Christmas time is upon us — along with all the extra parties and special occasions that make the season so special. As we move from one event to the next, our senses are overwhelmed with the wondrous sights, sounds and scents of the magical season — from festive decorations to freshly-cut pine trees to the sing-along tunes of classic Christmas carols.
And then there’s the food – an abundance of delicious edibles that makes your mouth water and stomach rumble in eager anticipation. Yes, it’s just a matter of time before you come face-to-face with that juicy roast turkey, honey glazed ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, warm-from-the-oven gingerbread, sweet fruit pies, moist cinnamon swirls, old-fashioned cookies, and sticky figgy pudding. Okay, maybe not figgy pudding – but the other traditional staples will probably have one-side of your brain whispering “Just one bite” … while the other side screams, “Are you kidding? Dig in!”
Nutrition expert and exercise physiologist Kyle Albers offers a two-step solution for preventing that “good-brain/bad-brain” dilemma while also permitting party-goers to thoroughly enjoy the holidays without needing to graduate to those “Big Boy” or “Big Girl” jeans. His formula for sensible merry-making: preparation and moderation!
Tips to Handle Temptations
“There are many food and drink temptations we face at this time of year,” says Albers, who directs the Diabetic Care Program for Northern Family Medicine, a division of Northern Hospital of Surry County, “but the following tips can be used to help people maintain their personal health goals.”
- Don’t skip meals. Eat regular meals and snacks throughout the day to help keep from getting hungry and prevent overeating, advises Albers. “Also, now is not the time to start a diet,” he cautions, “because doing so will probably lead to discouragement.”
- Eat a salad before the main meal. A salad is high in fiber which helps you stay full and prevents gorging at the next meal, explains Albers. “It’s also a good idea to eat your main meal earlier in the day,” he adds.
- Stay hydrated! “Water is a great way to help fend off those hunger pangs between meals, and it also helps aid digestion,” he says.
- Use a smaller plate, if possible. “A smaller plate helps trick your mind into thinking you have a lot of food because it looks full – even with smaller portions,” explains Albers.
- Make nutritionally good food choices. “When adding food to your plate, try to use half of your plate for vegetables and the rest for lean protein and carbs,” he advises.
- Be aware of your beverages. “Soft drinks, sweet tea, and alcoholic beverages can have high-caloric values, so your total caloric intake can get away from you if you do not remain conscious of your beverage choices,” he says.
Exercise … In Between Nibbles
“It’s important to stay active,” says Albers, who has played sports all his life (including soccer and lacrosse in high school and college) and now spends a great deal of time outdoors – fishing, hiking, and snowboarding.
“Try to fit in a work-out or activity before a party,” he advises, noting that many indoor gyms like Northern Wellness and Fitness Center (part of Northern Medical Group) have a full range of exercise equipment and machines, as well as an indoor pool and walking track.
Or, if the weather permits, Albers recommends taking an after-dinner walk, hike, or bike-ride with family and friends. “It’s a great way to socialize while helping your body to digest and use the calories you consumed,” he says. He suggests an easy afternoon stroll along Main Street in downtown Mount Airy, or a brisk walking, hiking or biking adventure using one of several outdoor venues available – including the Mount Airy Greenway, the Westwood Park Trail, and Pilot Mountain.
“Whatever you do, enjoy your holiday time with family and friends and try to eat and drink in moderation,” he says. “Remember, you can enjoy a few sweets or drinks with family and friends – just stay aware of your portions and make healthy substitutions whenever possible.”