Can you believe it is already that time of year? The holidays are here! It is the time for family, friends, festivities, traditions and best of all, lots of food. There is only one day officially dedicated to Thanksgiving and one day officially dedicated to Christmas. However, now many have gatherings with friends, coworkers and different sides of the family, to where multiple days end up being a “Thanksgiving” and “Christmas” celebration. Oh, and how can we forget New Years to end it all? Cocktails, finger foods galore, snacking late at night; the temptations become quite the struggle. People end up with mindset at the beginning of the season to go with the “holidays excuse” for why their healthy lifestyle and goals fell off the bandwagon. The average person gains 6 pounds over the holiday’s, with intentions of making weight loss their New Year’s resolution all over again; they make it a constant cycle and promise that they will not do it the following year. As a nutrition professional, I see it every year! Is it possible to stay on track during these months of the year while still enjoying the festive foods? Does it have to be all or nothing as you build your plate? I am here to assure you, yes it is possible and no, it does not have to be all or nothing. It is the beauty of moderation.
I take the holidays to teach my clients the greatest lessons when it comes to food and a healthy lifestyle; all it takes is one year of them actually putting the advice into practice. They return feeling completely satisfied with the food they ate, engaged normally in the social comradery and came out knowing they no longer need to plan on buying bigger pants during the winter months. When it comes to a healthy lifestyle and diet, the word “moderation” is thrown around a lot. Sometimes people tend to take that word a bit too lightly and “moderation” of “treats” is done regularly throughout the day to where it all adds up in the end. I believe there is a difference between portions and moderation. When coaching, portions are taught to clients to be the proper sizes of the three macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates and fats. Each person has a different set of needs in order to reach their health goals and maintain them, including different amounts of food. Examples of healthy portions would be 4 ounces of chicken breast with ½ a sweet potato and 1 cup of vegetable medley drizzled in ½ tablespoon of olive oil. So, then what is moderation? In coaching, I teach moderation as “treating” yourself to something you wouldn’t have on a daily basis. For example, instead of having ice cream every single day, having it once a week, even with their favorite topping. If one is engaging in healthy choices six out of seven days of the week, one ice cream sundae is not going to make or break their progress.
Now, here we are, at Thanksgiving and there is not just ice cream we are needing to moderate. There is green bean casserole (don’t be fooled by the green bean name), mashed potatoes and gravy, creamed corn, turkey, biscuits and pies in every flavor. Typically, guests fill up their plates with all they can fit the first time around, and then go back for seconds and thirds (still with full plates) to get the rest. Now I am just talking about dinner here, we haven’t even reached dessert yet! So, how do we get this under control? Thanksgiving and festive celebration plates can be made and portioned just like any other day. All it takes is looking at your plate and splitting it in thirds.
One third of your plate should be set for protein. This should be roughly 4 ounces of turkey or meat of choice and appearing to be the size of your palm. It’s a special occasion, so lightly top with gravy if you choose. However, remember it is gravy with your turkey, not turkey with your gravy! Now here comes the fun part: filling one-third with all the carbohydrate choices. Carbohydrates include mashed potatoes, corn, dinner rolls, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, stuffing, etc. Moderation becomes key and don’t worry, you do not have to choose just one. Fill the spot reserved for your carb source with a small portion of each dish you would like to have. This allows for you to still have it, enjoy it and move on to the next one. Again, since it is a special occasion, instead of a whole dinner roll, add just half in addition to the carb spread created. Lastly, fill the final third with vegetables. No, creamed corn and green bean casserole do not count! I am sure you are wondering who brings vegetables to the holidays? Well, you do! Set the example and throw together a fresh, healthy veggie dish. Vegetables do not have to mean bland and boring. Try something like roasted brussel sprouts and bacon or a decadent salad with berries and roasted pecans. Everyone loves bacon and the pecans will be a sneak preview of the pie for dessert.
Time for the meal to settle has passed and your feeling good while everyone else is dying for a carb overload nap. You know what that means? First dibs on dessert for you! Normally, pies are cut into 6 or 8 slices. Take that one slice, and from there cut it in half; that is a proper dessert portion. If you want a dollop of whip cream, top with 2 tablespoons or nearly the size of both your thumbs. Dinner was filling because it contained more protein and fat to keep you satiated. I am sure some of the desserts will definitely be fat filled, but the real issue is sugar. Sugar is the biggest culprit when it comes to wanting and craving more than your body really needs causing overeating. Stick to what you know and enjoy the portion you have. Sugar is sweet, but its intentions for sticking to your diet are not!
Think of the holidays like this: All other days of the week when following a healthy lifestyle, you are completely satisfied portioning your food this way. So do these days have to be any different? Allow yourself to indulge a little, but the end result does not have to leave you and the scale fighting from November to January. The fun and enjoyment of this time of year can still continue, all while feeling good in your favorite pair of pants. It is AboutTime to get in the holiday spirit!