Smart eating during the holidays
‘Tis the season to stuff your face. For most people, the last two months are anchored by two huge meals. Well … three if you count the average New Year’s bacchanal. Even more if one is the type who makes rounds with their extended family. Oh, and don’t forget the parties; people will eat at them, too. In between the big feeds, the holidays are a grazer’s paradise from Thanksgiving on. Got a relative who likes to bake? You’re doomed. The office is no escape, either – something about this time of the year compels people to bring food, candy and most of a bakery into their offices.
So, what can someone do? First of all, if one is trying to watch what they eat, don’t panic. The occasional treat is more or less harmless, and there’s good evidence guilt causes weight gain. There’s plenty of ways to enjoy good, satisfying holiday food without stuffing yourself.
Surprisingly, holiday food isn’t all bad
Needless to say, if someone wants to make an honest effort to watch their health at the table, cut back on the booze. Aside from the dangers of overconsumption, alcohol’s high in sugar and calories. Yes, there’s some health benefits to consuming red wine in moderation, but the jury’s still out on the complete picture.
If the centerpiece of the big feast is a turkey, you’re in luck – turkey is a lean form of protein that’s lower in calories and fat than beef. Turkey’s got other benefits, too – it’s rich in selenium, an element which helps the thyroid function and has antioxidant properties. Turkey flesh is also rich in phosphorus, B vitamins and the amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan doesn’t make one sleepy but it does help the body make niacin and serotonin, which helps balance moods. Just make sure the turkey isn’t fried. The added fat from frying won’t help anyone, and the frying itself can be dangerous if not done very carefully.
Side dishes can be healthy, too. Even if slightly cooked, the roughage of vegetables and some fruits set the stage for healthy digestion. Spinach makes for a great side salad and it’s fantastically good for the consumer. Rich in fiber and a source of multiple minerals and vitamins, spinach can play a delicious role at the table year-round.
Broccoli’s also great for you. Potatoes, provided they’re not fried or accompanied by too much cheese and sour cream, contain beneficial antioxidants. Fruits like strawberries and blueberries are rich in vitamin C and appear to have other benefits.
Come to the table with a strategy
Writing for Group Health Cooperative, Alisa Hideg, M.D., suggests several ways eaters can come up with a strategy before big meals. She recommends starting out with a glass of water as a calorie-free way to fill up. Hideg also recommends starting with fruit and vegetable plates, and eating slowly to allow the digestive system to send the “I’m full” message to the brain. Nutritionist Lisa Young, MD, offers further tips in the Huffington Post.
It’s fine if you splurge occasionally. Like Bob Cratchit said, it’s only once a year. But there’s some simple things you can do to offset the worst of the season’s excesses and still enjoy a tasty, fulfilling meal. Also, if you want to change your lifestyle, New Year’s Day is right around the corner. Make a healthy resolution!
The Sovereign Health Group is a leading treatment provider for behavioral health and substance abuse disorders. If you or a loved one is dealing with health-related stress, please call our 24/7 helpline to learn more about the programs we offer. A healthier life can begin today.
Written by Brian Moore, Sovereign Health Group writer