Almost every holiday is associated with some kind of dietary decadence. Halloween has bags of candy, while Valentine’s Day has boxes of it. Thanksgiving has pumpkin pie, gravy, three-story mounds of mashed potatoes, and sweet potato casserole smothered in marshmallows. Birthdays have cakes, New Year’s Eve has champagne, and the Fourth of July has burgers and dogs.
That’s not even including the slew of smaller holiday parties, anniversary celebrations, or other special events that might as well be subtitled “just one more margarita.”
Here’s the trick with treats: We don’t want to legislate a no-fun zone when it comes to eating otherwise off-limits foods during the holidays. We do not advocate perfection, because we know it’s not always possible. Nor should you feel like you have to have a birthday cake made of hummus.
But there’s something to be said for moderation. That is, even during times of celebration, you can manage your cravings, refrain from overeating, and avoid pummeling your insides with nougat-filled artery killers.
When you attack your insides multiple times a week, you’re asking for a whole host of problems, ranging from the destruction of arteries to changing the bacteria in your gut. Save your indulgences for special occasions—birthdays, holidays, weddings, and so on.
You can mitigate some of the damage from holiday eating with a smart and holistic approach using behavioral tactics (like going to the nut jar, instead of the chip and dip bowl), as well as limiting your exposure to sugary, processed, or high-calorie foods.
And perhaps the smartest choice you can make is never attending a celebration hungry. A fiber-rich snack like fruit or whole grains 20 to 30 minutes before a party will help you control your hunger and make you less likely to vacuum up marsh-mallow treats.
Although every holiday, family, and tradition is different, here are some basic strategies you can employ when faced with myriad pant-splitters around every corner:
Water can be your main protector, distractor, and healer during the holidays. Why? Well, for one thing, it can help you manage your hunger so you’re less likely to overeat (sneaking one Halloween candy can very quickly turn into a barrage of 234 Snickers Minis).
Additionally, sipping water in between alcoholic beverages can slow down your drinking pace. Because alcohol may inhibit your decision making, you’re more likely to eat a lot of bad stuff when you’re buzzed. Water can slow everything down and hold off that temptation.
Plus, holding a water glass in your left hand while shaking hands or gesturing with your right leaves no hands for food. And that’s not to mention all the other benefits of drinking water, such as keeping your digestive system moving, easing symptoms of hangovers, and avoiding headaches (they’re often caused by dehydration).
Drinking plenty of water—especially in the throes of temptation—will help you pump the brakes so that you can still enjoy some of your favorite foods without paying too steep a toll.
The veggie tray :
There’s no better way to counteract the effects of chocolate treats than by mixing in plenty of veggies. That goes for your plate at a holiday dinner or as munchies when you’re at a party.
Besides being, uh, peppered with all sorts of polyphenols that build antioxidants and health-promoting compounds, veggies are also filled with fiber, which will help curb temptation. When you’re having one too many appetizers/drinks/helpings, make a conscious effort to weave in carrot sticks, green beans, and a salad.