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Holiday Feast Survival Guide

Do you find it hard to make healthy eating choices over the holidays? You’re not alone. How many times have you heard a relative at these gatherings declare a few bites from the veggie tray will “cancel out” an extra helping of tourtière, or that a broken cookie has “lost” its calories?

Fortunately, you don’t have to avoid holiday meals or swear off all decadent food. Instead, simply focus on a few key portion control tricks to help you maintain a healthy weight.

1. Size matters

Choose a smaller plate. It’s simple but it works. Your eyes see a full plate and that can often be a sign that tells you “enough.” You can also use smaller glasses for high-calorie beverages, such as holiday cocktails, wine or beer, and larger glasses for water. Smaller plates and glasses mean smaller portion sizes, and smaller portion sizes are a key factor for avoiding obesity.

2. Avoid serving “family style”

Serve food on individual plates for each person. Leave the serving dishes in another room or tuck them out of sight to limit the temptation for second and third helpings. Buffets offer a multitude of opportunities for “just a little of this, just bit more of that” – and that can quickly add up to a lot. Just a few hundred extra calories per day can lead to significant weight gain.

3. savour every bite

The holidays are a time for eating foods we only get to enjoy once or twice a year and special family gatherings offer plenty of opportunities to take time for conversation – so slow down and really enjoy that holiday feast. Why? Eating more slowly gives your body more time to register feelings of fullness, which means you’re less likely to overeat.

4. The big cost of “saving up” for a special meal

You might think it’s a wise strategy to skip breakfast or to say no to a small mid-afternoon snack to “save room” for that special meal. That’s just asking for trouble. You not only risk overeating because you’re so hungry by the time dinner rolls around, but also becoming grumpy as your blood sugar drops and mealtime approaches, and that’s no fun for anyone. There are also very serious health risks associated with skipping meals.

5. It’s OK to not clean your plate

Many of us have been trained from a young age to clean our plates and not to waste food. But leftover food doesn’t need to go to your waist. Not only is it OK to leave food on your plate, it’s also a good example to set for the children at the table. Distract yourself by helping to set up for or clean up after the meal, getting a games table ready, or even joining a few relatives for a walk. After all, these gatherings are really all about being with family.

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*This blog was originally posted Dec. 2, 2016 and has been updated on Dec., 21, 2020.