From the Hilbert College Wellness Center
by Kirsten Falcone, RN
How to Avoid the Holiday Bulge:
Making Wise Choices During the Holiday Season
With the Holiday season upon us, many college students are already regretting the “Freshman 15” (as well as the sophomore, junior and senior 15) they already added to their weight this year. But now, here come the Holidays, with their usual amount of irresistible snacks and food, and fewer chances to get outside and burn off the calories. It would be easy to just give up and buy a larger clothing size!
But wait! Before you devour that second piece of pumpkin pie and suck down the eggnog, here are some great tips that may help you to avoid the bulge this year, and not have to make losing weight part of your New Year’s resolutions.
- Eat your vegetables first. Your plate should be half-full of vegetables, more than a quarter grains and rice, and less than a quarter protein. If you eat the healthiest part of your meal first—your vegetables and fruit—you will have less room for fatty and calorie-laden foods.
- Keep your protein lean. If you are eating turkey, remove the skin. Don’t dump on lot of extra gravy. With fatty meats, cut back on your proportions, skip the breaded selections, and trim off the fat.
- Skip the fat. (See above.) If your table is like mine, everything on the table is bound to be loaded with fat. Be aware of choices between buttered broccoli and green bean casserole. While we all love green bean casserole, with its mushroom soup and crunchy deep-fried onions, the broccoli is a much better choice, even with some butter on it. Also, instead of au gratin potatoes, settle for mashed or baked.
- Skip the salt. Most likely, the cook already added plenty of salt to your meal. Before you pick up that salt shaker, sample your selection first. Your cook will thank you, and so will your blood pressure!
- Skip the sugar. Sugar has long been linked with diabetes, as well as obesity, high blood pressure, cancer and inflammatory diseases. But now there is new evidence pointing out that it is actually worse for your arteries than cholesterol. There is an amazing difference between sweet potatoes with marshmallows and sweet potatoes baked and served whole. Choose the latter. Instead of two slices of pie, have only one, or ask for a “sliver” of pie. Take it easy with the whipped cream!
- Go for a walk. After dinner, instead of napping, as many are prone to do (no pun intended), go outside for a walk. It may be a challenge if the weather isn’t cooperating. If so, try and remain active inside. Help clean up, run up and down stairs, play some active games, and don’t be a couch potato. On non-feast days, exercise for a half hour every day or every other day. This will help burn calories, as well as increase your sense of well-being.
- Resist the temptation to snack. As difficult as that sounds, with plenty of temptation around, give yourself permission to have one small snack per day. Stick with it.
- Eat only half of what you would normally eat. On the days between feasts, this is a great idea! If you are eating at a restaurant, it is OK to eat only half. Restaurant portions are not usually healthful, anyway. (If you are afraid to waste food, ask for a doggy bag.)
- Use a smaller plate. It tricks you into thinking your portion is larger than it is. (And don’t go back for seconds!)
- Liquid calories count! Be aware that a large percentage of the meal’s calories can be hidden in the beverage, so always opt for healthful choices, such as skim milk, unsweetened tea, or just plain water.
- With alcoholic drinks, choose wisely. If you must imbibe in alcohol, be smart. Most college students are not of legal drinking age. That aside, also know that the only healthful alcoholic drink is five ounces per day of red wine for women, and 10 ounces for men. Beyond that, you are taking your chances. If you choose to venture into this territory, be aware that a serving of beer is 12 ounces, and a serving of liquor is one ounce. Your liver cannot process more than one serving per hour. If you damage your liver, contrary to hearsay, it does not always grow back to normal. (Think fatty liver and cirrhosis.) With all this knowledge, however, the liquor stores are still in business. As far as calorie content, generally you should choose wine over regular beer, and Champagne over eggnog. Drinking alcohol can also lower your inhibitions and cause you to succumb to tempting snacks, so drink in moderation.
- Skip the caffeine, if possible, or limit it to the equivalent of two cups of coffee per day. Caffeine can be found in chocolate, tea, soft drinks, and other foods. Consuming too much can cause headaches, heart palpitations, shakiness, disturbed sleep patterns, and dehydration.
- Take the proper amount of time to eat, since the stomach will not usually register it is full until 20 minutes afterward. Slowing down to savor your favorite Holiday food will also decrease heartburn and gastrointestinal issues.
- Keep hydrated. One of the current recommendations for how much water to drink involves doing a little math: Take your weight in pounds, and drink from half that amount to that whole amount in ounces every day. For example, someone who weighs 150 lbs. should drink 75 to 150 ounces per day. This seems like a lot, but all the liquid from your diet adds up. Sometimes when we think we are hungry, we are really just dehydrated. Drinking a glass of water before you eat will cut down on how much you eat.
- Be wise. Remember that these are the Holidays. If you follow some healthful guidelines, you will be able to enjoy yourself. As the late Oscar Wilde is often quoted, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”
For more information, try these sources:
National Institutes of Health (NIH), Healthy Holiday Foods:
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Choose My Plate:
WebMD Low-Calorie Cocktails:
MedLine Plus on Caffeine: