Anna Threadcraft, RDN, LD
Director of Employee Wellness
University of Alabama at Birmingham
- Don’t arrive hungry: Most people make less nutritious decisions when we’re functioning on an empty stomach. If the large holiday meal is mid-day, have a light breakfast (such as yogurt and a piece of fruit, or a piece of toast and a fruit cup). If the meal is later in the afternoon or evening, eat breakfast within an hour of waking and consider including a snack in your day as well to ensure you’re not going more than 3-4 hours without eating something. When people skip a meal in order to eat more later on, they often end up consuming more calories in a day overall. Eating routinely through the day and not skipping a meal (even on a holiday) will support balanced blood sugar levels and will be a positive step in a healthy direction.
- Survey before you serve: Before loading up your plate with all of your favorites, take a moment to think about what you actually want. Habit often leads us to pile up a serving of everything on the table, but if we “survey before we serve”, we can save or calories for what we really want on our plate, and in the right amounts. If you’re a member of the “clean your plate” club, be intentional to start with a realistic serving. It takes about 20 minutes for the stomach to tell the brain it’s full, so if we begin with appropriate portions and take our time eating, it’s easier to end a meal feeling satisfied, rather than stuffed because we quickly rushed through three rounds of food. Think through what you really like and truly enjoy it, rather than serving a little of everything that’s offered just because it’s there. Remember that you can usually go back for seconds, so start with smaller portions of the items you really want, taking your time to eat them and then go back for more later on if you’re truly hungry.
- Plan for dessert: All foods can fit, so rather than let go of all self-control on the holiday, plan to enjoy what you want, including dessert! It’s easy to overeat on the holidays and then somehow still find room to squeeze in at least one if not more, servings of dessert after the main course. Plan for dessert! Think about your overall portions in the main course that allow all foods to fit, but leave room for a serving of something sweet at the end. For example, instead of two rolls, start with one, or go for one scoop of mashed potatoes instead of two, knowing that a piece of pie is coming shortly.
- Practice thankfulness! Remember that health is not just physical. Its mental/emotional as well! Take time as a family to share something you’re thankful for either before or during the meal.
Threadcraft is also available to speak by phone, email or through the UAB News Studio.