Healthy during the Holidays

Healthy during the Holidays

4-healthy-holiday_1‘Tis the season of family, friends, delicious home cooked meals, and low willpower. For those who are health conscientious, it can be difficult to resist overindulging on your favorite dishes. But let’s be realistic. Who wants to pass up buttery mashed potatoes, tender turkey, rich mac ‘n’ cheese, and pumpkin pie? Of course it is difficult to reject such a delicious spread of food, and you don’t have to. For those of you who want easy to follow advice that require little willpower, the following tips can help control the amount you eat while allowing you to enjoy your favorite dishes.

Choose Your Plate and Cups Carefully

  1. Use smaller plates. Your mind feels satisfied when you see a full plate compared to a half-filled one. Take a look at the image below. The dark circles indicate the amount of food piled on each plate. Your mind feels satisfied when it sees a full smaller plate as opposed to a partially filled large plate even though the amount of food on each plate is the same. Using a smaller plate can make it easier for you to take smaller servings at the dinner table.4-smaller-plates
  2. Use blue or green plates. The color of your plate matters too. When the color of your plate matches the color of your food, you naturally serve yourself more because the brain has trouble distinguishing the portion size. However, when your food contrasts with the color of your plate then you don’t tend to pile on as much. For example, choosing darker colored plates such as blue or green (which contrasts with light-colored foods like pasta and rice) may help you reduce the amount of starch you eat.
  3. Use a tall, slender glass instead of a short, fat one. When it comes to beverages, drinking water is the way to go. But during the holidays, you’re more likely to choose alcohol or a sweetened beverage like cider or eggnog, which is perfectly fine in moderation. Using a tall, slender glass can reduce the amount you drink. Our brains tend to overestimate vertical lines, so taller glasses look larger than round horizontal mugs.


Mental Tips

  1. Eat what you love, take a pass on the rest. It’s easy to start heaping on a bit of everything when all the dishes look so appetizing. But even a tiny scoop of each dish adds up. Choosing only to eat what you really love can help prevent your plate from overflowing.
  2. Try the fork trick. After each bite, put the fork down and let go of it. Chew your food, swallow, and then pick the fork back up again. The act of releasing the fork reminds you to slow down, enjoy the food, and converse with family and friends. Eating more slowly will help you become more aware of when you are full and, therefore, reduce the chance of overeating.


Exercising Tips

  1. Walk around after eating. Studies have shown that light exercise such as walking after eating can lower your blood sugar and speed up digestion. Walking around the house while talking with family and friends is a good way to exercise after a large meal. In fact, even just standing up is a better option than sitting.
  2. Make exercising work for you. Getting a workout in doesn’t mean you have to go to the gym. It doesn’t necessarily mean you even have to put on workout clothes. You can simply spend five minutes doing a workout video from YouTube before getting dressed in the morning. Or you can do calf raises while brushing your teeth. No matter how busy you are this holiday season, you can, with some creativity, incorporate exercise into your daily routine. That way, when the holiday gathering comes, you have burned a few calories ahead of time, and that second helping of holiday fare won’t be a problem.


So now you have a few tips to help you navigate through this holiday season in guilt-free fashion. Perhaps you CAN have your cake and eat it too! Happy holidays!

If you have questions or would like to discuss any concerns you have regarding your health, you can schedule an appointment with me, Dr. Kathryn Mandal, by calling 817-617-8600 or scheduling online at