There are plenty of reasons why the holiday season – that is, late November through to early January – is most people’s favorite time of year. As Andy Williams crooned in the 1963 classic song, “There’ll be parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting, and caroling out in the snow… It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”
The song does a great job of capturing all the exciting things about the end of the year… the parties, the collectively festive mood, and of course, the food.
It’s hard not to get excited about the food.
Some holiday foods strictly surface for the season, such as pumpkin pie and eggnog. Then there are the dishes that aren’t exclusive to the holidays, but that you will probably encounter anyway, including roast turkey (or ham), baked yams, sugar cookies and donuts.
Other than their tie to the holiday season, there’s another thing all these foods have in common: they usually contain plenty of sugar, salt, or fat. So, it’s no surprise that if you’re trying to watch your weight, the holiday season presents a big problem.
We spoke with Jamie Feit of Jamie Feit Nutrition in White Plains, New York, about the best way to prepare yourself for the food-heavy festivities. Jamie has been a professional nutritionist and dietitian for over 20 years, so she knows a thing or two about staying healthy and happy through the holiday season.
Jamie’s number one tip for surviving the holidays is to be prepared. While this is good advice for the season generally, it’s particularly relevant if you’re trying to avoid overeating.
“Don’t arrive at a party hungry,” Jamie says. “Plan your day and track your food to leave some calories for the party.”
Jamie recommends eating protein and vegetables earlier in the day, as they are low in calories but will still satisfy your hunger. If you’re bringing a dish to the party, make sure it’s a healthy one. These days, it’s incredibly easy to find a healthy yet delicious holiday recipe online.
Watch your Beverages
It’s not enough to watch what and how much you eat; you have to be careful about what you drink as well. For example, drinking a standard 12 oz. beer is roughly the same as eating a slice of white bread in terms of nutritional value. Jamie recommends sticking to zero-calorie drinks when possible.
If you’re drinking alcohol, Jamie warns, you’ll have to be extra careful.
“Limit alcohol to 1-2 servings; choose lower calorie options without added sugar.”
Alcohol also effects your will power, and will make it easier for you to overindulge. Jamie recommends drinking slowly to avoid falling into a binge of food or drink (or both).
If you’re not already exercising regularly, the holiday season is a good time to start. There’s no need to wait for your new year resolution.
It’s especially important if you’re going to be eating and drinking more, Jamie says, as exercise will help you burn off the extra calories.
If you or your family celebrate Chanukah, Jamie has some additional tips for you.
“Every holiday comes with its own traditions and many delicious foods that are family favorites,” Jamie says. “However, Chanukah tops those traditions with very high calorie fried foods.”
“Celebrating the miracle of Chanukah that a 1-day supply of oil lasted for 8 days leaves us with 8 days of eating high calorie, high carbohydrate, and high fat foods cooked in oil.”
Despite this, Jamie says it’s still possible to celebrate the holiday without ruining your diet. She recommends substituting salt with herbs, sour cream with yogurt, and deep frying should be avoided when possible. If you’re a fan of latkes, add fiber to give them a healthy twist – Jamie recommends chopped carrots, parsnips, and zucchini.
Jamie’s other tips for staying healthy through the holiday season include re-gifting any edible gifts you receive, eating slowly to savor every bite, and if you have kids, avoid eating their leftovers. If you do happen to indulge, Jamie stresses it’s important not to be too hard on yourself.
“Don’t be anxious about celebrating and overeating at the same time. Life happens, and it is most important to bounce back the next day.”
Looking for more nutritional advice? Contact Jamie Feit Nutrition today on 914-304-4008 to schedule a consultation. Mention this article to secure a discount on your first appointment.
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