By Sherri Rule, RD, IC®
Registered Dietitian, Nutrition and Wellness/Diabetes Education, UP Health System – Marquette
From the turkey and dressing, cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving to the delicious desserts, treats for Santa and eggnog at Christmas, the holidays are one of the hardest times of year to eat healthy. In fact, studies show that the average adult gains one to two pounds every year during Thanksgiving and Christmas. While this is a small increase, over the course of 10, 20 and 30 years, an individual’s weight gain could be as much as 60 pounds.
At UP Health System, our mission is Making Communities Healthier, which is why we are pleased to offer these five tips to help everyone across the U.P. eat a little healthier this holiday season.
Drink lots of water. Often times thirst can be disguised as hunger and lead folks to eat when they may just need to hydrate. Carry a water bottle around with you and sip on it throughout the day. Aim for at least 64 ounces of water every day; those who exercise regularly should have a little more.
Stay away from sugary drinks. Soft drinks, bottled tea, smoothies and fruit drinks, and, yes, the adult beverages, pack a whole lot of calories. On top of that, they are also often high in sugar, which can take a real toll on your waistline. For those who can’t kick the sugary habits completely, try switching to a diet version or limiting sugary drinks to one per day.
Forego the appetizers. Chips and dip, snack mix and cheese trays can quickly pile on calories. Instead of snacking before the main course, try sipping on water. It will boost your daily water intake and keep mindless munching to a minimum. Furthermore, studies show that people who drink a glass of water before every meal tend to lose more weight than those who just jump right into a meal. The reason may be because the extra water makes people feel fuller and not overeat.
Watch your portions. Whether it’s the giant serving of mashed potatoes or a second-helping of sweet potato pie, portion size is key to maintaining a healthy weight. And it’s hard to do during the holidays, particularly since acceptable portion sizes have grown so much in the last 30 years. What is an appropriate portion? One easy way to serve the right portion is by comparing it to the size of a deck of cards or a medium-sized fist. There are many little tricks that can help people keep their portions in order – everything from starting with a small plate and eating slowly to leaving a third of the dish on the plate.
Just pick one – dessert that is. When it comes to the dessert tray, it’s easy to have a nibble of each treat. But with every bite, the calories and sugar pile up, causing your blood sugar levels to spike. So this holiday season, instead of trying one of everything on the dessert table, just pick one.
While these tips will prove useful for many, there are 29 million Americans who must pay even closer attention to their holiday eating habits – those living with diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), one in 11 individuals have been diagnosed with some type of diabetes, and an estimated 86 million others are at risk of developing this chronic health condition. These statistics are a big part of the reason ADA hosts American Diabetes Month each November, which happens to coincide with the time of year best known for decadent meals.
ADA offers the following tips to help families dealing with diabetes enjoy the holidays and stay healthy:
- Focus on family and friends, not food.
- Eat slowly and savor the foods you only get to have once a year. Also, try to have the same amount of carbohydrates that you would normally eat, and if you plan to have dessert, cut back on another carbohydrate in the main course.
- Plan ahead. Bring a dish that you like and you know you will enjoy.
- Drink in moderation. If you do indulge in an adult beverage, remember to eat something beforehand to prevent low blood glucose levels later.
- Stay active. Physical activity can you help manage diabetes and your weight during the holidays.
- Get back on track if you overindulged and keep an eye on blood glucose levels.
If this is your family’s first holiday season to deal with diabetes, consult with your primary care physician about how you can stay healthy and still enjoy the holidays. And on behalf of everyone at UP Health System, we hope you all have a safe, happy and healthy holiday season.