Five Skinny Holiday Eating Hacks

Guest blog by Christy Brissette, MSc, RD of 80 Twenty Nutrition

Take a look at your calendar over the next few weeks and it’s probably filled with office parties, gatherings with family and friends, and plenty of reasons to overindulge in food and drink.

Research tells us that over the holidays, you’re likely to put on a couple of pounds and half of that sticks around until summer and beyond. It doesn’t seem like much, but if it happens every year it can add up.

So what’s a festive food-lover to do?

Here are my top healthy eating hacks to put food psychology to work for you. These tips will help you avoid mindless holiday eating so you can keep the extra pounds away – and still enjoy what the season has to offer!

1. Hunger is your enemy

Show up to a party or holiday dinner ravenous and you know the drill… you scarf down everything in sight. I have clients who think a good strategy to avoid holiday weight gain is not eating all day so they can “save their calories” for dinner.

Once they take my advice and start eating smaller meals packed with vegetables, protein and fibre, they show up to the holiday event better able to make good food decisions… and less likely to gain weight.

What’s a good pre-event snack? Try an egg on a slice of whole grain toast, a handful or roasted chickpeas or raw nuts with a piece of fruit, or some Greek yogurt with berries.

For lunch that day, opt for a cup of skinnypasta with sauteed mushrooms and red peppers. It’s ready in a couple minutes and the protein and fibre keeps the “hangries” away.

2. Step away from the buffet

Research shows that when food is close to us, we eat it. Even when you’re not hungry!

Position yourself away from the food at parties to avoid mindless snacking. If you have to walk away from a conversation to get some food, you’ll have to really want it (or maybe it’s your excuse to get away from your great aunt Hilda).

Keep your hands occupied by always having a glass of water with lemon on the go. When it’s empty, you can use the excuse of needing to refresh your drink if you need to escape!

3. Bring a healthy dish 

Ever been in the situation where you show up at a party or a dinner and there’s nothing to eat but refined carbs and deep fried appetizers? It happens!

Showing up to a party blind means you’re putting your health goals in the hands of your host. That person may or may not think the holidays are a time for healthier options.

Take some control back by letting your host know you’ll bring a healthy dish. It’s a win-win because it’s in the spirit of giving (what host doesn’t welcome some extra help) and if there really aren’t any healthy options, you’re guaranteeing there’s one dish you can enjoy! That can be the bulk of your meal and you can sample some of the other options.

The best dish to bring is loaded with fibre and protein to fill you up for fewer calories. Bonus points if you can incorporate some superfoods to up the health benefits in the dish!

The solution? Make a baked pasta with vegetables. It’s comfort food but you can up the ante by using GK skinnypasta SUPERFOOD TEFF Penne. Teff is an ancient grain that’s gluten-free and a good source of fibre, protein and minerals such as iron, zinc, manganese and copper. About a quarter of the fibre in GK skinnypasta is resistant starch which may help you manage your weight. You’d never know by how delicious it tastes!

Here’s the perfect mouth-watering recipe for Light Spinach and Tomato Mac & Cheese. It tastes like comfort food but you get the nutrition benefits of a superfood!

4. Make 1 great plate

Which has fewer calories: a medium piece of turkey with gravy or 3 small pieces of turkey with gravy on 3 separate plates?

Logically, we know it’s probably the first option, but we like to dupe ourselves into thinking we’re doing the healthier thing by taking little bits and bites several times. The problem with taking smaller amounts and going back for second and third helpings is it’s hard to visualize how much you’ve eaten.

Whether you’re at the dinner table or a party, fill your plate with half vegetables and salad, a quarter protein such as light turkey and a quarter complex carbohydrates whether it’s squash or mashed potatoes. This will help keep portion sizes under control.

5. Be choosy

I saw a client recently who has been rocking her weight loss plan but was feeling some anxiety about going to her parent’s house for Christmas dinner. She described that her mom typically makes 4 different desserts and her brother’s wife brings 2 more. When I asked her, “Which dessert it your absolute favourite?” she quickly exclaimed, “My mom’s apple pie is the best!”

We talked about what it would be like to have a small piece of that special pie, really enjoy it, and not have some of those “lesser” desserts that really didn’t do it for her. She was so relieved to just focus on her favourite one!

That’s why it pays to be choosy. Choose 1 less healthy item in a small portion and really savour it… and if a high calorie food doesn’t seem worth it, don’t put it on your plate.

What’s your healthy holiday eating strategy? Share in the comments below!

Wishing you a happy, healthy holiday!