The holidays are an exciting time of the year for most of us. Traditionally Thanksgiving represents time we spend with family and friends celebrating over yummy meals and exciting seasonal treats. Often, we overindulge on delicious foods because they emerge once a year and we want to enjoy them while we can. I must admit, I have been daydreaming about my Thanksgiving plate set up since the middle of October. I grew up in a large family and all our family gatherings were centered around food, not just Thanksgiving and Christmas. If we were together, we were eating! According to the Calorie Control Council, a typical holiday turkey dinner can add up to over 3,000 calories and more than 150 grams of fat. This doesn’t even account for the additional snacking and drinks we sneak before and after the main course. The truth of the matter is I’m just as guilty as the next of feasting of seasonal cuisines without practicing mindful eating habits such as self-control and proper portion sizes. As much as I enjoy a good meal, I clearly remember how miserable I am after going back for seconds and thirds. This year let’s practice healthier eating habits early in the holiday season to help us maintain healthy waistline moving into the new year.
Portion control is important when we fix our plate. The CDC reports people unintentionally consume more calories when faced with larger portions. My family typically pushes multiple tables together and everyone places their homemade dishes out – with open rein to eat as much and as many times during the day. This leads to excessive calorie intake and larger than normal proportions, especially when eating foods high in calories. Let’s look at what healthy plate portions should ideally look like when your plate is prepared.
· Fruits and vegetables should make up ½ of your plate. Aim for color and variety. Potatoes and French fries do not count.
· Whole grains make up ¼ of your plate. Whole grains have a milder effect on blood sugar and insulin levels than white bread and rice, and other refined grains.
· Protein should make up ¼ of your plate. Healthy proteins include fish, chicken, beans, and nuts. Limit red meat and avoid processed meats.
· Dairy amounts vary based on age. In general, we need 2-3 servings according to the USDA.
I look forward to family gatherings each year just like most Americans. I believe we face internal struggles with maintaining our healthy lifestyle during the holiday season. It’s easy to justify overeating because the food is so delicious, and rooted in family traditions. This year let’s try something different. Don’t go to the table starving. Don’t skip meals just to eat larger portions and if you get hungry in between meals, have a healthy snack like a small salad or a piece of fruit. Eat slowly and enjoy your food. Give yourself permission to eat your favorite holidays dishes, but remember to stop when you feel full, not past full. Remember to enter the holiday season with a good mantra – Stuff Turkey, Not yourself! After all, the leftovers will be delicious!