Food is part of the fun during the holidays, which can make sticking to a healthy diet a challenge. Take this advice from registered dietitians and enjoy yourself – without ruining your weight-loss progress or causing a flare.
Q: What should I worry about most: fat, sugar, carbs or calories?
Think less in terms of what to avoid than what to include, advises Moe Schlachter, a registered dietitian in Houston. “Even if you reach for foods that aren’t the healthiest, it’s still important to also go for foods rich in nutrients that are going to help.” That might include baked salmon, walnuts and colorful, antioxidant-rich vegetables, like roasted squash. “Go into the holiday season with a good idea of what foods are going to help you, then plot them all throughout the season,” he says.
That said, you should also limit sugar and saturated fat, both of which may worsen inflammation. “[Sugar] also excites the brain in a way that promotes craving more sugar and promotes overall hunger,” says Schlachter. Plus, it obstructs hydration, which is important to joint health.
Aim to eat all the food groups. “That really helps mitigate the effects of overloading on carbs or fatty foods,” he says.
Also, drink alcohol in moderation if at all. “Alcohol contributes to inflammation,” he notes. “It also makes it hard to stay in control of our hunger, and it actually dehydrates.”
Q: What can I do to limit holiday weight gain?
Aside from the usual tricks – have a healthy snack before going to a party, pick one sweet treat and serve yourself a modest portion, send leftover desserts home with relatives – try these measures.
- Eat a high-fiber breakfast, such as unsweetened oatmeal with fruit. Fiber helps you feel full, says Tzakas-Everett. It also helps keep your blood sugar steady throughout the day, which can prevent overeating. And fiber helps support a healthy gastrointestinal (GI) system, which is important with autoimmune conditions because if your GI system isn’t healthy, “you’re more susceptible to feeling sick during the holidays. You can suffer more from flares and food triggers that will set you back,” she says.
- Keep a food journal. Evidence shows it may help you keep from eating or drinking too much, and help you see which healthy foods you’re missing. “It helps you plan and strategize,” Tzakas-Everett says.
- Avoid all-or-nothing thinking. “People who are successful with weight loss are able to bounce back from heavy meals with healthy meals during the day, or getting back on track after the holiday,” says Schlachter.
Author: M. Wait
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