Unlike a one-time splurge at Thanksgiving, holiday eating in December is a marathon. There are the office parties, dinners with friends and family gatherings that surround you with cookies, eggnog and candy canes.
Santa isn’t the only man to indulge over Christmas – registered dietician Carrie Regan suggests that on average, Canadians gain around one to five pounds over the holiday season. On Christmas Day alone, consumers could eat about 6,000 calories – about three times more the daily average.
Don’t skip breakfast: You may think this is a good way to save calories, but Regan says that starting the day off with a healthy meal and sticking to three balanced meals per day are key – have a bowl of oatmeal, or an English muffin with eggs, fruit and vegetables.
This is what your plate should look like: Half of your plate should be filled with vegetables, a portion of turkey should cover about a quarter — or about the size of a deck of cards — of the plate, and the last quarter can be used for half of a cup of potatoes and half of a cup of stuffing. To make your plate healthier, reach for the colourful vegetables — broccoli, red peppers and beets for example.
Make modifications: If you’re eating turkey, go for the white meat and skip the skin that adds extra fat and calories. Instead of mashing potatoes with butter and cream, roast them in olive oil. Make your own cranberry sauce to control the amount of sugar in the side dish and when it comes to gravy, let the turkey juices rise and skim the fat off the top.
The most dangerous dishes on the table are the vegetables cooked in creamy sauces: You know the candied sweet potatoes and the broccoli topped with cheese sauce aren’t good for you. No, you can’t coat your peas and carrots in melted butter either. Reach for steamed vegetables or flavour them with olive oil, lemon and herbs and you’ll save about 150 calories per serving, Regan estimates.
Watch out for the holiday sabotages: Regan says a cup of eggnog has 350 calories and 19 grams of fat without the rum. That’s almost a meal in itself. A single slice of pecan pie has 500 calories and 37 grams of fat between all of the nuts, sugar and butter. If you’re going to have some, limit yourself to a taste of either to shave off some calories, Regan suggests.
Don’t socialize near the food: “You want to avoid recreational eating. The only thing that needs to be stuffed is the turkey,” Maniatis joked. Portion control is important during the holidays when you’re eating and socializing all of the time. After having your meal, stay away from the buffet table so you avoid mindless grazing.
Stock your home with healthy ingredients: When you aren’t out for dinner or at a friend’s house, make sure your own fridge is stocked with fresh fruit, vegetables, lean proteins and healthy snacks. If you’re heading to a potluck, you gain some control by bringing a nutritious dish to eat.
Watch what you drink: The sugary sweet cocktails are packed with calories, Regan warns. And if you’re ordering a latte, go for skim milk and skip the whipped cream. At dinner, go for a wine spritzer and make sure you’re using club soda instead of tonic water in your drinks. There’s about 125 calories in a class of tonic water while soda water is calorie-free.
Play in the snow: If you overdid it over the holidays, don’t beat yourself up about it, Maniatis says. But do what you can during the break: Fit in some exercise throughout the day, if it’s a stop to the gym, a walk outside or taking up skating, snowshoeing or skiing. And in the New Year, you can wipe the slate clean.