For some people, the holidays spell diet doom, but tables laden with seasonal treats don’t have to be your downfall. There are a few simple but savvy ways to cut calories and maintain your weight no matter how many festive fetes you attend this year.
We asked registered dietitian and personal trainer Jennifer Seyler for her tips on how to easily cut calories over the holidays.
Rather than pressure yourself to continue losing weight during the holidays, focus on maintenance instead. “Jump back on the weight loss journey in January and don’t feel guilty, as you are most likely a few steps ahead of most. Weight maintenance is no easy task,” says Seyler. She explains that working on maintenance now can also be seen as a great “practice run” for the healthy lifestyle you’re looking to maintain in the long run after your weight loss journey.
Break away from the buffet
A seemingly endless array of goodies can be tempting to even the strictest among us. But before you overload your plate, take a bit of what you like and walk away. “There is no need to linger near the buffet table,” advises Seyler. “It’s natural in our culture to want to get as much as we can the first time around the buffet, but we can always come back for seconds,” she says. The trick is to take a little of your favorites, wait 10 to 15 minutes and then see how hungry you are before going back for seconds. “This could easily save you hundreds of calories. Who knows, before you have a chance to go back to the buffet, you may strike up a conversation with an interesting party guest and end up eating only one round,” notes Seyler.
Start with water
Skipping your sips? It could be causing you to consume extra calories. “Sometimes people confuse thirst with hunger, so have a glass before and after you eat. Wait about 10 minutes after drinking the glass to see if you are still hungry,” advises Seyler. “You may be surprised, but the hunger may disappear completely after a few nibbles of food, potentially saving you hundreds of calories.” We’ll drink to that.
Count on cauliflower
Humble cauliflower is a huge help when it comes to cutting back on calories. “Mashed cauliflower is a hidden nutrient treasure and calorie saver,” says Seyler. “It can be added to existing mashed potatoes to increase the nutritional value and decrease calories per serving or even to foods such as gravy and cream soups, where it also serves to help thicken without the added fat.”
Choose beverages that contain fewer calories per serving but still provide you with the desired taste you want for on the holidays, says Seyler. This means steering clear of calorie-laden drinks in favor of something better for your waistline. For example, wine generally has fewer calories per serving than beer and a glass of wine will have fewer calories than a creamy cocktail. “Also, consider including a non-caloric beverage into the mix,” says Seyler. So for every glass of pinot you have, drink one glass of water as a way to cut back on calories and pace yourself. “This is a great way to help conserve calories but still be able to enjoy the party.”
Satisfy cravings — within reason
We all have our ultimate holiday favorites, so don’t eat foods you really don’t want; just have a moderate portion of the food you want, says Seyler. “After eating a serving of two or three side dishes you may not want but are ‘healthy’ for you, you have probably eaten more calories than you would have after one serving of the side dish you wanted,” she explains.
Don’t skip breakfast
Running out the door sans breakfast is never a good idea, especially on days where a huge holiday meal will be waiting for you. “A key to successful weight management is consistency, so don’t forget the most important meal of the day — breakfast — even on the holidays,” says Seyler. “Starting your day with a balanced meal will help keep your body on track in regard to hunger cues, which could help you better regulate food consumption during holiday lunch or dinner.”
Say yes to squash
Squash, when boiled and seeded, can provide a variety of nutrients without added calories, says Seyler. “It’s a great replacement for pasta or addition to holiday dishes,” she explains. Her family uses roasted spaghetti squash in place of pasta (use a fork to pull out the cooked and cooled squash in “strands”) for various dishes. “Our favorite dish includes shrimp, sun-dried tomatoes and spaghetti squash topped with a white, creamy sauce.”