Control Your Holiday Hunger
Focused on Health - December 2009
By Adelina Espat
Holiday food temptation is everywhere. It’s at the office, the homes of family and friends, and possibly even in your own home. Don’t let your excessive eating spiral out of control. We’ve got the perfect plan to help you avoid those extra holiday pounds, while still indulging in your favorite holiday treats.
“Maintaining a healthy weight plays a big part in preventing cancer,” says Sally Scroggs, M.S., R.D., L.D., health education manager at M. D. Anderson’s Cancer Prevention Center.
Obesity and physical inactivity contribute to about 25 to 30% of several major cancers, says the American Cancer Society. Completing 30 minutes of moderate activity, such as brisk walking, every day and eating a healthy plant-based diet rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables may reduce your chances for cancer.
“Let this information be the backbone of your holiday eating plan,” Scroggs says.
Month-long strategy: decrease calories, increase exercise
If you’re going to indulge, follow the strategies below.
Save those extra calories for the holiday foods you enjoy most. Making smarter food choices is easier than you think. Here are some quick, calorie-reducing tricks to try at each meal leading up to the day you plan to eat treats.
- Eat lots of fruits or veggies.
- Eat smaller portions of meat and high-fat side dishes.
- Drink water and avoid sugary drinks.
- Skip dessert.
Burn some extra calories. Do something every day to get your heart pumping. If you’re already hitting the gym or on an exercise plan, add an extra 10 to 15 minutes to each workout. If you don’t regularly workout, you can still make this strategy work for you by adding extra activity to your day. Here are some easy ways to help you get moving.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Park at the far end of every parking lot.
- Walk around the mall a couple of times before you start your holiday shopping.
- Do some holiday house cleaning.
Enforce a holiday food policy in your office. Set up some ground rules for everyone to follow. Here are a couple of good ones.
- Ban holiday leftovers – don’t let your office become a dumping ground for unwanted food.
- Encourage employees to bring healthy options at holiday gatherings.
Your secret weapon: portion control
If you’re going to a holiday party, you may be worried that the event will turn into an all-out eating frenzy. Remind yourself that it’s okay to savor all the sumptuous delights of the season as long as you eat in moderation.
“An important part of maintaining a healthy weight is understanding the rules of portion control,” Scroggs says. “On a special occasion, eat whatever you like – just eat less of it.”
Now that you have your secret weapon, let’s talk game plan.
- Get up early and exercise. It’ll make you feel good and remind you of all the work you’ve done to stay in control the entire month. Even better, a study published in the October 2009 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that exercise helps quiet hunger, causing you to eat less.
- Drink a glass of water before sitting down at the holiday table. You’ve heard it before, and it’s definitely true. Drinking a glass of water before your meal tricks your stomach into thinking it’s full. To make this tip work, you must drink at least eight to 12 ounces.
- Pay attention to your taste buds. Studies on “taste-specific satiety” show that the first few bites of food taste the best because our taste buds are chemical sensors that tire quickly. The more bites you eat, the lesser the taste experience. So, enjoy a few normal-size bites from every dish, and you’ll savor the best part of the holiday meal.
- Organize an after-meal activity. Get your family or friends to play a game of football or bowling on the Wii. You won’t be the only one to benefit from some post-meal exercise.
You’ve made a plan – now stick to it! Follow this strategy, and you’ll be ready to take on your holiday hunger.