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Serving the Susquehanna Region

UPMC Dietitian Offers Tips to End the Year on a Lighter Note

by Madeline Waters, RDN

The holidays are usually a time full of our favorite seasonal favorite foods – and lots of them. For those with health and wellness goals, navigating through the holiday season and holiday food may be overwhelming. However, there is hope with the help of a few simple tips and techniques:

Mindful Eating 

  • Mindful eating is a great technique during the holiday season; however, you can practice it all year around. Mindful eating focuses on slowing down, being present, connecting with the food in front of you to truly enjoy it and be in sync with your body’s cues of hunger and fullness. When you fill your plate, take the time to notice the colors, taste, textures. Savor and enjoy each bite. 
  • It takes around 20 minutes for your brain to register a feeling of fullness, so slowing down not only allows you to fully enjoy the food – it also allows your body the chance to feel full which can help prevent overeating.

Don’t Skip Meals

  • Oftentimes, people may skip meals throughout the day in attempt to “save” for their holiday meal. I encourage you to continue eating regularly throughout the day on holidays. This will help fuel and energize your body, and you will have food already in your body, so you’ll be much less likely to be ravenous when it is time for that holiday meal.
  • Also, be mindful of restrictive dieting as it can often increase your cravings and set you up for failure. Rather than trying to avoid all the foods you enjoy, indulge in moderation through a smaller serving to quench your craving. You can have your cake and eat it too.

Be Strategic at Mealtimes 

  • Holiday meals usually mean lots of food options. Choose which foods you would like to indulge in and enjoy them in moderation. Choose foods that you may not get to enjoy all year around –such as your aunt's sweet potato casserole or mom's famous pumpkin pie. Make sure there are also lighter options available to help break up the “heavy” comfort food. Aim to make half of your plate fruits and vegetables. the other half with grains, protein, and any other foods that you wish to indulge on during your holiday meal. When you eat, fill up on the nutrient dense fruits and vegetables first.
  • Consider incorporating a little activity before or after each meal. Getting up and moving, whether going for a walk or playing tag with your kids, activity helps you not only burn off some calories, but will also help take your mind off of the food helping avoid mindless munching.

Holiday Food Swaps and Servings 

  • Make your favorite holiday dishes lighter with some simple swaps:
    • Swap out whole milk for low fat or fat free milk.  
    • Swap out butter for margarine or heart healthy olive oil.  
    • Aim to eat proper portions. For turkey, a 3 oz. serving is recommended. This equates to a portion that is about the size of a deck of cards. For other foods such as stuffing, a 1/2 cup serving is equivalent to the portion size of your scooped palm. 

Enjoy the Season

Did you get a little carried away while baking or lose track of how many times you went back to the dessert table? Don’t be too hard on yourself. Enjoy the season. If you’ve had more holiday treats than anticipated, it is okay. Don’t let a slip turn into a fall. Keep a positive mindset and get back on track with healthy choices.