Last week I was watching a cooking segment on TV, when the anchor suspiciously questioned the chef about how much heavy cream she was putting into the recipe. The chef replied gleefully, “It’s the holidays!” As much as I hate to say this (hello...I’m the nutrition editor for a healthy food magazine), she kind of has a point. Healthy eating just isn’t as cool during the holidays as it is other times of year (um, January!). Gluttonous temptations lurk everywhere.
So before you embark on your calendar full of social events that revolve around eating and drinking, arm yourself with these stay-slim strategies.
Temptation: Your mom makes delicious, straight-to-the-hips holiday treats.
How to beat it: It would hurt your mom’s feelings if you turned down her famous baked goodies! Instead, plan for it. Studies suggest that feeling deprived—even if you are consuming plenty of calories—can actually trigger overeating. Making any food off-limits just increases its allure: you can’t avoid a trigger food your whole life, but you can learn how to eat in moderation the foods you tend to binge on. If your mom’s decadent holiday treats are your downfall, make room in your diet to eat them. If it’s too tempting to keep them in your house, try not to bring any home or, if you do, share some with a friend.
Related: 4 foods to eat if you overeat
Temptation: An open bar at the office holiday party.
How to beat it: Aside from the fact that you don’t want the CEO to catch you slurring your words, going overboard on the booze usually means overdoing it on the calorie front too. This year, when you walk up to the bar, think small. Regardless of what color you’re drinking, limit your pour size by asking for a white-wine glass instead of a big red-wine glass. Drinking a cocktail? Trade your tonic water, soda or juice mixer for a diet version or club soda. Then walk away from the bar. Far away. Because the more stops you introduce in getting another drink—such as a co-worker’s talkative wife or the person who, after hours, still wants to talk about work—the more opportunities you have to ask, “Do I really need it?”
Related: 5 "bad" foods you should be eating
Temptation: The food court at the mall while you’re doing your holiday shopping.
How to beat it: Plan ahead! You’ve been to the mall before, you know what food kiosks are there. Go online before you leave the house and look at the nutrition information to find a healthy lunch option. Aim for one that’s lower in calories (less than 500, ideally 350 to 400) and offers both fiber and protein to power you through an afternoon of shopping. Also, pack snacks in your purse. Going long stretches without eating can trigger you to overeat so even your best intentions can—and likely will—fall by the wayside if you hit the food court ravenous.
Temptation: A decadent, rich buffet spread at your friend’s annual holiday party.
How to beat it: Don’t graze. Grazing can easily supply a meal's worth—or more—of calories. Instead, plan to eat one of your three daily meals at the party. And when you do go to eat, inspect the offerings first before loading up your plate. Make your first trip for vegetables and salad, then go back for small portions of the richer fare.
Temptation: The leftovers that same friend insisted you bring home after her party.
How to beat it: You’ve heard the phrase “out of sight, out of mind,” right? Well, it works. When office workers were given candies in clear dishes to place on their desktops, they helped themselves to candy 71 percent more often than a similar group that was given the same candy in opaque dishes so the candy wasn’t visible, according to research out of Cornell University. The same goes for those decadent leftovers: stash them toward the back of the fridge and keep the apples up front.
What’s your biggest holiday temptation and how do you beat it? Tell us what you think below.