Monday, November 21, 2011

Eating through the holidays

Eating is definitely one of the great joys of life and enjoying a good meal in the company of friends and family is time to be savoured.  Food is often a central component of any social gathering and it is part of how we interact with each other in social situations.  During the holiday season and other times of celebration, a natural marriage occurs between food and social activities. 

With all of the parties and events that occur during the holiday season, many of us worry about gaining weight during this time.  However, it is still possible to enjoy yourself over the holiday season, savour the food around you, and do so without gaining weight.  This doesn’t mean restricting yourself, but it does mean eating consciously. 

Here’s some tips to help you maintain your weight (or continue to lose weight) over the holidays:
Eating at a Buffet:
  • If you are at a buffet or event with a table full of snack-foods – preview the table before eating anything or putting anything on your plate.  Decide what you want to eat, and assess your hunger.
  • Keep at least ½ of your plate for vegetables and salad, and use the other ½ of your plate for richer/denser foods, such as potatoes, casseroles and meats. 
  • Always use a plate.  This will enable you to assess how much food you are actually consuming.  Otherwise, it’s easy to keep reaching for another item, and not have a good sense of how much you have eaten.  Stop mindless munching. 
  • Fill up your plate with fibre-rich and low-calorie foods, such as vegetables and fruits. 
  • Don’t stand next to the food table.  Take what you want and go stand or sit somewhere out of sight of the table, if possible.  
  • Remember that it is possible to fill-up on snack foods and eat the same amount of calories, as a proper meal – if this is not intended to be your meal, be careful about the amount of snack foods you eat. 
  • Be cognizant about the amount of calorie-dense foods you consume such as chips, dip and sweets.  These won’t easily fill you up, so it’s easy to eat too many.   
  • Only return for seconds if you still feel hungry at least 20 minutes after you have finished eating.  Try drinking water first, before returning for more food.  Thirst often manifests itself as hunger. 
  • Choose a maximum of 2 desserts (this includes cookies, cakes, bars and pies).  
  • Drink water instead of sodas or punch.  Save your calories for quality foods that will fill you up.  
  • Remember that alcohol is not calorie-free.  Watch your consumption of alcoholic beverages, and limit yourself to 2 drinks.  1 beer = 153 calories; 1 glass of wine (dry) = 120 calories; and cocktails range between 110 (daiquiri) and 310 calories (Mai Tai).
     Tips for Cooking and Baking:
  • Use whole wheat or use a combination of whole wheat and white flour to increase your fibre intake, and increase the number of nutrients you are ingesting. 
  • Lessen the amount of sugar you add when baking – usually recipes are too sweet and call for too much sweetener.  The amount of sweetener can easily be lessened without compromising the taste. 
  • Use a combination of applesauce, low-fat yogurt and buttermilk to replace the fat in recipes. This creates moistness, with less fat and calories. 
   Exercise tips: 

  • Be conscious about the amount of exercise you are engaging in.  If you are worried about consuming too many calories, up your exercise.  If you burn more calories, you have room to consume more, without gaining weight. 
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes at a high intensity (your breathing should be heavy, it should be hard to talk, you should be sweating) – and remember to do a warm- up and cool-down of walking or easy, light exercise before and after your session. 
  • Try interval sessions, whereby you push hard for anywhere between 30 seconds and 5 minutes at a time, with rests in between – long enough to bring your breathing back to normal.  
  • Remember that exercise does not have to occur in the gym – try hiking, dancing, swimming, cycling or rollerblading; or join in on drop-in sports (basketball, floor hockey).  Choose an activity that you enjoy, so that you are motivated to be active. 
  • While any exercise is good - lower intensity exercises will burn fewer calories. Eg: walking for 1 hour at 5 km/h burns 224 calories (based on a 150lb person).  The equivalent of one cookie.  Running for 1 hour at 10 km/h burns 782 calories (based on a 150lb person).    
Happy holiday season to all!!