Living Well

Tips for eating healthy during the holidays

Alan Bowers, MD
Tips for eating healthy during the holidays

We are now in the midst of the holidays, though 2020 resembles nothing like we have seen in our lifetime. Due to the coronavirus, holiday parties and long-held traditional events are canceled. As an alternative, many people are turning to Zoom or some other social gathering platform, creating virtual dinners or holiday parties with friends and family to stay connected and celebrate. It’s a great idea, but Mr. Grinch is here with a reminder that holiday calories do add up, regardless if you are socializing in person or virtually.

Calories can add up in a split second during the holidays

It is noted that, on average, a person will consume over 3,000 calories on Thanksgiving Day and can nearly double that on Christmas Day. Let’s face it, during the holidays, eating habits can quickly get out of whack as there’s typically much more food around the house, and nibbling becomes the norm. If you are getting together with immediate family or socializing with friends virtually, good eating habits are still important as staying healthy should be the goal, especially since we are now in flu season, not to mention the ongoing pandemic.

Sometimes it takes a reality check to get people thinking about what they eat during the holidays as most of us don’t realize how many calories are in some of our favorite seasonal foods. For instance:

  • Sweet Potato Casserole will set you back 400 calories per serving
  • Homemade gravy has 375 calories per serving
  • A piece of pecan pie (1/8 of a standard pie) had over 500 calories
  • A small glass of eggnog with one ounce of brandy packs over 300 calories

We all need to celebrate, but just be aware of what you are eating and drinking and make wise choices so you don’t pack on on too many pounds before the end of the year.

Five healthy tips to getting through the holidays

Safely celebrating with friends is a way to bring about a little holiday cheer, and there are some simple tips you can follow to keep the calorie count in check:

Plan Ahead:

  • As much as you can, stick to your regular eating routine to keep your blood sugar stable. If you are eating later than normal, have a small, healthy snack so that you don’t overeat during your meal.
  • If you do plan on having hors d'oeuvres, a glass of wine, or a dessert, replace a dinner item with a healthy vegetable to make up for those calories consumed

Take the smart approach to dining

  • Use a small dinner plate versus a regular plate as it will limit the amount of space for food, and make sure you eat vegetables first as that will ease hunger
  • Eat slowly as it takes at least 20 minutes for your brain to realize you’re full

Do enjoy some of your favorite seasonal dishes

  • Depriving yourself of something you like is not the way to approach holiday dining. If there is a dish or a particular food item that you only get during the holidays, enjoy it, but know the nutritional information and adjust accordingly. You may need to skip something else, like bread or stuffing, which you can find any time during the year.

Exercise

  • Even if you are busy, find time to exercise. Not only can it help keep off weight, it’s a great way to reduce stress. A good, vigorous 45-minute bike ride can help you burn around 500 calories; a brisk hour walk can burn up to a few hundred calories.

Get enough sleep

  • You may not realize it, but a lack of sleep makes it harder to manage your blood sugar. Also, if you are up more rather than sleeping, you may tend to eat more. A good sleep habit is 7 to 8 hours of rest nightly.

About Dr. Alan Bowers: 

Dr. Alan Bowers was born and raised on the Westbank of New Orleans. He specializes in Internal Medicine at West Jefferson Medical Center Primary Care. After attending LSU School of Medicine in Shreveport, Louisiana, he completed his internship and residency at Alton Ochsner Foundation Hospital in New Orleans. He continues to practice because he feels strongly tied to the Westbank community in which he grew up.