Holiday meals can be healthy as well as satisfying

Holiday meals can be healthy as well as satisfying
December 08
04:35 2016

Ramon P. Llamas

Guest Columnist

Holiday meals can be healthy as well as satisfying We all know what November means: the beginning of the holidays. We had Thanksgiving; Christmas and New Year’s are coming.

Quality time with the family, office or school holiday parties and seasonal favorites – who can resist pumpkin pie and eggnog, right? The holiday season brings a wide mix of emotions and stress – both good and bad – and the temptation of nostalgic holiday treats can add yet another concern: holiday weight gain.

While eating and merrymaking is both expected and encouraged during these special moments, excessive indulgence can lead to health issues later.

This time of year doesn’t have to be synonymous with weight gain, especially if you approach them with a sound game plan that addresses three important factors to gaining weight: nutrition, fitness and stress management. We’ve compiled a holiday eating game plan with strategies that can help you from gaining those unwanted pounds.

Before-eating tips

*Don’t skip meals – especially breakfast – in anticipation of eating larger holiday meals later on. Research shows people who eat a healthy breakfast tend to consume fewer calories during the day.

*Have a pre-meal. Don’t go to a holiday gathering on an empty stomach. Snack on fruits or vegetables before heading out the door. This will give you a slight feeling of being full, which will help prevent overeating later.

*Plan ahead. Have a plan for self-control, especially when it comes to your most tempting treats. Think ahead about the sights, sounds, aromas and feelings that trigger your personal patterns of overeating, and then make plans to combat these beforehand so they don’t become overwhelming.  Practicing awareness and mindful eating helps reduce the potential for excessive indulgence.

*Manage stress. Healthline ( ) high-lights five effective ways to manage stress during the holiday season.

*Go for healthier alternatives.

Once you are in the game

*Stay hydrated. Sipping on a glass of cold water or ice throughout the event helps keep you feeling full and staves off the dehydration that comes from eating too many high-sugar, high-salt goodies. Dehydration can actually mimic hunger; tempting you to eat more when in reality, you’re just thirsty.

*Practice portion control. It’s nice to dig in to your favorite holiday treats. However, the extra effort required later to work off the calories — or worse, the gaining of unwanted body fat from eating too much — should be reminders for portion control. So, eat what you want, just keep your portions reasonable, chew food slowly and keep return trips to a mini-mum.

*Size matters! The bigger the plate you are eating from, the more food you are likely to eat. Use smaller plates at the buffet line as they can help with portion control.

*Be Mindful. Eat food because you’re hungry, not because it’s there. Make a deliberate decision to control so-called recreational eating. Eat with your appetite, not with your eyes. Examine what’s available, and then decide what you really want.

*Eat slowly. The stomach needs about 20 minutes to tell the brain that it’s feeling full. But when food is gulped down, by the time the stomach sends its fullness signal to the brain, you’ve probably already eaten too much food and too many calories. Fill up your plate, eat slowly and then put the brakes on for a while so that your stomach can send its fullness signal to your brain.

*Veg out on veggies first. Filling up on healthy, low-calorie, high-fiber vegetables instead of high-fat, high-sugar, high-salt and high-caffeine treats will make you feel full without the drawbacks of dehydration, nervousness, weight gain and overeating.

*Share the holiday spirit – and your food. Save calories by splitting treats with another person.

*Enjoy yourself. They don’t call it “the most wonderful time of the year” for nothing! But rather than focusing on food, allow yourself to enjoy the personal relationships, meaning of the season, personal reflections, renewed spiritual dedication, holiday games, fun and memories you’re blessed to have.

*Remember that healthy eating is only half the battle. You also need to stay physically active.

Happy holidays!

Ramon Paolo Llamas has worked in a variety of settings in the public health and healthcare fields since 2005. Ramon is currently a freelance consultant and blogger based in Durham, NC. He writes for Men’s Health Network. Connect with him via Twitter, @RandomRPL, or on his website ,

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