'Tis the season to celebrate; our calendars are packed with parties for work, for school with friends and with family. Everywhere you turn, there is another food temptation. While it is okay to splurge once in a while and enjoy our favorite holiday foods, the struggle to maintain our health and our waistline becomes a serious challenge as our holi-"day" has transformed into a month long celebration. According to a study from Cornell University, the average American gains only about 1-2 pounds over the holidays. But it takes almost five months for us to lose that extra holiday weight. Furthermore, it can become dangerous when the weight gain has an accumulate effect over the years. For today's On the Menu segment, Katie Francisco, registered dietitian, from Mercy Health, discusses Developing a Strategy for Healthy Holiday Habits.

Rest Up

Yes, we are all busy especially this time of year. But don't cheat yourself out of the sleep your body needs. Set a goal to get at least seven hours of sleep per night. According to a recent study, adults eat an average 300 calories more after a short night’s sleep and tend to choose higher-fat, higher-calorie foods. By getting the sleep your body needs, it will be easier to eat less and make healthier choices.

Downsize Your Plate

Believe it or not, a simple change like reducing the size of your plate can trick your brain and help you to eat less. According to the Calorie Control Council, the average calories eaten at a holiday dinner is an astounding 3,000 calories (which in one meal exceeds the 2,000 calories that the average American needs in an entire day)! Choose a salad plate instead of a dinner plate and eat 40% less, cutting up to 1,200 calories.

Practice Mindful Eating

Mindful eating includes eating slowly and listening to your body's hunger cues. Did you know that it takes the brain up to 20 minutes to realize that you are full?

  • Take smaller sips and bites. Put your fork down between bites. Studies find that when you take nibbles, chew your food longer and eat slower, your brain actually thinks you have eaten more and you eat 30% fewer calories.
  • Start with veggies! Research suggests that you will consume the largest quantity of the foods that you eat first, plus the fiber will help you to feel full sooner. Try fresh veggies and hummus instead of chips and dip to save 120 calories per serving.
  • Move away from the food table so that you are not tempted to nibble when you are not actually hungry. Offer to bring a healthy dish to share. This provides insurance that you will have at least one healthy option to eat.

Pour Wisely
Calories from adult beverages can also really impact your waistline. Watch portions as all glasses are not the same size. To get an estimated 5-ounce serving of wine, count "1-2-3" when pouring. Don’t rely on just filling up a glass halfway, since wine glasses vary significantly in size. Underestimating your portion can quickly turn that 125-calorie glass into a 250-calorie one. Also, be cautious of heavy craft beers or mixers with a lot of sugar. Just four ounces of a sweetened mixer will cost you a whopping 25 grams of carb (about 14 gummy bears worth), and decadent drinks like a mudslide can contain more than 500 calories, which is equivalent to a slice of chocolate cake. Finally, keep in mind that not only do the actual alcohol calories add up but alcohol also can act as an appetite stimulant. Plus, as you know it also lowers inhibitions, thus we tend to have less willpower in resisting those food cravings. It is a good practice to alternate alcoholic beverages with non-calorie beverages, like water or sparkling water, which will also help to maintain your hydration.


Courtesy: Mercy Health Saint Mary's