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9 Top Tips to Have a Healthier Holiday Season

holiday food
Photo credit: jenifoto, iStock/Getty Images Plus.

The University of Kentucky Public Relations and Strategic Communications Office provides a weekly health column available for use and reprint by news media. This week's column is by Tami Ross, a nationally recognized registered dietitian and certified diabetes care and education specialist. She serves as a diabetes education services coordinator with the Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 29, 2021) The “holiday eating season” has arrived — those days between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day where food is a big focus. The average person consumes an extra 500 to 600 calories a day in this time frame. That can translate into a 6-pound weight gain by the time the New Year rings in. Holiday eating events can bring the added challenge of managing blood glucose for those living with diabetes. Planning ahead and making intentional choices is essential to managing weight and blood glucose, especially during the holidays.

Whether you have diabetes or not, here are nine top tips that can be helpful through the holidays and beyond.

  1. Eat off a smaller plate to manage portions. Choose a salad or dessert-size plate rather than a dinner plate. A smaller plate means smaller portions, although they appear larger. Your mind will be visually tricked into believing you’re eating more than you are.
  2. Cruise the holiday spread and practice the one-plate rule. Before filling your plate with a little bit of everything, check out all that’s available. Then ask yourself, “What is worth the calories or carbs?” Stick with one plate of the items that work for your health.
  3. Embrace mindful eating. Mindful eating means slowing down, being aware of what and how much you eat, and really tasting and savoring the food. Try to stop eating before you actually feel full. You may find that you are satisfied with less.
  4. Try the two to three bite taste test. Many people find that the first two or three bites of food bring the most pleasure. If tempted with a favorite holiday sweet treat, commit to two to three bites then check in with how you’re feeling. Most find that they’re satisfied and don’t need any more. 
  5. Fill half of your plate with veggies of the non-starchy variety. Whether a crisp green salad, savory roasted Brussels sprouts, or crunchy carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower from a veggie tray, non-starchy vegetables help fill you up with few calories or carbs.
  6. Choose alcoholic drinks wisely. Calories from alcohol can add up quickly. Did you know that 5 ounces of dry wine or champagne, 12 ounces of beer, or 1 ½ ounces of distilled liquor each have about 100 calories? Aside from calories, many with diabetes aren’t aware that alcohol may cause blood glucose to drop too low, especially if taking certain diabetes medications.
  7. Make favorite recipes healthier with simple swaps. Many favorite family holiday recipes are rich in calories, fat, sugar and salt. Consider old-fashioned green bean casserole found on many holiday tables. Two swaps can make it healthier. Swap in no-salt-added canned green beans and reduced-fat cream of mushroom soup for the regular varieties.
  8. Fit in fitness. Whether taking a walk, dancing or shoveling snow, physical activity burns calories and lowers blood glucose. If watching a favorite holiday movie, get up and march in place fo two to three minutes every half hour. Every bit of movement you sneak in helps.
  9. Get your ZZZ’s. Most adults need  seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Getting enough sleep helps reduce stress, may help people with diabetes regulate blood glucose, and may help manage weight.

With a few strategies in place, you will find that you can enjoy the holidays and eating events while still managing weight and blood glucose. Small changes add up! 

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