As a physician, I can't tell you the number of times a patient has come in for their visit after the holidays, groaning "I definitely overdid during the holidays. I don't even want to get my bloodwork now, it's going to look so bad!" It's also a common observation in many patients that their vital signs, like blood pressure and weight, are out of whack after the holidays. And let's not even talk about the cholesterol results of their labs!
We know tis the season for family gatherings, holiday cheer...and of course, food. And gingerbread, pies, eggnog...you get the idea. But while indulging during the holidays is never something I'd totally discourage (life has to be lived), there are some easy strategies one can employ to minimize the over-indulgence that gets us in trouble in the New Year. Here are some tried and true strategies that work for my patients:
1. Follow the Harvard Health Eating Plate rule.
I love sharing this simple yet effective infographic. It's a great guide to follow year-round, but especially during the holiday season when attending parties and family gatherings. Basically, if filling at least half your plate with fruits and vegetables, you're ensuring that you focus on eating more nutritious food ,and crowd out the less healthy offerings (I'm looking at you, honey-glazed ham!)
2. Eat the less nutritious offerings in small portions after you've followed rule #1.
After you've filled yourself up with green beans, salad and other healthier options, you won't be as hungry when you do choose to eat that mac & cheese and apple pie. That way, you'll likely eat a smaller quantity of the less nutritious offerings, but won't feel as if you've totally deprived yourself. Win-win!
3. Watch the liquid calories:
Sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs) abound during the holidays. Egg nog, apple cider, and holiday cocktails are common accompaniments to our food....but the sugar content of these things can be frightening! Did you know that 4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon? Remember that the next time you look at the nutrition label of that beverage you're drinking. A half cup of eggnog, for example, has 23 grams of sugar in it! (not to mention the saturated fat). It's so easy to mindlessly sip on SSBs, so be careful. Consider drinking water with your meal, and then (maybe) a few sips of your favorite beverage as a treat.
4. Maintain your physical activity during the holidays
Maybe it's the cold weather, or all the partying, but most of us tend to slow down during the holidays. Try to maintain your exercise regimen (or start one!) and try to be mindful of your general amount of physical activity during the winter months. For those that can't get outside, here are some ideas for exercises you can do at home!
I hope these simple strategies can be helpful in getting you through the rest of the year as your most healthful self. Happy holidays!
-Kimberly Rogers, MD