Holiday menus are often passed down through the generations. Turkey with savory stuffing, ham with candied sweet potatoes, deviled eggs, green bean casserole and buttery rolls are just the start. The pumpkin pie, cheesecake and apple crisp often get a table of their own.
Though you really want to fight the urge to splurge, it’s hard not to say, “I want one of everything.”
Radford University Professor Anne Alexander, an expert on nutrition, says people should give themselves permission to enjoy customary foods on holidays—but not through the entire season.
“Eating pumpkin pie and stuffing and other family dishes is great for the Thanksgiving meal, but don’t let that one day become the start of a six-week eating marathon,” Alexander said. “Depriving yourself of special foods is a setup to overeat later, so enjoy and relish the meal. It comes down to portion control at this time of year.”
Alexander shares these tips on how to prepare for the feasting ahead:
- Be thoughtful about eating. "Often we have to consciously think about what we are eating during holiday times. We are not in our usual eating routines, and we may not notice that we are actually eating more than we need."
- Take small portions, and be careful with alcohol. "Over the holidays we are confronted more often with food associated with the parties and visiting. Not only does the alcohol add calories we don’t need, it also decreases our resistance to overeating."
- Practice your responses to well-meaning people. "Does your family push food on you? Think out what you can say to limit your portion or avoid a food altogether. That way you won’t be taken by surprise. You might say you are feeling full and it looks wonderful, but you can only manage a tiny bite. Or you might say you don’t have room for all this food and are sampling a number of items."
- Consider giving away food. "Perhaps someone gives you a beautiful box of cookies. They are a huge temptation for you. Try to find someplace to take them, perhaps to work or to a potluck dinner you are attending. If there isn’t anywhere to take them or anyone to give them to, just throw them away. If you eat them and it makes you gain weight, then it has hurt you. Don’t do that to yourself."
The myth has circulated for years that the typical weight gain during the holidays is 5 to 10 pounds. But research by the American Dietetic Association reveals that most people gain only about a pound. And that 5- to 10-pound gain? It happens to only 5 percent of us.