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Mindful Holiday Eating

Learn how to balance indulging and staying healthy around the holidays.

Oh, how the holidays keep us busy. Our days are filled with shopping, wrapping, baking and attending parties.

We’re quickly pulled out of our daily routines. As a result, Americans frequently gain 8 to 10 pounds between Thanksgiving and the New Year. Sweets, treats and indulgences are abundant; this can make healthy eating a challenge for anyone.

All it takes is a little strategy and a few good choices to keep weight in check, energy levels up and stay healthy during this busy season. Keeping hunger pangs controlled, blood sugars steady and focusing on maintaining weight, not losing it, is a plan of action sure to take you healthfully through the New Year. Get started today and you’ll be ready for the holiday rush.

Balance Food Choices

Balance makes it easier to choose smaller portions of those festive goodies or say “No, thank you” when you’re not hungry. Start by eating breakfast. Studies consistently show us that breakfast eaters are less likely to be overweight, have greater energy and are more likely to consume essential nutrients for a strong immune system.

Eating breakfast gets blood sugar and energy levels back up after a night of sleep, revs up your metabolism, the rate at which you burn calories, and is a great way to step into the day.

After breakfast, keep momentum going with meals and snacks every two to three hours and combine foods from the following groups. Balancing food choices at every meal and snack will keep you fuller longer.

Fiber-rich carbohydrates are found in fresh fruits, vegetables (jicama or sweet sugar snap peas, anyone?), whole grains and beans. Protein is found in low fat or fat free milk, soymilk and yogurt; lean chicken, turkey or ham; eggs or egg whites; low fat cheese and cottage cheese; tofu and tuna fish. Nuts and beans are also a good source of protein, and they’re fiber-rich too.

Heart-healthy fats found in almonds, walnuts, pecans, flaxseed, unhydrogenated peanut and almond butter, and avocados.

Meals and Snacks

• Roasted chicken breast on whole grain bread with lettuce and tomato, 1 cup mixed sugar snap peas and carrot sticks, 8 ounces skim or 1 percent milk • Whole wheat tortilla with peanut or almond butter and banana

• Oatmeal with a few walnuts, for added fiber and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, a glass of vanilla soymilk and an orange

• Toasted, high-fiber pumpernickel bread with low-fat cheese and a kiwi (washed, sliced in half, scooped with a spoon)

• 1/4 cup almonds and raisins with a strip of low fat string cheese

• 1-1/2 to 2 cups mixed dark salad greens, 1 cup raw vegetables (jicama, tomatoes and carrots), 2 to 3 ounces water-packed tuna fish, 1/4 cup kidney or garbanzo beans and 2 to 3 tablespoons reduced fat or fat-free salad dressing, add a slice of whole grain bread Remember to choose a snack that couples protein with a fruit or vegetable before you leave for the party.

Stay Physically Active

Invest 30 minutes on most days of the week and you’ll keep energy levels up and support weight maintenance. Keep it simple. Start a new tradition with loved ones, and take brisk walks with family and friends.

Say “Yes” to Favorite Foods, Watch Portions

Saying “yes” to the foods you love sets you up for success. Just be sure to choose small portions and savor the flavor of every bite. Use a smaller salad-type plate and allow yourself one pass through the buffet line. Avoid standing by the cookie platter or chip bowl. By allowing yourself to have your favorite holiday treats, you’ll avoid the all-or-nothing trap, where you find yourself saying “no” to the foods you love for so long that you ultimately end up at a party stuffing yourself with foods you don’t even like.

If we shift our mindset to one of allowing special indulgences while balancing them with physical activity, smaller portion sizes and keeping hunger controlled, we’ll be less likely to start the New Year with those few extra pounds. Now, that makes for one Happy New Year!

Heidi Kramerkramer is a nutrition specialist and inspirational speaker who has inspired thousands to lose weight, change bad eating habits and become champions of their own health for more than 20 years. Kramer is available at Cary Physical Therapy for individual counseling and group programs. Reach her at  847.516.9038. 

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