Watching What You Eat? How to Navigate Meals This Holiday Season

It can be awkward or joyful to get together with family and friends around the holidays. You are expected to overeat around Thanksgiving and during the holiday season. Overeating is almost a tradition in the United States during this time of year.

What if you have been losing weight and do not want to stop? What if diabetes is the only thing you have at a big holiday meal?

WebMD asked nutritionists and diabetes specialists for their advice on how to navigate these and other challenges. They discuss not only how to avoid overeating but also how to pass a serving dish without offending a host or guest or explaining to everyone why they skipped dessert.

Beverly Tchang, MD, medical weight control expert at the Comprehensive Weight Control Center of Weill Cornell Medicine, New York City, said that many people find themselves surrounded by food. It can be overwhelming to try and stick to a weight-management plan based on portion control.

Keep to your strengths. Many people are better off with the ability to indulge occasionally, while others prefer to stick to their plan regardless of any special occasion. “People should do what is best for themselves,” said Tchang, who is also the spokesperson for The Obesity Society.

A Perfect Storm

“Indulgent foods, large portions and holiday parties… It’s no wonder the festive season poses even greater challenges for maintaining a healthy lifestyle compared to the rest of the calendar year,” said Florencia Ziesmke, MD. She is an obesity expert and nutritionist, as well as the founder and medical director at Evexia Medical, Jupiter, FL.

Not just food is to blame. The stress of the holidays, the lack of sleep and exercise caused by busy schedules, and the additional stress from holiday planning can make it difficult to stay healthy.


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Ziemke is a spokesperson for The Obesity Society. “These factors combined seem to be an inevitable recipe for gaining weight,” he said. In Western societies, the average adult gains between 1 and 2 pounds a year. The majority of this weight gain occurs during the holiday season.

How to respond to “Food Pushers”

Ziemke says that a good way to start holiday gatherings is with a plan. Ziemke said that it is best to avoid arriving hungry. Order first, set an example, and eat slowly.

Please bring your healthy dish and share it. This way, you can be sure to have a healthy meal that will help you reach your goals. It does not need to be steamed vegetables or a dessert you would not eat at home. Tchang recommended that you bring something you enjoy.

Social situations such as holiday gatherings can lead to social pressures for people to indulge in sweets and fatty foods. How can someone who is trying to lose weight or a guest who wants to eat healthier politely refuse cookies, pie, and cake without offending the host?

Ziemke explained that we often refer to these people as “food pushers.” She suggests politely refusing an item or taking a small amount of it. A second tip is to open up and talk to family or friends about your goals for healthy eating. You might find allies and support for healthy eating.

No Obligation To Weigh In

What if a host or other guest says, “C’mon! It’s the holidays.” You can treat yourself. It could be someone who does not understand the struggles of living with obesity or overweight, or even someone trying to lose weight.

Tchang stated that it is up to the individual to decide how much information they wish to share. “Obesity can be a medical condition. She said that it should be treated like any other private health matter.

You can also use it as an opportunity to teach others.

She said, “My patients are powerful speakers, and I believe that if they share their stories more people will be able to understand the biological challenges we face in treating obesity.”

For Some, the Holiday Season is Sweeter

Diabetes patients can experience some challenges during the holiday season.

Amy Kimberlain is a registered nutritionist and dietitian who is a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She said that sticking to a routine for eating can help control blood sugar levels.

  • “Do not skip meals or go too long without. She said to aim for balanced meals all day long. “Do not save up carbs and have them later,” she said.

The Naughty List of Holiday Foods


Holiday Food Traps

It is the season for tasty food. During the holidays, most people gain a pound. If you are on a special dietary plan because of high blood pressure or cholesterol, holiday meals can be particularly difficult. You can still enjoy your holiday and make healthy choices if you are aware of what is naughty or nice.


Naughty: Turkey Skin

The skin of chicken and turkey is high in saturated fat. All fats have more calories per gram than carbs or protein, and the bad fats increase cholesterol. Dark meat contains more fat per bite compared to white meat.

Serve yourself turkey breast without the skin.


Naughty Stuffing

Stuffings are usually loaded with butter and high-fat meats like sausage. One scoop of stuffing can contain up to 550 calories.

Nice. Replace the butter in your recipe with low-sodium chicken broth and substitute the pork sausage for a lower-fat chicken, oyster, or fruit. Try making wild rice stuffing.


