Food, family, and fun are abundant during the holiday season, and the chances of overindulging are high. Even though overeating isn’t an emergency, people trying to watch their weight, who have diabetes, or have food allergies might find it helpful to plan for meals.
The dinner table may be full of tasty treats, but if you want to give your heart a gift this holiday season, don’t overeat. The American Heart Association says that overeating can cause short-term heartburn and, over time, lead to unhealthy weight gain and obesity, a significant risk factor for heart attack and heart disease.
For those with unique dietary needs, eating food we don’t prepare is often a mystery.
What can you do to get ready for the holidays?
Holidays often mean sweet treats. Here are some tips to help you stick to your eating plan and to prepare for recreational eating.
Maintain Your Routine
Sticking to a strict diet and fitness schedule is the best way to avoid overeating during the holidays. This includes eating the same meals at the same time every day and not changing this routine too much. It’s also an excellent tip for eating all year to keep your heart healthy.
Eat at regular times to keep your blood sugar level steady. If your meal is served later than usual, have a small snack before your standard meal time and eat less when food is served. If you have a sweet treat, eat less of other carbs like potatoes and bread during the meal. If you are asked to a party, offer to bring healthy food. Don’t skip meals for a large dinner as it will be more challenging to control your blood sugar, and you will be hungry and more likely to overeat. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Take Your Time
It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to figure out that your stomach is full. If you keep eating during this time, you can take in many more calories than your body needs. Slow down, chew your food well, and put your fork down in between bites to stop yourself from overeating. You can also slow down by drinking water between bites.
Plan to keep a closer eye on your blood sugar. During the holidays, you should check it more often and, if you take medicine, ask your doctor if the dose needs to be changed. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
On the ‘naughty’ list are poor and unplanned choices regarding food. If you choose to indulge, slow down and enjoy a small amount, and don’t forget to add it to your meal plan tracking.
Get Enough Sleep
People often lose sleep when they go out more and stay out later. Blood sugar can be hard to control when you don’t get enough sleep, and not getting enough sleep makes you eat more and choose off-plan high-fat, high-sugar foods. Aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night to avoid unplanned eating.
Food allergies don’t have to get in the way of having a good time; however, many holiday dishes have at least one of the top eight allergens: milk, eggs, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, and peanuts. This could make it hard for adults and children with food allergies to join in holiday dinners. Planning meals with can help avoid the unexpected.
If someone in your family has known food allergies, be prepared with a food allergy action plan and remember to travel with a self-injecting EpiPen if this is your standard protocol for treating food allergies. (Children’s Health)
If you are hosting or attending a potluck, prepare by providing several safe dishes. Be sure not to share serving utensils as they can transfer allergens from dish to dish. (Pitone)
Avoid Children Choking
Bowls of nuts or candy, which are popular at parties, might pose a choking threat to little children. Certain foods pose an even more significant choking hazard, with nuts at the top of the list.
Sticky or hard candy shouldn’t be offered or available to small children as they can pose a choking hazard. Scan homes you visit as a guest and move these items out of reach to be safe.
Enjoy Your Holiday Eating
Having an action plan is a plan for success! Enjoy the holidays and spend time with family and friends without worrying about gaining weight or encountering unexpected food hazards. You can focus on having fun rather than eating the wrong things if you plan ahead. Happy holiday eating!
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “5 Healthy Eating Tips for the Holidays.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14 Dec. 2020, www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/features/holidays-healthy-eating.html.
Health, Children’s. “Navigating Food Allergies during the Holidays – Children’s Health.” Navigating Food Allergies During the Holidays – Children’s Health, Childrens Health, www.childrens.com/health-wellness/food-allergies-holidays.
“Making the Holidays Safe (for Parents) – Nemours Kidshealth.” Edited by Melanie L. Pitone, KidsHealth, The Nemours Foundation, Jan. 2021, kidshealth.org/en/parents/holiday-dangers.html.