Don’t Let The Holiday Dinner Undo Your Hard Work


     My daughter-in-law is in weight loss mode too and both of us will be guests for Easter dinner this year rather than preparing the meal ourselves. Yesterday she asked me for some tips on how to make the healthiest possible choices when the meal preparation is out of your hands. I thought I would share with you the thing she and I jointly came up with. Maybe these tips will help you stay on track even around tempting holiday treats.

     The first thing I do when planning for a meal out is try to get an idea of what the menu choices may be. This is true even when dining with family or friends. People are usually anxious to share what they will be preparing. In some cases you may already know. For instance, on Thanksgiving and Christmas our family has traditional dishes that are pretty much the same each time. I have even used SparkPeople Recipes to find calorie counts for some of my favorites, like my Dad’s famous German Chocolate Cake. If you know what will be served you can get an estimate of calories using online tools like those available from SparkPeople.  Once I have an idea of the calories in the primary dishes I am able to do a pre-meal estimate that is very helpful in making choices.  I then plan an entire day’s eating around the foods I plan to eat at that meal. I make sure to have good nutrition through out the day, but often with smaller calorie intake for each of the other meals.

     The next tip I learned from my friend Nancy. Take a food item with you that you know is good for your diet plan. If your hostess is open to the idea, offer to  bring a dish to share. Most people appreciate the contribution and you will have a “go to” dish that is diet friendly if nothing else seems to be or if you are still hungry after proper servings sizes of higher calorie foods.

     Offset with exercise. If you decide to indulge  more than usual, account for the calories and burn off extra by doing more exercise BEFORE the event. EARN the right to go over in calories. Always put in the work first to make sure you won’t just let the extra calories pile up. As an example, my friend Russ and his family were planning to attend a spaghetti supper fund raiser so they did the calorie calculations and then scheduled a family walk for before the event. They doubled their family time and were able to stay on track with their eating plan. What a great choice! How many calories do you burn doing your fitness activities? Use My Fitness Pal to calculate so you can plan accordingly.

     Snack before hand. It may seem odd to say “eat more calories first” but if you go into dinner hungry you are much more likely to over indulge and/or make emotional choices. 20 minutes to an hour before a food centered event my husband and I make a point of grabbing a low-calorie, hunger busting, snack. Look for something with protein. I prefer 100 calorie pack of nuts or a 90 calorie cheeses stick, he prefers a 1/2 cup of cottage chese for 90 calories. If you are unsure of when dinner will be served throw low-calorie snacks in your pocket or purse.

     Practice portion control. Enjoy foods you love in moderation. If you aren’t sure what proper portions look like, check out the blog entry “Size Does Matter“. 

      Try using the three bite rule. The fist bite of a food has the most flavor and is the most satisfying. The first bite is so good in fact that it often leaves you longing for a second, but satisfaction dwindles from there. After three bites it usually falls into mindless eating. So limit yourself to three bites of indulgent foods.

     Choose fresh foods over processed. Go raw when you can. Raw fruit and veggies are very filling and rather low in calories. Go light on dips, dressings, and sauces though. Those calories can add up fast. If not raw then chose  foods that have little added or taken away. Highly processed foods are often harder for the body to break down.  Stay away from “empty carbs” like those found in white breads, rice, pasta, and processed sugars even if you aren’t a “low carb” dieter. These foods affect the blood sugar in negative ways, slowing the metabolism. Avoid saturated fat and trans fats .  “Low fat” or “fat-free” is only a good option if the product isn’t pumped full of extra “empty carbs” in their place, as is often the case. Opt for foods cooked without oils and butter. If it’s smothered in gravy, glaze, or cream sauce, say no. Choose “good fats” such as those found in nuts, avocado, and fish. Opt for lean meats when you can.  Look for foods seasoned with herbs and spices. These are usually the healthies and lower in calories than things that are breaded or sauced.  Some food prep methods are clearly more healthful and calorie friendly than others. The chart below includes some key words to listen for to help determine if  a food is good choice or a bad one from a health and weight loss perspective.

     Drink water before and during your meal. If you are properly hydrated you will feel less hungry and some other drinks (especially those with artificial sweeteners) can cause you to be more likely to crave that second helping or to want to sneak back for something soon after the meal. Water has no calories and this will leave you more calories for the delicious holiday fare.

     If you are using the “Get Out Of Diet Guilt Free” cards stick with the plan. Don’t use more “cheats” during the holiday dinner than you have available or are willing to go without for the rest of the week. Remember one card is one cheat. I use three cards a week and each cards is good for 1 proper serving size of a “treat” food. If I eat a large piece of cake I can burn up all my cheats in one shot. I don’t want to do that.

     A little planning can go a long way. I hope these tips were helpful!

     Have a happy and healthy Easter holiday!

In a nutshell, "Eat Smart". A big thank you to my friend Carol for sharing this piece of wisdom.


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