preparing for the holidays can evoke memories that are both sad and happy. Talk through, rather than eat through, those feelings. Often just telling a friend that the holidays are a hard time for you can help relieve the pressure and reduce unwanted eating.

5. Be assertive: Don't feel as though you have to say yes to everyone that offers you food and drink. If you are not hungry, then simply say so. Do not let yourself be bullied into eating something that you really don't want.

6. Take your time at the buffet table to check out the offerings. Then fill the plate with fresh vegetables, melon slices or other fresh fruit, salads with low-fat dressing, and lean slices of meat. That way you can have small samplings of the higher-fat festive foods, but won't be tempted to overdo it.

7. Salad will help you lose weight is not always true.
This could be true, but when was the last time you sat down to a big bowl of leafy greens without the dressing or toppings? Salad bar offerings like bacon, croutons, fried chicken strips, and thick, creamy dressings are loaded with fat and calories. On the flip side, filling up on greens and greens alone can result in hunger pangs later in the day making it more likely that you will overeat. So remember this rule: A healthy salad consists of a variety of vegetables, mixed greens, and filling, nutrient-dense items such as beans or almonds. Stick with a light vinaigrette dressing or if you want that creamy dressing, use a small portion or dilute it with water.

8. Low fat does not mean there is no need for portion control: When you see the words, "low fat or fat free", on a label, beware. Contrary to popular belief, these terms do not necessarily mean an item is healthy. In some instances, these foods will have the same number of calories as the regular versions, as sugar is added to replace the flavor lost when removing fat. More sugar means more empty calories, which lead to weight gain.

9. All fruit is not created equal: The healthiest fruits are lower in sugar and high in fiber, such as grapefruit, which also contains fat-burning enzymes. An apple or two a day is also a great choice, as apples are low in calories and fat and contain fiber that helps you feel full. Another convenient option is a banana as they are also high in fiber and are an easy snack when you're on the go. Also be aware that many fruits are sprayed with pesticides and coated with fungicides. Always wash fruit before eating.

10. Exercise: Most of us have a little extra time available over the holiday season when we are not at work. Take this opportunity to develop a regular exercise regime. Even ten minutes of high intensity exercise per day will give you tremendous heart healthy benefit. This will help to burn off the excess calories and fat consumed over this period. It will also get you into the habit of exercising, and you can continue the regime after the holiday season is over.

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