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Simple eating behaviors can help keep your holidays happy and healthy

Monday, November 11, 2013

University Hospitals dietitian and physician offer easy tips for avoiding seasonal weight gain

GEAUGA COUNTY – Each year Geauga County-area residents wrestle with weight gain and other health risks because of the accessibility of greater volumes of food – both healthy and unhealthy – during the holiday season. “The time between Halloween and Valentine’s Day is difficult for many people,” says Barbara Klick, RD, MPH, registered dietitian and Program Manager, Bariatric Surgery, University Hospitals (UH) Geauga Medical Center. “The best thing you can do when it comes to eating at this time of year is to make a plan and stick to it.”

That plan should address not only the types of food you eat, but also behaviors than can impact how much you eat. Klick recommends weighing yourself daily to keep your weight in check as the holiday season progresses. “Always eat breakfast, one that includes protein to stave off hunger longer,” she says. “If you’re going shopping, be sure to eat a healthy meal before you go, so you’ll be less tempted to buy junk food.”

Naturally suppressing hunger is also an effective way to navigate parties and family get-togethers without overeating. “Follow what I call ‘the wedding plan’ and avoid going to holiday events hungry,” says James T. Pizarro, MD, a University Hospitals Internal Medicine physician with special interests in health maintenance and nutrition. “Eat in a controlled setting at home, before the event, so you won’t eat as much when you get there. Then once you arrive, instead of totally denying yourself certain foods, set a quota for yourself and eat one or two of the items that appeal to you. Drink plenty of water, too – for hydration, but also to help you feel full longer.”

Dr. Pizarro and Barbara Klick also recommend not standing near the food when you’re at a holiday party. “Socialize away from the buffet or appetizer trays so you’re not constantly reminded of food,” says Klick. “Have a beverage glass in your hand, too. That will make it less convenient for you to graze. If you’re drinking alcohol, drink in moderation and consider having it on the rocks. The melting ice will allow your drink to last longer.”

Eating smaller amounts at more frequent intervals, especially during the holidays when there are more opportunities to eat larger quantities, is also recommended. “Even with the same caloric intake, people should eat four small meals a day rather than one or two large meals,” says Dr. Pizarro, a UH Geauga Medical Center referring physician. “It’s amazing how much easier it is to control weight gain by having smaller, more frequent portions and not devouring your food.”

Barbara Klick concurs. “Take small bites, chew slowly and give yourself 30 minutes per meal,” she says. “Throughout the holiday season, concentrate on your meal while you’re eating it. Smell it, notice the texture, really taste your food. Take your time and enjoy it. It will aid digestion and help you not eat as much.”

Above all, the key to eating healthy is to make a plan now and stay with it into the new year. “There are several nutrition apps available for your smart phone or iPad to help you stay on track during the holidays,” says Klick. “Remember, it takes an additional 500 calories per day above your normal maintenance consumption to gain one pound per week. It comes down to being consistent about choosing what you’re going to eat and what you’re not going to eat … every single day.”

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