"How can I have fun, but avoid gaining weight, during the holidays?"
It's the most common question I get this time of year-an occupational hazard of being a registered dietitian, I guess. But it's no wonder everyone wants to know: from Thanksgiving to New Year's, the holidays are all about the food. And not just any food, but the rich celebration foods we look forward to all year long. When forgoing these foods just isn't an option, follow these 7 tips and tricks to stay in your skinny jeans all season long.
1. Lighten up. Give your favorite traditional recipe a healthy makeover that preserves its original deliciousness so it can still fit into your eating plan. That green bean casserole you love might be just as wonderful, or even better, if you replace the canned mushroom soup with fresh mushrooms and skim milk as we do in our healthier version. It's just one of many favorite recipes-from creamy soups to sinful desserts-we've made healthier without sacrificing flavor.
2. Choose wisely. While some holiday foods are essential, you might feel less strongly about others. Why not trim those foods from the menu (or leave them off your plate if you're at someone else's house)? That gives you more leeway to enjoy your "must-haves."
3. Plan ahead. If you're going to a holiday party or restaurant, find out what's on the menu ahead of time, and decide what you're going to eat. That way you can adjust the rest of your day's eating accordingly.
4. Bring your own. If you're going to an event where you know the foods served will be too rich for you, offer to bring along your own dish to share. Find healthy, but delicious recipes for appetizers, desserts and more that are perfect for sharing.
5. Navigate the buffet table. Inspect the offerings first before loading up your plate. Make your first trip for vegetables and salad, then go back for small portions of the richer fare.
6. Think small. If you want to have your holiday fruitcake and eat it, too, try simply controlling portions. A salad plate or kid-size plate is perfect for your main meal. Use a small bowl for soup and a white-wine glass instead of a big red-wine glass.
7. Focus on the fun, not the feast. Spend more time in conversation and enjoying the entertainment than worrying about what's on your plate.
By Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D.
Brierley's interest in nutrition and food come together in her position as an associate editor at EatingWell. Brierley holds a master's degree in Nutrition Communication from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. A Registered Dietitian, she completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Vermont.
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