By 1st Lt. Dana Larsen
Special to GUIDON
Thanksgiving marks what many would consider the start of the holiday season.
For some, the holiday season is synonymous with seasonal cups of sugary drinks. For others, it’s a baked ham on Thanksgiving, or a heaping scoop of grandma’s mac n’ cheese.
Thanksgiving in particular is associated with food, family, friends and feasting for most. Evidence suggests that people gain on average one to two pounds over the holiday season. Following these tips can help you enjoy the holidays without packing on the extra weight:
— Do not skip meals. Many people will skip breakfast or lunch in anticipation of the feast to come. However, this can lead to overeating and peaks and crashes in your blood sugars, which can leave you feeling even more fatigued.
— Get up, get out, and get active. Establish new family traditions of racing the local turkey trot, taking the dogs for a walk or playing a game of football.
— Choose low-calorie or zero-calorie beverages. It is much easier to drink our calories than eat our calories. One five-ounce glass of red wine and one-ounce (shot) of hard alcohol has on average 120 and 100 calories, respectively. Additionally, most people don’t tend to snack on fruits and vegetables when they have had too much to drink.
— Start your meal with a salad and soup course. Soups and salads tend to be lighter-fare and can help fill you up. Be mindful of how much dressing and what toppings you are putting on your salad. A salad with bacon, cheese, croutons, nuts, dried fruit, wonton crackers and dressing can easily have more calories than a cheeseburger. Opting for an olive oil and vinegar-based dressing would be a better choice than a creamy dressing like ranch. If you like creamy dressing, consider a Greek yogurt-based dressing. For soups, consider a broth-based rather than a cream-based soup.
— Bake, don’t fry the meat. Baking the meat, whether turkey or ham, is a better choice than deep frying. Baking, in addition to removing the skin from the meat, will help to eliminate empty calories from added fats. One tablespoon of oil packs about 100 calories. A serving size of meat is roughly three to four ounces, which looks like a deck of cards or the size of your palm. Protein is more filling than carbohydrates, so don’t skip the protein. Or, if you really wanted to spice it up, consider a lean vegetarian source of protein such as fish or tofu as the main entree.
— Eat intuitively. Eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full. If we are looking at a fullness scale from one to 10, you ideally want to start eating around a three and stop eating around a seven. If you are at the point where you feel the need to unbutton your pants and go lie down, you have overeaten. Many of my patients will tell me they are going to go “all out for the holidays.” I remind them to remember their goals and motivating factors. There are no cheat days in life. If you are getting enough variety in your diet, not restricting yourself from foods throughout the year, it makes the temptation to binge on a holiday less appealing.
— Take a 20-minute break between dinner and dessert. It can take up to 20 minutes for your stomach to let your brain know that you are full. Use that 20 minutes to get up and move around.
If you, your spouse, or kids need help navigating nutrition through the holidays, don’t hesitate to reach out to the nutrition clinic at 573.596.1762.
No referral is needed to make an appointment. The clinic offers both group and individual appointments.
Remember: eating healthy throughout the holidays without feeling deprived is possible.
(Editor’s note: Larsen is the outpatient chief of the Nutrition Care Division at General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital.)