Researchers are discovering that when we are presented with larger food and drink portions, we tend to consume more. When we are given less, we consume less and report the same levels of satiety! These phenomena have been replicated by researchers time and again. If you are looking to cut back on your holiday eating, there are simple ways to go about it.
- One way to keep your portions under control is to simply serve your food in smaller bowls and cups and on smaller plates. A standard-sized plate is about 9 inches in diameter. When you purchase paper plates at the supermarket, most are this size. But when we serve food using larger dishware, this allows us to add more to our plates. And, since we’re often told to “finish our plates,” this may lead to overeating. When we eat and drink from smaller dishware we typically eat less and feel just as satisfied afterward.
- When thinking about staying trim and eating nutritious foods over the holidays, it can be helpful to take a moment and examine your plate before you eat. When about half of that 9-inch plate is filled with brightly colored vegetables you are on the right track. Then, take a look at your grain and protein portions. About one quarter of the plate should contain a lean protein, like the traditional holiday food – turkey! In the last section of your plate, be sure you have a minimally-processed carbohydrate. My favorite during this time of year are sweet potatoes! They are full of fiber and are a great source of nutrients, like vitamin A which has been shown to help keep our eyes healthy and prevent certain forms of cancer. Plus, they actually taste sweet so it satisfies any sweet craving.
- When you do begin eating that holiday meal, eat the vegetables and protein (turkey) first. This will help you feel full so you will be less likely to overeat when it comes time for dessert!
- Remove the sugary snacks from sight. Often, our homes are filled with cakes, pies, cookies, candy canes, and chocolate during this time of year. Sometimes, these foods sit on our countertop in plain view. To avoid overindulging, simply place them somewhere else… like a cupboard that you hardly use. It’s true, out of sight, out of mind!
- If you do get a craving for a sweet treat, distract yourself. Pick up your phone and play a game, or call someone to wish them a happy holiday season, or take a walk, or pick up a book… anything to get your mind off food. If you are able to distract yourself for 5 to 10 minutes, likely the craving will pass.
The holidays don’t have to be stressful! If you follow these simple steps, you may find that you will still be able to enjoy the foods of the season… without any guilt.
By Neal Malik, DrPH, MPH, RDN, assistant professor and core faculty at Bastyr University California