Have Your Christmas And Eat It Too

December 13, 2013

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No one wants to spend the holiday season deprived of its delicious abundance. But no one wants to gain the Holiday Ten.

They-say

“Eat before the holiday party”  //  “Skip the eggnog”  //  “This 50 calorie skinny cocktail is the lightest”

Conventional diet advice means you’re missing out on the most wonderful time of the year. At Thanksgiving this year we were discussing how there was so much chatter about ways to make your Thanksgiving dinner healthier. Apparently the average meal is 7,000 calories? I’m not sure I believe that. One dinner will not make you fat. 365 dinners will. So rather than stressing out about how you’re going to say no to Aunt Erma’s triple chocolate cake on Christmas, spend your mental energy on the Squiggly Line Effect.

Squiggle

In years past I have actually lost weight between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Thanksgiving is such a heavy weekend that it throws me into a few weeks of eating really well. I think I also have this sense that more eating is coming, so I am building up hunger in between the holidays.

Here are a few tips that work well for me:

Starving

When I eat before the holiday party I end up having two dinners, which is even more calories then if I’d just eaten at the party alone! I used to have a big salad before just to ensure that I got vegetables with my dinner in the event that the party had no crudités. But I have decided that having a salad for lunch and no vegetables for dinner is perfectly healthy a few times a year (or month…). Vegetables rule, but like I said above, we’re talking about very few days of the year. On days when I have a big night ahead, I try to have a smallish lunch followed by a hearty afternoon snack so that by the time the party or Christmas dinner arrives I’m hungry but not famished. Hunger IS the best sauce you know!

eggnog

Everyone knows eggnog is one of the most calorie dense drinks on the planet. But what would Christmas be without it? I actually find the lighter versions of nog to be just as delicious, but make sure the ingredient list is still recognizable. You don’t want to trade calories for chemicals. For Thanksgiving I actually found some grass-fed nog and it was wonderful after dinner the night after Thanksgiving – when I wasn’t so full. So with eggnog or pie or the mixed nut bowl – enjoy a little. Just make sure you keep your portion on the small side.

drink

Maybe a light beer is less calories than a White Russian, but if you have 5 of them because they taste like water you’re not saving very much! {That was probably a terrible example because I doubt many of you drink 5 Buds on Christmas!} Anyways, my point is drink what you want most and what you will savor. My drink of choice – red wine divided into a few small pours. Some before and some with dinner.

flakes

I don’t mean for this post to sound preachy – more power to you if you can say no to nog! The bottom line for me, and perhaps most importantly, is to focus on how I feel. And this includes keeping the threat of a hangover close to heart! Sort of like how intuitive eating will even itself out over time, if you focus on how you feel you aren’t bound to eat so many calories that you gain permanent pounds. Enjoy the evening just enough so that you sleep well that night and wake up refreshed in the morning. The older I get, the easier it is for me to know when I hit that point. Your body will tell you when the holiday is over.

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{ 57 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Joy December 13, 2013 at 12:28 pm

Thanks for this post. My office party is tonight, and it came at exactly the right time!

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2 Jamie December 13, 2013 at 12:30 pm

Hi Kath, What are your thoughts on soy nog? I love the Silk Nog, but have never investigated the calories in it.
Love your blog!

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3 KathEats December 13, 2013 at 12:34 pm

I found the ingredients here and it does have Carrageenan which has raised eyebrows in recent years (Oh She Glows did a post on it). It’s one of those ingredients that I don’t think is poison once a year but I wouldn’t buy something regularly (I changed my cottage cheese brand) with it.

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4 Amy December 13, 2013 at 1:10 pm

what cottage cheese do you buy (and where?) I’ve had a hard time finding one without carrageenan.

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5 KathEats December 13, 2013 at 1:14 pm
6 Amy December 13, 2013 at 1:15 pm

wow kath– thanks for the quick reply and that list, very helpful!

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7 Brittany December 13, 2013 at 12:37 pm

I drink soy eggnog, and I still do the shot glass thing. Its one of my holiday weaknesses. I also, just buy one carton and once its gone its gone. So I tend to savor it a little bit more.

