Each year, millions of people worldwide celebrate: holidays, birthdays, graduations, you name it. These celebrations come in many forms and for many reasons. Celebration is defined as “the action of marking one’s pleasure at an important event or occasion by engaging in enjoyable, typically social, activity.” Celebrations in many cultures often center on food and drink. Typically these celebrations result in unintentional weight gain. Nutrition experts have estimated that during the holidays, there is an average weight gain of five pounds. A prospective study of holiday weight gain concluded that the average holiday weight gain is closer to one pound, which is less than previously estimated. Nonetheless it is clear that during holiday months, when people celebrate more, and during celebrations in general, eating and drinking more is commonplace.
How can you create a sustainable plan that enables you to be present at celebrations while enjoying your food and drink without going overboard? Naturally this is easier contemplated than put into action. Food and drink have a place during the celebration, but do not need to be at the head of the table. As a registered dietitian nutritionist, I help people translate the science of nutrition into everyday tangible goals. It is possible to be mindful and develop systems that will allow you to be successful and make healthful, balanced nutrition-related choices. I recommend an increase in the daily consumption of non-starchy vegetables, with one serving of a lean protein, and a decrease in refined grains and concentrated sweets while staying adequately hydrated. Increasing your non-starchy vegetable intake gives your body a fiber boost. Together with increased intake of lean protein, both nutrients help keep you satiated and reduce your chances of overeating unwanted foods, such as refined grains and concentrated sweets. You are also giving your body the vitamins and minerals that it both wants and needs to function optimally. These combined actions can have a great impact.
When you actively make a choice to put your health first, you are the winner. When you commit to following a healthful, balanced diet, you allow yourself room for the occasional celebration and are less likely to experience extreme fluctuations in your weight. When you provide your body with the nutrients it needs to function best, you don’t have to “diet.” Simply put, you will feel better, look better, and be better.
- Make a game plan. You don’t ever want to go to a celebration starving. Have a small fruit or vegetable snack with a lean protein prior to the celebration, so you won’t be ravenous when you arrive. At the celebration, make at least half of your plate non-starchy vegetables, and limit your intake of fried and extra fatty foods.
- Make the majority of your meals plant-based. When you center your meal around plants, you are ensuring that your body is getting the fiber it needs to stay regular and the vitamins and minerals that keep you balanced.
- If you drink, consume alcohol in moderation. Alcohol falls into the empty-calorie category. Your body does not need it to survive. Having one drink can add an additional hundred or more calories to your daily diet.