Healthier holiday snacking
Image Credit: emma@vanillasplash via Flickr
Snacking is a great idea, but during the holidays when candy and sweets surround us, it may be tempting to snack more often than usual.
Is it hunger or something else?
Before reaching for a bite of something, ask yourself if you are hungry. This might sound silly at first, but remember that we don’t always eat because we are hungry. Sometimes we eat because we’re bored, stressed, or simply because something tastes good. Other times, we may be offered a holiday treat by a friend, but don’t want to say “No, thanks!”, so it becomes easier to accept that homemade delicious cookie (and then the second, and the third) without even hesitating to ask your body if it wants it.
“Lead me not into temptation”
Do you keep candy in your office? Think about where that candy dish is located if you do. Keep it out of your direct vision so that you’re not eating for the wrong reasons. When hunger strikes and if you should choose to have some, then you can make the conscious decision to go for it. An even better option would be to forego the candy dish in your office to lead yourself not into temptation.
Habits to pick up, for the holidays and all year.
You might notice that Registered Dietitians often have snacks on them. It is smart to keep your hunger at bay to prevent an out of control hunger attack, which can creep up when you’ve gone all day without eating. Before you know it, you’re ready to eat anything in sight not making any conscious decision on how it will make you feel afterwards or when enough is enough. Keep your metabolism active with eating something about every 4 hours or less.
Take a tip from the pros. Carry a healthier, nutritious snack with you whenever possible. This does require a little thinking ahead, but it doesn’t have to be big. Start small, so you don’t have to worry too much about preparation when grabbing something on your way out the door. String Cheese, trail mix, a piece of fruit (think banana, tangerine, apple), or even a granola bar can all fit easily into a purse or bag or be tucked away in an office. Aim for snacks to be less than 300 calories, and whenever possible, avoid snacks which are sold in plastic packaging because these tend to be more processed and less nutritious.
When given the option to separate a small portion from the whole container, always do. You will have a better idea of how much you are consuming. This means if you’re at home on the sofa watching your television show’s season finale and you want to dive into the pretzels, take a small amount (say, a handful) and leave the bag in the kitchen. Or if you go to the theater to catch that great flick that came out on Christmas and the person with you insists on getting some buttery popcorn, get yourself a cardboard box and portion out the amount you think you should have, so that you’re in control.
Snacking is a great way to stay energized and control your weight, but only when choosing healthy options. With that said, it doesn’t mean you have to restrict yourself completely during the holidays. Mindfulness, preparation, and portion control are keys to success when it comes to eating healthy.
Let them eat cake…but in moderation!
If you feel like you’re out of control with poor eating habits during the holidays, don’t beat yourself up or you may fuel the fire and continue to make unhealthy food choices. So you ate 2 pieces of cake at that wedding? Let it go, and do better the next day. Just remember that it’s okay to splurge now and then, but healthy snacking all year long will resonate to healthy habits carried through the New Year.
A great way to become more mindful of your snacking habits is to start keeping a log of everything you are eating, including how much and what you were doing and/or feeling. Keeping a food journal, even for a couple days, can help you tune into your eating and honor your hunger. Before you know it, you’re paying more attention to how much snacking and what types of foods you’ve been having long after the journaling ends.
For more advice on healthy eating, consult your registered dietitian. Gym memberships spike after the start of each New Year, but consider how much easier it is to make good food choices than to burn off the calories of bad food choices! Contact an RD in your area today to help you reach your goals and implement healthy practices to last a lifetime.
Written by Ladan Tehrani, MS Candidate in Nutritional Science and Community Nutrition Chair for the CDA Orange District Dietetic Association