By Ann Petersson, RDN, LDN Dietitian at Mid-State Health in Plymouth Owner of Nutrition Works NH LLC in Downtown Concord
Each year the holidays bring treasured once-a-year recipes, both savory and sweet, to our tables as we celebrate this special time of year. Along with holiday cheer, many of my clients report overindulgence in these foods feeling ill afterward. Often, they report overeating because they intentionally didn’t eat much throughout the day; saving their appetite for celebratory meals. This approach often causes intense, almost uncontrollable hunger that is only quelled with a plate that is overflowing and eaten rapidly.
For some holding back hunger cues throughout the day seem like a good strategy around the holidays however it’s usually unsuccessful. When we intentionally deprive our bodies of food, we often crave foods that are energy-dense like cookies, cakes, chocolate, candy, or highly processed foods like chips, crackers, fries. Our bodies know this food will give us quick energy only to leave us hungry or hungrier afterward.
How do we change this behavior?
Moderation and balance!
Eat three balanced meals at regular times, eat slowly, and mindfully until you feel comfortably full. What’s in a balanced meal? Fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates (whole grains/starchy vegetables), protein foods like eggs, poultry, meat, fish, beans, tofu or tempeh, fats like nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, and even butter in moderation.
Portion Control: Try to make half of your plate fruits and vegetables with ¼ plate of protein and ¼ plate complex carbohydrates with a bit of fat added to the meal or used in meal preparation. If you enjoy something sweet, salty, or both after a meal then have it! It’s better to have a moderate portion of these foods with your meal as it will digest with the other foods reducing cravings.
Holiday Drinks: When having cocktails, wine or beer try to have them either with the meal or with appetizers using the same approach of savoring them as you eat them slowly and mindfully. This helps your brain and your stomach communicate feelings of fullness and satisfaction leading to fewer cravings.
Pro Tip: Here’s a simple way to eat in moderation when there are too many delicious holiday foods served. Fill your plate with a small serving spoonful of everything that looks appetizing to you, then eat it slowly and mindfully, chewing well to savor every bite. Allow your body about 20 minutes to feel your fullness. If you still feel hungry you can repeat this technique but you may be surprised how full and satisfied you are because you didn’t deprive yourself throughout the day and you had a bite or two of all the holiday foods you enjoy at this time of year.
ANN’S ENERGY BITES RECIPE
These little energy bites can be stored in the freezer or fridge for a quick snack that is balanced with protein and fat from the nut butter and seeds some complex carbohydrates from the oatmeal and a little sweetness from dried fruit.
Crispy Nut and Seed Bites with Peanut Butter and Chocolate
- 1⁄2 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
•1⁄2 c rice crisp cereal
•1/4 c. chopped nuts: walnuts, pecans, pistachios, or almonds •2 T. sunflower seeds
•1/4 t. cinnamon
•1/8 t. sea salt
•1/4 c. + 2 T. nut or seed butter of your choice
•1/8 c. honey
•1/2 t. vanilla extract
•2 T. raisins or craisins
•Optional: 1/4 c. semi sweet chocolate morsels
Method: mix nut butter with honey, vanilla, salt and cinnamon. Add oats rice crisp cereal, nuts/seeds and raisins/craisins. Mix well. Use a teaspoon to scoop a small amount then roll into 1/2-1 inch diameter balls. Freeze or refrigerate until firm. Enjoy!