On the Table

On the Table: Advice on holiday diets

December 18, 2012 

It’s here: The holiday dietary whitewater. We’ve entered the rapids of a stream of meals, snacks and treats that can drown your self-control.

Every year, I suggest a strategy or two to help you mitigate the dietary damage. The goal for most: Maintain your current weight. Don’t gain.

My suggestion this year: Fill up before you fill out.

Here’s what I mean:

You’re likely to eat less when you’re full. So fill up on low-calorie foods first to dull the appeal of higher-calorie fillers.

Foods that are low in calories tend to be high in water content. Examples include fresh fruits, vegetables and soups.

Practically speaking, it works like this:

• At meals, it’s soups and salads first. Load up your plate with Waldorf, three-bean, Caesar salad, fruit salad and others.

At a recent book club meeting, my friend Brenda brought a delicious Panzanella salad made with fresh greens, small bits of mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, and big, home-baked croutons. My serving covered most of my plate.

That’s the idea.

• Load up on sides. They tend to be lower in calories than the entrees.

Examples include rice pilaf, steamed broccoli, cut up veggies with dip, glazed sweet potatoes, and green beans amandine and cooked cauliflower.

Take heaping helpings of fruits and vegetables, half-servings of everything else.

• Make it easy to choose low-cal. Keep big, overflowing bowls of fresh, seasonal fruits in places where they are easy to see and choose for snacks.

Keep some of it cut up or tossed into simple fruit salads. Oranges, grapefruit, apples, pears and pineapple are good mixed with figs, dates, or raisins with cinnamon or nutmeg.

Be creative. Broccoli slaw with cranberries and slivered almonds or Moroccan date and orange salad with ground cinnamon are hard to resist.

Don’t let yourself get too hungry during the holidays, as if that’s likely to happen. Excessive hunger can make you susceptible to diving right into the heavy treats.

Instead, enjoy holiday meals while making mindful choices. Eat a light breakfast, snack on fruit between meals, and deploy the soup and salad defense at main meals.

You’re in control, and it feels great.

Suzanne Havala Hobbs is a licensed, registered dietitian and clinical associate professor in the Departments of Health Policy and Management and Nutrition in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. Send questions and comments to suzanne@onthetable.net and follow her on Twitter, @suzannehobbs.

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