With the holidays here, you’re likely attending more parties and festivities than any other time of year. And while you should enjoy seasonal gatherings if they suit you, you don’t have to pack on extra pounds to carry into next year.
“The most important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle during the holidays is planning,” said Vero Beach nutritionist Samantha Lynch, MS, RD, CDN, who has devoted her career to advising business executives, entertainers, professional athletes and everyday families on how to achieve their wellness goals. “With all the holiday lunches and parties, you need to pick the ones that are important to you. You don’t have to say yes to everything,” and end up gaining weight from a lot of extra food and sweets.
“Wear something fitted, and you will be less inclined to overeat,” Lynch continued. “The fitted attire will serve as a mindful reminder to slow down on the cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and pastries. And never arrive to a party with an empty stomach. Having a snack containing fiber, fat and protein prior to the party will take the edge off your hunger and enable you to make healthy choices.”
Alcohol not only lowers your inhibitions, but it can rapidly increase your calorie intake, so be aware of what you are drinking. Lynch suggests alternating an alcoholic beverage with a club soda with a splash of cranberry juice to keep the calories at bay. Since alcohol metabolizes as a carbohydrate, stick to lean protein and vegetables for your dinner choices if you are drinking.
“If you are eating from a buffet, opt for a smaller plate if available and put one serving of protein, carbs and vegetables on the plate,” Lynch said. “So many make the mistake of taking a hefty serving of one item and going back for the next. If you put it all on your plate at once and pay attention to satiation clues, you’ll fare better than making multiple trips to the buffet.
“It takes about 20 or 30 minutes for your body to register that you are satiated or full. Eat your balanced servings, and if you still feel hungry after 30 minutes you can get more.”
Better yet, focus on being a social butterfly and not on the food; stay away from the buffet and indulge yourself in lively conversation. Another subtle trick is for women to carry a clutch instead of a purse as it’s nearly impossible to hold a drink and a clutch and still be able to snack on Christmas cookies.
Once the holiday parties are over, it’s time to focus on healthy New Year’s resolutions.
“Healthy eating is not a diet but a change in lifestyle,” said Lynch. “Portion control and balanced meals are the key to maintaining healthy weight for the rest of your life. Portion sizes have expanded in America to the point that today’s average dinner plate wouldn’t even fit in a standard cupboard 50 years ago. I always suggest taking a smaller lunch plate to restrict the serving size when possible. Half of your plate should be filled with vegetables, and the other half split with carbohydrates and protein. I tend to direct people to a higher protein diet because it is more satiating and helps regulate the blood sugar level. In general, 30 percent of your daily calorie intake should come from protein with the average man requiring 56 grams and the average woman 46 grams.
“Fiber from fruits, vegetables and darker carbs are also integral parts of a healthy diet. Very few of us eat enough fiber and are missing out on the valuable energizing nutrients and disease preventing antioxidants that they contain. Women should have a daily intake of 25 grams of fiber and men 35 grams.”
Of course, most of us know that we should limit white carbs like the inside of potatoes, pasta and rice as well as nutrient-deficient sweets like candy and pastry.
“If you love candy then I suggest you build it in to your diet instead of depriving yourself entirely,” Lynch advised. “But be sure to use all five senses to experience the candy. Don’t eat it when you are anxious, upset or depressed. Instead, commit to it when you are seated away from distractions and truly enjoy it. The first bite is always the best, so chew it slowly and enjoy the taste, feel and smell. Then take another bite and another. If the third bite doesn’t meet your expectation, then put it down and say it’s not worth it. Throw it in the garbage and walk away.”
Taking time to enjoy your food is a mindful message reiterated by Lynch time and time again.
Part of feeling fulfilled is the visual and sensual component of the experience. Take prepackaged foods out of their containers and put them on a plate or in a bowl. Even though you can eat yogurt out of the prepackaged cup doesn’t mean you should. Putting it in a bowl and topping it with blueberries will make it more satisfying and far more enjoyable.
While the goal is to enjoy the holidays without the guilt or expanding waistline, you may find that you still gained a couple of pounds. If that’s the case, eat sensibly following the same tips and remember that the slower the weight comes off, the longer it stays off.
A pound a week is a realistic goal to achieve. Do that every week if it is appropriate and by the end of 2022 you’ll be 50 pounds lighter.
Samantha Lynch graduated in 2009 from New York University with a master’s degree in Clinical Nutrition and completed her Dietetic Residency at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Manhattan. She’s the former co-director of nutrition at Reebok Sports Club in New York, where she also ran a private nutrition counseling practice. Lynch relocated to Vero Beach in 2014 and sees patients at her office located at 980 E. Causeway Blvd.
Visit samanthalynchnutrition.com for more information or call 772-410-4611 to book a virtual or in person appointment.