By John R. Ratliff, Boomerang staff writer
There it is, spread out before you: the feast of all feasts, a seemingly never-ending array of succulent meats, savory sides and decadent desserts to enjoy with the ones you love. The holidays provide an excuse to indulge, and there is nothing wrong with that, provided you know what effects over-indulgence can have on your physical and emotional health. You can make healthy choices that allow you to enjoy the bounty of the season but avoid paying for it later.
Suddenly changing our eating habits - to the healthy or to the indulgent - can challenge our bodies. Positive changes (e.g., lowering fat and calories) and negative ones (overeating, loading up on sweets) can equally affect our energy levels and as our ability to fight disease and remain in control of our health. Ohio's Healthy U Program reminds us that it is okay to change what we eat for the holidays, as long as we stay true to how we eat during the rest of the year.
- Eat a variety of foods - We eat things at holiday gatherings that we will not have any other time of the year. The key is to maintain variety in our diets: we need a balance of proteins, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins and minerals. Be careful when you indulge that you don't increase one nutrient to the exclusion of another. For example, go ahead and have that extra helping of turkey, but make sure it's not in place of your vegetable or starch servings.
- Eat throughout the day - Our bodies use energy all day, so it's important to space meals out. However, when facing the big holiday feast, many of us will skip breakfast or lunch "to save room" for the momentous meal. Doing so can lead to crashes in energy levels and affect your mood. Space regular meals and snacks throughout the day and, most importantly, don't skip breakfast! Eating a good, balanced breakfast gets your energy reserves off to a great start and can help prevent overindulgences from going straight to your waist.
- Eat the same amount at every meal - When we eat a large meal and try to offset it with tiny meals, all we really do is give our bodies more energy than they need at one time and not enough energy for the rest of the day. This can lead to unhealthy snacking, irritability and mood swings, which can negatively affect our enjoyment of the holiday gathering. Overeating at one meal also can cause your blood sugar levels to go too low and lead to indigestion, discomfort, pain and difficulty breathing.
For maximum enjoyment of holiday gatherings, make an action plan and reward yourself for sticking to it. Your action plan should outline exactly what you are going to do and how much (e.g., "eat breakfast, lunch and dinner," "limit myself to one slice of Aunt Mabel's rum cake"), as well as when and how often you will do it. For your plan to be successful, it has to be something you want to do and can accomplish reasonably. Also, focus on behaviors; rather than planning to "not overeat," plan instead to "have only one plateful at dinner." Finally, while feeling better and being able to fully enjoy your loved one's company can be reward enough, plan a special reward for yourself if you carry out your plan. It doesn't have to be much, maybe just the promise of 15-20 minutes by yourself or with a special someone.
Here's wishing you a happy and healthy holiday season!
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