Healthy Holidays: Six Tips for Mindful Eating
Nov 16, 2022
Sutter Health
Full Homemade Thanksgiving Dinner with Turkey Stuffing Veggies and Potatoes

It can be easy to overindulge while making merry. Two nutritionists give tips on how to maintain healthy eating this festive season. 

By Meg Walker, a Vitals contributor 

The holidays are upon us! People are looking forward to spending time with friends and family. Along with the festive atmosphere and holiday cheer, comes tasty appetizers and big meals, and that can test your will power and your waistline.

The truth is that a person can take in between 3,000 and 4,500 calories in a typical traditional Thanksgiving meal, according to Consumer Reports. Compare that to the calories a person generally consumes in a day: depending on your age, gender and level of exercise that can be from 1,800 to 2,500 calories, say dietitians at Northern California integrated health system Sutter Health.

Overeating happens all too quickly, and at this time of year Sutter nutritionists are counseling patients on how to handle holiday eating. Enjoy the events, but take steps to practice healthy eating, they advise.

“Food is a part of making connections with your family and friends,” says Kathy Solis, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes care and education specialist who works in the diabetes education program at Sutter Pacific Medical Foundation. “You want to be part of the group and enjoy the day, but still be cautious of food choices.”

Seema Karnik, manager for nutrition services for Mountain View Nutrition Services at Sutter’s Palo Alto Medical Foundation, adds: “Holidays are a time when we need to be mindful of how far we can go. We need to find a balance between healthy eating and having fun.”

Like most things, moderation and balance are key. To help you include healthy eating into your holidays,  here are some tips from Sutter’s registered dietitians:

Have a strategy

Don’t skip meals the day of the big meal otherwise you will arrive at your holiday party hungry and risk making bad food choices.

Being active or exercising before and after a meal can help cut down calories.

Once you are at the event, concentrate on catching up with friends and family and having good conversations. Play games and spend time outdoors, if possible. Move around, especially if it’s a long, sit-down meal.

Choose healthy foods at your holiday party

Start the meal with soup if that is offered, as it is a good way to cut down your appetite. Focus on what you can add to your plate that is healthy and not calorie-rich. Vegetables are king in this category as they are rich in fiber, which takes longer to digest and can help you feel full on less calories. And choosing colorful vegetables makes a plate look pretty and healthy at the same time. Some choices are squashes, green beans, beets, carrots and different colors of chard.

Also, go for these greens rather than grains such as bread or rolls. Some turkey is fine but go light on stuffing and sauces or gravy.

What about dessert?

If you know you want to have dessert, cut down on other carbohydrates in the meal such as stuffing or bread.

Portion control

Use the healthy plate method: half of your plate should be non-starchy vegetables (examples include broccoli, salad, asparagus, cauliflower, spinach, tomatoes); one quarter of your plate should be protein, including turkey or fish; and one third can be whole grains and starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, corn or peas.

Alcohol – in moderation

If you are going to drink alcohol, try to stick to a 5-ounce glass of wine or one beer or one cocktail. Consider not drinking alcohol if you can’t be moderate.

Be a good guest

Consider bringing your own healthy dish, especially if you have food restrictions.

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