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8 Kat @ Where the Sidewalk Ends December 13, 2013 at 12:44 pm

Am I the only one who thinks eggnog tastes like toothpaste? Notably, I haven’t had it in years (one gulp of toothpaste-like nog will do that to you) but I can’t stand the stuff. Kath, as always, I love your wildly moderate perspective that is loaded with reason and kindness. I think this is actually my first time commenting, but I have read every post you’ve written for several years and treasure many of them for their advice and recipes. Happy Holidays!

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9 KathEats December 13, 2013 at 1:16 pm

Thanks for your first comment!!

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10 cathy December 13, 2013 at 4:20 pm

I am with you! Eggnog = yuck!

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11 Anna @ Fitness à la Anna December 13, 2013 at 12:46 pm

I totally agree that it would be a bit too much to completely deprive yourself at Christmas dinner. I try to get a healthy snack in before hand so I’m not totally starving and eat all the things, and I also try to drink a glass of water in between every alcoholic drink to avoid the morning after headache ;)

I actually just did a similar list of 10 tips to avoid the holiday ten: http://fitnessalaanna.blogspot.ca/2013/12/10-tips-to-conquer-holiday-indulgences.html

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12 Jackie December 13, 2013 at 12:48 pm

Love these tips and the squiggly line effect is awesome!

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13 Janelle December 13, 2013 at 12:48 pm

I’m a fan of this philosophy. I agree that one night (or a few nights) of indulgence will not make you fat! The only problem is when my mind tries to convince me… there weren’t any negative affects from eating that way once or twice, why not eat that way ALL the time? Haha. Sorry, self; it doesn’t work that way. But, as you said, I do also start to crave eating well after a bit of not eating well anyway, so it evens out.

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14 Mary December 13, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Interesting that you used eggnog as your primary example…I guess its pretty popular? I think its gross, and we’ve never had it at our family gatherings, so no temptation there!

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15 Sarah December 13, 2013 at 1:07 pm

I have noticed a funny phenomenon this year for my eating strategy. I used to be very intuitive like you suggest for holiday eating. However, earlier this year I discovered that I am very sensitive to MSG, which is found in most savory holiday dishes (yeast extract is in most packaged broth). I noticed that I’m actually overindulging on things that I can eat because I’m upset, irrationally worried that I’ll leave hungry, and embarrassed to have only a few things on my plate. It’s been a real bummer but I guess I’m self-soothing with pie. This cannot lead anywhere good…

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16 Maureen December 13, 2013 at 1:09 pm

I was just thinking at a party last night that I am much more aware of how full I am then I was 5-10 years ago. I don’t tend to overeat anymore around the holidays and make sure one portion is one portion, not ten loaded onto ONE plate. ;-)
I also make sure to have healthy dinners on the nights we are not out & about.

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17 Liana@RunToMunch December 13, 2013 at 1:11 pm

So agree! I found that allowing myself to enjoy my guilty pleasure keeps me from going all crazy and eating everything in sight. Allowing me to enjoy one chocolate brownie, keeps me from sampling all the other 70 deserts in the room. Don’t let FOMO on food make yourself sick =)

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18 Katie @ Peace Love & Oats December 13, 2013 at 1:33 pm

I love your squiggly line metaphor and it’s definitely something I keep in mind! Sure I might eat a little more decadent than I normally would during the holidays, but I don’t do it every day! Past holidays I haven’t been able to enjoy because I’m constantly running through calorie counts in my head and freaking out about what will be served and if I’ll have anything “healthy” to eat. When you do that you’re not enjoying the time with your friends and family!

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19 Ellie@Fit for the soul December 13, 2013 at 1:48 pm

I’ve never actually drunk eggnog before, though I’ve tried it in baked goods and stuff! I hear it’s extremely rich and you can only drink so much of it? And I agree that it’s so much better and far more liberating to eat according to how you feel, especially when there are so many gatherings coming our way.

