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Apples, cookies, and other holiday treats.

How to enjoy the holiday season while keeping your fitness goals

November 25, 2015

The holidays are a time of celebration, but how do you keep the holiday parties and special events from interfering with your health goals? Loyola Medicine's registered dietitians say it's a matter of strategy, starting with mindful eating.

“Focus on eating your favorite once-a-year holiday foods and pass on other everyday dishes,” says Kimberly Sasso Neva, a Loyola Medicine registered and licensed dietitian who works with weight-loss patients. “Don’t eat your weight in appetizers if you really are looking forward to the main meal.”

She offers these additional tips to avoid overdoing it this year:

  • Take time to savor what your family and friends have prepared. You will enjoy your food more while also giving yourself time to realize you are full. It takes about 15 minutes for your stomach to signal your brain that you are satisfied. Wait at least that long before going back for more food.
  • Step away from the buffet table. Avoid eating and socializing near the buffet spread, and, if possible, go to another room to enjoy the food, family and friends. This may stop you from going back for seconds or thirds.
  • Stay hydrated. Have a glass of water with you and sip it throughout the evening – even between bites of your meal – to help you to feel full.
  • Shrink your plate. Use a salad plate for the main feast. It will help keep your portions in control.
  • Don’t come too hungry. Eat breakfast and lunch, and, if dinner is later than usual or you are too hungry, grab a snack beforehand. When you come to a dinner or party starving, you tend to eat more than you expected or even realized.
  • Start with a salad. Enjoy a salad first or let vegetables take up half of your plate. By starting with low-calorie favorites, like salads, carrots or squash, you will feel more satisfied without piling on as many calories.

By following these tips, you can prevent the awful fatigue and fullness of a "food coma."

Loyola Medicine registered dietitians see patients at several convenient locations, and they include experts in all areas of nutrition, including weight loss, cancer care, diabetes management, cardiovascular health and more.