ALTO — The holidays are a magical time of year for most all of us. We know that the sense of smell and taste are connected directly to our memory making process – which makes it hard for us to say no thank you to that extra slice of mom’s sweet potato pie.
Quite frankly, there is nothing wrong with enjoying yourself during the holiday, after all the food is one of the things we look forward to most.
The problem is that often after splurging too much during this time of year, we sell ourselves a little short. Uncontrolled eating for many leads to changes in blood pressure, spikes in blood sugar, increased risk of sudden death from other-related conditions. And then there are the more minor but still harmful things like increased acid production in the stomach that cause flare ups and sends us to the closest pharmacy seeking immediate relief.
All things considered, just like everything else in life – balance is key. We should enjoy the holidays – and food always has and always will be a big part of that. So here are a few tips for making sure you maintain that balance:
Sample smart. Sometimes when we tell ourselves that we are going to be good and avoid a “big” meal, we end up sampling the whole spread, and we eat more than if we had just had the “big” meal.
Sit, don’t stand. When we stand up and eat, our brains tend to deceive us and make us think we haven’t eaten as much, when in fact, we’ve consumed more than if we had sat down next to Aunt Mildred and talked about her arthritis.
Eat healthy first. When you build your plate, be sure to include fruits and vegetables, but eat them first. This way, you will be somewhat full when you get to the dessert table and you won’t eat so much at one meal.
When preparing dishes, use whatever healthier alternatives make sense. Admittedly, you can’t use nonfat everything, because it might just make granny’s dressing taste like a canine chew toy. But if you can substitute nonfat yogurt, fat-free milk, low-fat cheese – or maybe you can just simply reduce the amount of sugar used – then you can feel better about what you are eating.
Beware of “healthy” options. Often, labels can be misleading. Something that might be “low-fat,” “sugar-free” or “organic” might not really be good for you. In fact, sometimes they are worse. Be a good label reader.
Visualize your meals ahead of time. If you are going to Uncle James’ house on Thursday, and your mother-in-law’s on Friday, and you have a party on Saturday – keep that in mind. This way on Thursday, you won’t think you will never see another piece of that pecan pie. Because you will, I promise. And then your co-workers will bring all their leftovers to work the next week.
Speaking of leftovers, there might be nothing in the world better than a leftover turkey, cheese and mayonnaise sandwich. PAUSE while I quit giggling.
Okay, so let’s talk turkey. Be sure to store leftovers properly – there is often a spike in foodborne illness during the holidays – don’t spend your time hugging the porcelain throne – play it safe. Speaking of playing it safe, a good rule of thumb is to share modestly. Send people with a little leftover gift and you might take a little as you pack up and hit the road, but limit both, especially the fattier fare.
Give yourself some guidelines, but don’t overanalyze or be too hard on yourself. If you must have that extra piece of pie, fine – go for it. Just try do shave off the calories somewhere else in your extravaganza.
Walk with your family. No machines, videos or jogging pants necessary. After you eat and get that food-induced-coma over with, take a walk with your family. It’s a great time to catch up, experience nature and burn off some of those newly acquired carbs.
Watch out for liquid calories too. By the time you’ve had the nog, the new spritzer and a few other beverages, chances are you may have already downed 600-700 calories – almost half of the average person’s daily allotment.
With all of that said – the average American gains between one-half pound and three pounds over the six-week holiday period. The important point is to be aware, make good decisions and enjoy every moment of the holiday season.
EAT and BE well.
Taylor is the Executive Director of Cherokee County Public Health, and a member of the FitCOUNTY Cherokee team.