Heidi Godman

Making peace with holiday buffets

Overeating during the holidays is practically a tradition. “We rationalize that it’s a special time, with foods that aren’t available throughout the year,” says registered dietitian Kathy McManus, director of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. But overindulging can lead to weight gain, fatigue, and guilt. So how should you approach the holiday buffet? Here are some tactical strategies to get you through the season of eating.

Plan ahead. Find out when you’ll be eating, and plan your day around it. For example, if you know a big dinner will be served at 8 p.m., eat a lighter breakfast and lunch than usual. But also have a healthy snack just before you leave home at 6 p.m. so that you don’t arrive at the party feeling hungry; otherwise you’ll overeat.

Also, ask if you can bring a dish for the buffet. If the answer is “yes,” bring something healthy, such as chicken and veggie skewers or an assortment of fruit.

At the buffet. Grab a salad plate instead of a dinner plate. You’ll fool yourself into maintaining portion control. Avoid foods that are fried, buttered, creamy, or cheesy. Load at least half of your plate with veggies, then add just a taste of other foods. But choose wisely; don’t waste calories on foods that aren’t special. For example, a roll with butter can easily add 200 calories.

At the table. Research shows you’ll eat less food and take in fewer calories if you eat slowly, so pace yourself at holiday meals. Do this by taking small bites, chewing slowly, and sipping water between bites. When you’ve finished, don’t linger at the table, which may encourage more eating. The reason to eat slowly is that it takes at least 20 minutes for your brain to get the message that you’re full. It’s easy to consume many more calories than you need in 20 minutes. In fact, you can consume all the calories you need for a whole day in 20 minutes.

About alcohol. Alcohol adds calories in a hurry, and it can ruin your resolve. McManus advises that you delay drinking until you begin your meal. Set a limit in advance, and ask your host or buddy for help observing the rule.

If all else fails. When temptation trumps resolve, don’t beat yourself up, and don’t feel you’ve failed. Just go back to a healthy eating plan as soon as possible. “Don’t feel guilty about food,” says McManus. “It’s there to enjoy. But you must give your meals some thought.” Think of this planning as a little gift you give yourself.

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(This article first appeared in the Harvard Health Letter.)

Comments:

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    Thank you, will be applicable on my new Housman soon

  2. Bootcamp Fitness Games

    Right! The key is to eat something light before the scheduled bigger meal. I encourage people to enjoy and indulge a little but not at every single company party, christmas party, etc. Once or twice a week during the holiday season is fine. Thanks! Scott

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    Sincerely Yours,I read your article named “Making peace with holiday buffets” regularly. Your writing style is awesome, keep up the good work!

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    Yeah, it’s very true !! I eat a lot in my holidays, at home I can not shut my mouth. Keep sharing this shareable blog.

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    This will must make peace inside my home as font of my husband, why don’t he don’t like my dishes :(

  6. JD

    We have some great recipes for “healthy” type dessert options. If you’re going to cheat on a diet, the key is minimizing the damage!

  7. Emily

    The advice has come at the right time. It will help me to plan my meals especially during this charismas holiday. keep on the good work

  8. I think it’s not in buffet holidays only that we must plan our diet. Eat slowly is the best way to avoid us from overeating especially for those who don’t want any weight gain. In addition, we must be bore due chewing more and more…

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    I used to eat very heavily during holidays and my weight is almost 6kgs more than required for my height.I have to follow the above strategies and maintain my diet.

  10. Mike

    I have heard that one way to moderate diet is only eat half of what you could hold cupped in your hands. Is that true? Half the size of your cupped hands being the size of your stomach.