Buttery Mashed Potatoes

This classic comfort food is usually made with a lot more butter, milk, and salt. A cup of homemade butter and whole milk mashed potatoes can contain 237 calories.

Nice: Mash potatoes with low-fat dairy milk or fat-free chicken broth and avoid butter or salt.


Naughty: Sweet Potato Casserole

Sweet potatoes make a good choice. Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamins C and A, as well as calcium and potassium. If they are in a casserole with marshmallows and butter, their nutritional value is negated.

Nice. Leave the butter out, cut the sugar in half, and top lightly with mini marshmallows. This will reduce calories and fat but not the taste.


Pecan Pie

Pecans contain healthy fats, vitamins,amins, and minerals. However, pecan pies are a minefield for sugar and calories. A typical pecan pie slice contains 464 calories. This is because pecan pie is usually made using a lot of butter, corn syrup, and sugar.

Nice. Try a bowl full of mixed nuts. If you cannot resist, opt for a pumpkin pie or a small piece. Do not eat any of the crust.


Naughty: Fancy Finger Foods

Canapes, fancy appetizers, and other foods are usually high in fat. The calories are small, but they add up when you have an endless array of hors-d’oeuvres.

Delicious: Shrimp, vegetables, and fruits are low-calorie, nutritious appetizers.


Naughty: Pigs-in-a-Blanket

Each bite-sized piggy contains 4.38 grams of fat, much sodium, and very little nutrition.

NiceFruit in a blanket is an excellent alternative. Wrap figs, fuyu persimmons, or a thin prosciutto strip around the wedges and bake for 8-10 minutes.


Naughty: Potato Pancakes

Hanukkah is a time when potato pancakes, or Latkes, are popular. A single latke, which is a medium size, can contain more than 250 calories. They are traditionally fried in fat. The usual topping is sour cream.

NiceWhen cooking, you should use cooking spray or vegetable oil. You can eat only a few latkes topped with unsweetened applesauce if you are cooking.


Caramel Popcorn

The large tins of flavored popcorn make a great holiday gift. Even though popcorn is a whole-grain snack, adding sugary syrups or caramels can lead to weight gain.

Nice: Stick to plain popcorn – the crunch will satisfy you just as much without adding extra calories.


Egg Nog

Alcohol, heavy cream, and eggs add up. One cup of eggnog has 360 calories and 16 grams of fat.

Nice. Use skim milk, egg substitutes, and a low-calorie sweetener to make a low-calorie eggnog.


Naughty Mixed Drinks

Cocktails are often high in calories. A white Russian with light cream contains 354 calories per serving.

NiceMix pomegranate juice or cranberry with sparkling water and wine to make a wine-spritzer. This is a great way to reduce calories and count towards your daily fruit intake.


Naughty: Cakes & Cookies

You might crave carbs during the fall and winter. It is important not to give in to the temptation to eat too much sugar but also to resist it. Serotonin is released when you eat carbs, which makes them taste great and boost your mood.

Nice. The solution is to control portions and snack on complex carbohydrates, such as whole grain cereals or crackers.


Milk Chocolates – Naughty!

Dark chocolate is healthier than milk chocolate, which contains less fat. Chocolates with cream or caramel inside are also bad for you.

Nice: Dark chocolate solids with at least 70% cacao are best. But only in small quantities. Dark chocolate that contains nuts is heart-healthy.


Avoid Holiday Foods That Are Naughty

It is a good idea to know which foods are bad for you. Use these tips to take it one step further:

  • You will slow down your eating pace if you talk to others. Slow down your eating.
  • When attending parties, it is best to sit or stand away from the buffet.
  • Once you have had enough food, excuse yourself from the table.
  • Sugar-free gum and sugar-free candies will help you curb your cravings.

Plan. If you know that your holiday dinner will be later than usual, then a snack might be a good idea.

Managing stress during the holiday season is just as important for people with diabetes.

“Include outlets for stress… as stress can cause havoc with one’s blood glucose levels.” Kimberlain suggested that people should meditate, journal, walk, or exercise to manage stress.

She said that before attending a holiday gathering, you should “check if you can view the menu to know all of the options.”

It is natural to keep munching on food when it is close. She said to serve yourself and eat elsewhere. Stay hydrated by drinking water all day.

Kimberlain stated that while these tips are useful for people with diabetes to remember, it is better to speak with their healthcare provider to get individual recommendations.


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