Plan ahead to eat well at Christmas

Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full — even during holidays

Eating regularly — and doing so in well-balanced form — is still the best way to avoid the ups and downs and ups again of holiday mealtime.

It’s the perfect time of year to talk about eating and your health.

The Christmas season is notorious for its impact on people’s waistlines, followed by the dreaded New Year’s Resolution to eat right and shed those extra holiday kilograms. There are constant pressures to eat poorly, from office candy boxes and luncheons to family dinners.

Add to the mix the stress of the season and you’ve got a recipe for bad health. Or at least poor eating habits.

The best way to stay on the wagon over the holidays, says Janet Krenz, community nutritionist with Island Health, is to stick to normal eating patterns.

That means eating three well-balanced meals each day, with a couple of snacks thrown in.

“The holidays are often a stressful time for people,” says Krenz, a registered dietician. “There can be a lot of emotional eating. It’s a way of taking your mind off of what you’re stressing about.”

That way of avoiding stress during the season is made easier, she continues, with the sheer volume of social eating. People tend to gather around food — that’s normal, Krenz says — but this can often lead people into eating more than they normally would. It’s at this point when people who do not want to look forward to extra weight, health effects (or that dreaded resolution)  should be very mindful of eating — or not eating.

“You need to start with eating regularly,” Krenz says. “There’s no need to be fasting or going on restrictive diets. Natural eating means three meals a day and a couple snacks. It’s eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you are full.”

She encourages people to enjoy themselves at mealtime — taste the food, enjoy its sights and smells — but to be mindful and don’t wolf things down in five minutes. Meals are an experience, she continues, saying people should take time to talk, to socialize, and not just focus on the eating.

Krenz says there are a couple of sure signs that you are full and notes it does take about 20 minutes for the stomach to tell the brain that it’s full.

One sign is the simple feeling of being full.

“Ideally, you don’t want to be eating to the point of discomfort and bloating. Eat until you are satisfied.”

Generally, the body will tell you when it’s satisfied. And when faced with social pressure to eat more and more, Krenz says it’s easy to hold off on seconds when telling your host you’re saving room for dessert.

That leads to Krenz’s tips to remember this and any season:

• Plan ahead. On Christmas Day, remember to eat breakfast and lunch (maybe eat a bit less, but do eat), drink lots of water and keep veggies and fruit handy to snack on.

• Build in some activity into the day, a walk or a game to get the body moving.

• Avoid New Year’s resolutions to avoid food. Krenz says this just leads to overeating leading up to Jan. 1 (because after that date, it’s no more indulgence, right?).

• Don’t deprive yourself. Normal eating, says Krenz, includes your favourite foods.

• Skip the guilt. If you do overeat, try not to dwell on it.

“It doesn’t do any good,” says Krenz. “It just leads to more overeating cycles.”

She encourages people to be persistent — get back to eating normally and working on other issues, such as positive body image.

“In our society, a lot of people are dissatisfied with their body image. This is due to many things, including media.

“There can be health at any size,” she continues, “if you can be active and happy and focused on healthy eating.”