Eat light even around heavy food

If you’re trying to stick to a healthy eating plan, don’t let friends and family guilt you when they cry, “But it’s the holidays! You’re supposed to overeat!” Not so! Even when the food is delicious, one can feel sluggish, slow, and uncomfortable after a large holiday meal. Below are ways to still enjoy every bite of food without having to overeat to feel satisfied. 

Before any big events:
•  Drink more water. That syrupy cocktail, heavy ale, or hot cocoa will just weigh you down. Stick with water instead! The more hydrated you are, the less likely you are to feel hungry, as we often misinterpret thirst as hunger. Drinking water (especially with lemon to kickstart your digestion) before a meal can help you feel full sooner.
•  Snack beforehand. If you’re going to an event where you know there will be heavy food, have a healthy snack before you go so you aren’t tempted to overeat. A handful of granola or almonds, some yogurt, or a few munchable veggies will keep your appetite in check and keep you from going back for seconds.
•  Make your own. If you know the event will be laden with cheesy, creamy, artery-clogging temptations, bring your own healthy dish! Try these recipes for some ideas, or whip up a big salad to share.
•  Don’t starve yourself! Some people skimp on breakfast and lunch if they know they’re in for a big dinner later. This is a terrible plan! When the body is deprived of nutrients over the course of a day, it will take whatever it gets next (like that big, heavy meal) and hold that extra fat in your system just in case it’s deprived again. Eat healthy meals throughout the day!

At the big event:
•  Avoid guilt—just look around! Feeling guilty over indulging produces stress, which is often more harmful (physically and mentally) than the food itself. Instead of feeling guilty, take a look around when you enter the party. If you’re limiting yourself, see what’s available. Pick two things that you’ll allow yourself to indulge in, enjoy them, and move on! Eat healthily in every other respect, and know that it’s okay to indulge once in awhile. Besides, you’re utilizing the other ideas in this article, so there’s no need to feel guilt!
•  Use a smaller plate. You’ve probably heard us say it before, but grabbing a smaller plate is the perfect way to go. Even if you do crowd a small plate with food, you’ll still have smaller portion sizes, keeping your intake under control.
•  Avoid toppings. Think about everything with which we weigh down our food—gravy, whipped cream, cheese sauce. Skip the extras, and save yourself loads of extra fat and calories. Load up on the veggie dishes instead!
•  Eat slowly. When we rush through our food, our brains barely register that we’ve eaten, sending the message that we’re still hungry. Take your time to enjoy every spoonful, set your fork down between bites, chew thoroughly, and you’ll feel satisfied and full sooner without having overindulged.

After dinner/the event:
•  Try tea, not cocoa. Think about your usual after-dinner drinks, whether at a party or at home. Is it a sugary coffee drink loaded with cream and caffeine? What about a rich hot chocolate? Try tea instead! If you add anything, a splash of cream and a dash of sugar are much more healthy than the artificial flavors in gourmet coffee or cocoa, and the nutrients in tea are healthy. Not a fan of tea? Maybe you haven’t found the right one! Pick up a sampler pack or two at the store, or ask your friends to recommend a flavor. If there’s no tea at the party, drink water instead, and settle down with some tea once you get home.
•  Get out there! After a big holiday dinner or celebration, it’s tempting to relax and have a nap. Instead, stay active! Bundle up and go out with the kids to build a snowman by porch light, or just get the whole group together to go for a simple walk around the neighborhood to admire the lights decorating all the houses. A walk can help keep your energy up and help you burn off some of what you just ate. A cup of tea afterwards will warm you right back up again.

Remember, no matter what the event, the focus isn’t on the food—it’s on being together with friends, family, and relatives to celebrate the holiday season. If a relative is giving you guff for avoiding the cheese soup, just smile and let them know you’re serious about keeping healthy!

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