The holidays are quickly approaching, and you likely have numerous parties and visits full of big meals and sugary treats on your schedule. It's all too easy to get caught up in the seasonal spirit and eat too many cookies or have a few too many servings of mashed potatoes. Health-conscious individuals can use the following five tips to keep themselves on track this season and avoid overindulging:
1. Eat before you go out
Have you ever gone grocery shopping on an empty stomach? If so, you know that you're more likely to buy more food than you would if you went shopping while well fed. The same is true of a holiday party. Your eyes are bigger than your stomach, and a rumbling belly will convince you to eat as much of every treat as you can. Plus, you're more likely to go for cheap, unhealthy foods if you're starving. Prepare for the evening by eating a meal full of healthy fats and protein before going out. These nutrients help you feel fuller longer so you're not tempted to overeat.
2. Eat slowly
How quickly do you go through an entire box of cookies? You can probably do so in less than 20 minutes, yet this is the precise amount of time it takes for your brain to register a feeling of fullness. This means it's all too easy to continue eating past the point of being stuffed. Combat this mental trick by eating slowly, which automatically leads you to eat less. One study from the University of Rhode Island found that women who ate slowly consumed fewer calories and drank more water than those who ate quickly.
3. Focus on your food
According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, keeping your eyes off your plate while you snack can lead to overeating. It takes away a very important visual cue, prohibiting you from accurately gauging how much you've already consumed. While at the party, grab a small plate, load it with a few treats and look at each one as you consume them.
4. Freeze any leftovers
If you held the party - or if the host gave you some extra food on your way out - you might find yourself with a ton of sugary leftovers. Don't leave it all out on the counter to tempt you. Freeze the bulk of it instead, leaving a small amount out for the occasional indulgence. Storing leftovers in the freezer lets you exercise greater portion control. Instead of thawing the entire thing when you want a snack, you're more likely to only take out what you need. In addition, keeping leftovers out of sight stops you from eating them too quickly.
5. Treat yourself
Unless your doctor told you otherwise, you don't have to restrict your diet every waking moment. Holiday parties only occur once a year, and it's okay to celebrate with seasonal treats. After all, what's the point of attending if you can't have fun enjoying good company, drinks and food? Moderation is key, and enjoying your food actively ensure you won't spoil yourself too much. In a conversation with Shape Magazine, registered dietician Elizabeth Ward mentioned that people get the most pleasure out of the first few bites.
"Savor a reasonable yet rewarding amount of the holiday foods you absolutely love, and remember that no single meal will wreck your waistline," she told the publication.
The holiday season doesn't have to ruin your efforts to eat healthy, but you don't have to completely abstain either. Use these tips to fully enjoy yourself without indulging too much.