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Healthy Holiday Eating Strategies

Tips for navigating the treacherous terrain of holiday parties

smithsonian.com

This isn’t meant to be a “how to" blog, but I recently stumbled across some useful tips at a Smithsonian employee event and thought I should share the wealth. The speaker, a certified nutritionist named Alana Sugar (I know, right? That’s her real name!) talked about people’s “love/hate relationship with food” at this time of year.

“We look forward to eating delicious foods, but at the same time, we fear that they will make us fat or otherwise harm our bodies,” she said.

Ain’t that the truth, Sugar. (Especially since I just noticed that our acronym makes me a FaT blogger.)

She offered the following tips for navigating the treacherous terrain of holiday parties:

1) Eat eggs for breakfast the day of the party, or at least have a handful of nuts before you head out, since protein will take the edge off your cravings and keep you from gobbling indiscriminately at the buffet.

2) Talk. Get a plate of food, but then go strike up a conversation, preferably away from the buffet table. Eating should be secondary to socializing.

3) Enjoy a few glasses of wine, or indulge in dessert, but try not to do both at the same meal. Too much alcohol combined with sugar can cause “intestinal distress.” (Thankfully, Sugar didn’t answer when an audience member asked her to elaborate on the type of distress.)

4) Along the same lines, remember that wine has calories, too. Try mixing it with sparkling water to create a lower-calorie “wine spritzer” after your first glass. (Though personally, I’d recommend taking a glance at the label before you horrify the hosts by watering down a particularly fine wine. If it’s one of these best-sellers, it probably didn’t break the bank, so spritz away.)

5) Keep exercising through the holidays – not only is it good for obvious health reasons, but it can also help you release the stress that family functions can generate. And without a release valve, that stress could make you an “emotional eater” who turns to food for comfort or distraction.

And most importantly: Only eat what you consider delicious. Why waste calories?

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About Amanda Bensen

Amanda Bensen is a former assistant editor at Smithsonian and is now a senior editor at the Nature Conservancy.

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