When holidays arrive, food is often the center of social connections for events and occasions. Much of the food prepared is “comfort” food: food that is traditionally loaded with salt and sugar. Choosing what to eat and how much of it to eat can become daunting. There are several techniques that can be applied to help you decide what to eat to maintain your health and current weight.
Many people find that they easily put on 5 or 10 new pounds after eating during the holidays. The first technique to apply to maintain current weight is to control portions. Sometimes, when there is so much food to be had, even “a little of this, and a little of that” can become a plate piled higher than you imagined it would be!
Portion control can be done in a variety of ways. First, you can decide to use a smaller plate to cut down on portions. Then stick with that one plate of food without going back for seconds. The second way to control portions is to not allow any of the food chosen to touch. This leaves space on the plate that would normally be filled to the very edges. The third way to control portions is to use the 2 tablespoon method. Many foods have prepared nutrition facts that give 2 tablespoons as a serving size. Using one, a combination, or all of these techniques can help you eat what you need, not just how much you want.
During mealtime, assess the menu and decide if there is anything you don’t feel is necessary to eat to allow you to feel satisfied. If there are foods you can leave off of your plate entirely, this can help you maintain your pre-holiday weight. When assessing the menu, ask yourself what is truly healthy for your body versus what just sounds good. Choose the healthier foods over the least healthy choices.
When you are in charge of preparing the meals, choose recipes that are low in salt and sugar. Some recipes can have substitutes to help make them healthier. Unsweetened applesauce or honey are often a good substitute for sugar in breads, puddings, and cookies. There are also sugar substitutes in a variety of forms that can be cooked and baked into the same recipes you normally use. When using sugar substitutes for lower caloric intake you should follow the directions on the package for the conversions that equal real sugar.
Stevia, Truvia, and PureVia are natural forms of sweetener made from the Stevia Rebaudiana shrub plant. Although, they do have differences. Stevia is made using the whole stevia plant leaf and is truly a natural sweetener.
Truvia has Stevia as its main ingredient, but it also has a chemical called Erythritol that adds volume to the small amount of Stevia that is used. This chemical is extracted naturally from certain fruits, yet there is so little of it in the fruits used that it takes much more fruit than is financially feasible for the company to process. Therefore, it is manufactured through the use of GMO (genetically modified) corn starch that is fermented.
Now for information on PureVia. It has the same ingredients as Truvia, but also adds in a sweetener called Isomaltulose. It is chemically extracted from regular sucrose. It does take less Truvia and PureVia than Stevia to obtain the same amount of sweetness. Generally speaking. Truvia and PureVia are probably not as healthy for the body as the 100% Stevia due to the modifications needed to be made to the additives they contain.
This brings us to Equal and NutraSweet, which are made from aspartame. Sweet N Low and Sugar Twin are made from saccharin. Then, there is Splenda which is made of sucralose. It takes much less saccharin to produce sweetness than aspartame and sucralose.
All of the above have been FDA approved, although there are many debates about the health consequences of using “artificial sweeteners”, though none are proven. They have given people choices for foods that would normally take sugar for sweetness which also includes all of the calories that go along with it. You should do your own research on these different kinds of sweeteners before deciding to use any or all of them.
Should you decide to use artificial sweeteners in holiday foods you prepare, your caloric intake will be much less, than if you use sugar. When choosing to still use sugar in all of your recipes, you will be back to portion control as a way to control your holiday calories. This is also not necessarily a bad decision, either.
As the holidays approach, you may consider upping the amount of exercise you are doing on a daily or weekly basis. Continuing the extra exercises during the holidays will help you control weight gain, in addition to portion control. The additional exercise will boost your metabolism, especially helping for the times you do eat more than you had planned.
Add an extra walk around the block, a few more trips up and down the stairs, or some extra repetitions of other exercises you incorporate into your routine. You may choose to add entirely new types of exercise to the ones you currently perform. Anything that boosts your physical activity on a daily basis will help burn extra calories.
With the portion control and extra exercise, you may even find that you will drop a few pounds when the holiday season has passed! If you are just able to maintain your current weight that is admirable, though! If you should back slide a little and put on a few extra pounds instead, just remember that it isn’t the end of the world! Once regular eating patterns are established again, you will most likely see the extra weight melt away.
Should you gain the holiday “few” continue to keep your exercise routine upped will help, also. Keep in mind that the holidays are not a time to deprive yourself of the good foods you have been looking forward to eating! All food eaten in moderation will still leave you satisfied that you have not missed out on any of the good stuff! Happy Eating, Happy Exercising, and Happy Holidays!