Well first of all, don't deprive yourself. You'll just be miserable eating that carrot stick while your best friend is chowing down on slice of 7-layer chocolate cake. It's all about moderation and keeping up with what you're eating during the holiday season. For example, if you know you're going to a party and the hostess always has to-die-for-food (in my case that's Betty, one of my running buddies. She's an awesome cook and an awesome runner!) then mark the party on the calendar and a few days before the big event, start cutting down. Don't starve yourself, but if you have the option between Burger King and Subway, choose Subway. Pass right on by that bowl of peanut M&M's in your work buddy's cubicle. Don't drink that 48oz regular Coke you always get at the Circle K on your way home from work. All of these little modifications will afford you some extra calories at the big holiday event.
Exercise is another good way to help keep the extra pounds at bay and allow you to enjoy some holiday treats. Resistance workouts (weight-bearing exercises) is hands-down one of the best ways to up your metabolism and as a direct result, burn more calories. Running can help too, but be sure to make it high-intensity running. A light jog around the block ain't' gonna do it. So, instead of that regular easy-paced 5-miler, do that same 5-miler and throw in 4 or 5 fartleks where you ramp up your speed to your 5K pace for a quarter-mile or so. Or better yet, get in an interval workout at the track or you can even do an interval workout on the treadmill at the gym!
Listed below are 12 additional tips to help you make it through the holidays and enjoy some of your favorite foods without feeling guilty.
1. Survey the buffet! Before you start filling your plate, walk around the entire buffet and eye the foods you might want to eat. This does two things—1. gives you a little exercise and 2. lets you make better choices for your meal. How many times have you started filling your plate at the beginning of the buffet, only to discover that the garlic mashed potatoes you love so dearly are at the very end of the buffet? And how many of you (even though your plate is full) put a huge dollop of those tasty spuds on your full plate anyway? I know I have. (My name is Thad, and I'm a mashed-taterholic.) Well, if you take that lap around the buffet first, spot those tasty taters at the end of the buffet, and keep that tidbit of info in the back of your mind; then when you start the real trek down the buffet line, you'll be more likely to bypass some other foods to make room for that favorite dish.
2. Find a good Seat! After filling your plate, find a seat at a table that faces away from the buffet. Out of sight. Out of mind.
3. Eat ahead of time! Never go to a dinner party hungry. They say the same thing about grocery shopping and it's true. Many partygoers make the mistake of thinking that if they don't eat all day, they'll be able to eat what they want at the party. Problem is that if you're starving, then your will-power and self control are not going to be at their prime. Be sure to eat a moderate and healthy breakfast and lunch and even a midafternoon snack of high-fiber foods like raw fruits of veggies, so you're tummy's not rumbling at happy hour.
4. Strategize! If you're a dessert-lover, then eat lighter during the main course. Choose baked or grilled lean meats, whole-grain breads, fruits, and veggies (avoid the heavy cheese and cream sauces). If you're a main-entree lover, then enjoy the main course but be mindful of the amount of high-fat, high-calorie foods you're eating. Allow yourself one sinful dish and then lighten up on the others and either skip dessert or just sneak a bite of your spouse's!
5. Cut the Fat! Remember eggnog is traditionally made with egg yolks and heavy cream. If you must, take a sip or two, but try not to down an entire cup. At home, try one of the low-fat and fat-free versions at your super market.
6. Bring a dish! If you're going to a dinner or party and have been asked to bring some food, then bring something that's tasty and healthy. This way you'll be assured that there will be at least one guilt-free dish for your enjoyment. [Click here] for some healthy holiday recipes from Eating Well.
7. Avoid the alcohol! Beer, wine, and your favorite hard stuff is not only full of alcohol, it's full of calories! Don't blow a good job eating carefully by downing a bunch of alcohol.
8. Skip the pre-meal munchies! You know...chips, dip, nuts, cheese-and-crackers, finger sandwiches. This will help you avoid a lot of unnecessary calories. If you're not careful, you can rack in a whole dinner's worth of calories from hors d'œuvre before the meal even begins!
9. Save room for favorites! If you know there are certain holiday treats you look forward to each year, then be sure to scope out the menu before digging in. This will help you avoid filling-up on sub-par treats and missing out on your favorites or worse, eating the favorites even though you're already full.
10. Exercise portion control! I have to do this every time I'm around mashed potatoes. I've finally come to accept that an entire play by itself is not one serving of potatoes. If you know you're a sampler and you know you're going to want an array of foods, then prepare yourself to take just a small serving. Be sure to follow Tip #1 before you begin your sampling.
11. Divide and conquer! If you know you're going to want to sample more then one dessert, then work out a deal with spouse or best bud where you each get a dessert and then split it in half and then swap. That way you still each have one portion but two different desserts!
12. Say Uncle! If your eyes were too big for your stomach, don't be shy to admit it. There's no award for having a clean plate.