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January 2008: Healthy Holiday Eating Hints

01 Jan 2008

Holly Grant, RD, CDE
Director, Wound Healing Center at Weiss
Wound Healing Center
Weiss Memorial Hospital
Phone: (773) 564-6080
Fax: (773) 564-6076

December has arrived and the holiday season is in full swing! Shopping, wrapping, baking, shipping, and parties fill our already busy lives with many more activities, and, at times, stress. Controlling our weight and blood sugar levels during this time of the year can be especially daunting. Would you like to enjoy the season without adding the seasonal three to six pounds most Americans do each winter? Then here are some healthy holiday eating hints to help keep your eating within reasonable limits.

It is very difficult during the holiday season to go “cold turkey” by abruptly giving up all sweets. A more achievable strategy is to mentally commit to a plan that will help you change your usual behaviors. Use the SMART approach to holiday eating goal setting to help you stay on target.

S = Be Specific. Example: “I will eat fewer sweets this holiday season by changing my eating habits in order to control my weight and/or blood sugar levels.”

M = Measurable. Example: “I will eat sweets no more than two times per week, in portions no larger than 1/2 cup. I will know that I am reaching my goal if there are no major changes in my normal weight or blood sugar levels.”

A = Attainable. (What will I do differently to make my goal achievable?) You have taken the first step toward reaching your goal of healthy holiday eating by carefully thinking about and committing to a plan of action. This is the beginning of your journey, and with your newly mapped out mindset, you have a fresh commitment and attitude to reach your goal. This step is the practical changes you will enact to avoid your old eating habits. (See ideas below!) Example: “I will stay on the other side of the room from where the food table is at holiday parties and drink diet beverages.”

R = Realistic. A goal is realistic if you are willing and able to work toward this objective. In other words, do you truly believe you can achieve the goal of healthier eating and are you committed to this goal? Example: “I know with a commitment to this plan and using the strategies below that I will confidently, albeit slowly, but surely, reach my goal.”

T = Timeframe. Without a timeframe, there is no sense of urgency to achieve your goal. Example: “I will follow this plan through the New Year’s holiday, and at that time assess my success and decide whether I will continue this plan further into January.”

Now that you are mentally committed to your goal of improved eating this season, let’s look at practical ideas to help you along the way.

  • Eat breakfast every day and other meals about every five hours later. This will cut down on hunger pangs, and possible overeating, and keep blood sugar levels steady.
  • Chew your food thoroughly and be conscious of your eating activity. Talking, drinking, dancing, watching TV, etc. while eating distracts you from the sensory involvement and temporary pleasure that food offers. Converse with others between bites and you will consume less overall and allow yourself to recognize that you are full in a faster timeframe. (Will you listen to your body’s signals that you have eaten enough and stop?)
  • Practice portion control. Most food items should not be consumed in portions larger than 1/2 cup or 4 ounces. Milk is the exception -- an 8 ounce portion -- consumed two to three times per day. (Of course, skim milk would be your best choice.)
  • Balance your food choices nutritionally. Have a moderate portion of carbohydrates, protein foods and small amounts of non-animal source fats, with larger portions of fresh fruits and raw vegetables.
  • Before you attend holiday events, eat a small healthy snack of a low fat protein source and fresh fruit and/or vegetable.
  • For buffet style parties, commit to one pass through the food line, eating only one plate of food, instead of going back for several additional helpings. Also, make sure the food item YOU contribute is a low fat, low sugar, healthy dish.
  • Keep track of your body’s status/progress regularly with frequent blood glucose monitoring and body weight measuring on the scale every other day. Be prepared to get right back on track with your goal contract as soon as you find you have been less than disciplined.
  • Gain healthy culinary ideas from the American Diabetes Association, www.diabetes.org, Weight Watchers International, and the American Heart Association.
  • Remember, even maintaining your current weight during the holiday season is like losing weight any other time of the year. So, stay focused, demand 30 minutes of physical activity of yourself five to six days a week, and celebrate the progress that you are making!

Healthy holidays to all!

If you would like further information about managing diabetes or healthy eating strategies, please call Holly Grant at (773) 564-6080 or contact the Wound Healing Center at Weiss at (773) 564-6075.