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20 Jill Allison Bryan December 13, 2013 at 1:48 pm

I’ve been following your fabulous blog for years, but this is the first time I think I’ve commented. I too have lost weight at this time of year. Years ago made it to my goal weight between Halloween and New Year’s Day – and didn’t feel deprived.

Thanks for the sane and healthy reminder. Didn’t think this was preachy at all!

Jill

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21 KathEats December 13, 2013 at 1:48 pm

Yay first comment!

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22 efd December 13, 2013 at 1:48 pm

thanks for this post! i’m deep in the holiday party season, and this is a good reminder that it can all balance out!

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23 ErikaMC December 13, 2013 at 1:50 pm

A lot of our foods at Thanksgiving and Christmas are only made then so that’s all the more reason to eat and enjoy them. Even if I end up miserably full and can’t move I know I will have enjoyed great food with great people.

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24 Julie @ RDelicious Kitchen December 13, 2013 at 1:50 pm

As a (soon to be – just need to take my exam!) dietitian – I 100% agree with this. Many people who I have worked with promote these unrealistic goals. I love the comment “One dinner will not make you fat. 365 dinners will.” I’ve had comments made toward me about grabbing a regular size piece of pie at Thanksgiving because I’m going to be a dietitian “I shouldn’t eat that because it’s unhealthy. Everything in moderation. Enjoy the holidays Kath!

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25 Sanaz @ Run for Cake December 13, 2013 at 1:53 pm

I love this. Great tips! I find that moderation is key. There is no reason to eat everything in sight just because it’s the holidays. You should try to stay active and enjoy everything in moderation.

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26 Johanna B December 13, 2013 at 1:56 pm

I saved my one glass of nog for 2013 for today. It was my company’s annual Christmas lunch and they serve the best. I sipped it slowly and savored every sip.

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27 Melissa December 13, 2013 at 1:57 pm

I totally agree with you, Kath! Also, I always think about it from the host or chef’s perspective. It’s upsetting to put time and effort into making something homemade (even if it’s a batch of cookies for the office) only to have everybody avoid what you made because they’re on a diet. Trying things in small servings is a good compromise!

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28 KathEats December 13, 2013 at 2:21 pm

Great point!!!

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29 Mom December 14, 2013 at 7:59 am

I’ll never forget the time I made a batch of really delicious lemon cookies and another mother said, “I never feed my kid junk like this.” I thought she was quite rude!

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30 Caitlin December 13, 2013 at 2:14 pm

I think this post was excellent- and not preachy in the slightest! It’s a great approach to have to the holiday season, and I, for one, loved the positivity and straightforwardness of it. Thanks Kath! xx

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31 Julie December 13, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Thanks for the realistic approach to holiday eating. This has been my mentality, and it drives me nuts to healthify (new word ;) ) one meal when it happens once a year. If I know I’ll be having heavy meals, I try to balance the rest of the day with that. I also like the phrase taste everything, eat nothing. I do this with dessert options, so instead of eating one large piece of cake/pie/etc, I take a few small pieces of different options so I can enjoy it all. Great post though, and much needed at this time of the year when people are deciding to diet during the hardest (and best tasting) time of the year!

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32 Karen December 13, 2013 at 2:18 pm

Terrific post filled with good sense!

Have a lovely weekend, Kath!

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33 Laura December 13, 2013 at 2:35 pm

I love eggnog and it wouldn’t be the holidays without it! I try to eat better during the week and to get in more exercise to offset all the goodies. And I only eat food I truly love and not just filler foods since they are there.

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34 eliza December 13, 2013 at 2:59 pm

100%.. when I used to TRY to diet on holidays I would end up eating 10x more.. like the year I had 5 pieces of pie..

Now I have 1 piece (ok maybe 1 1/2) and am satisfied without dieting

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35 Chelsea @ Designs on Dinner December 13, 2013 at 3:17 pm

I love the idea of the squiggly line effect, especially around the holidays. I love to savor my nog in a small glass with ice, and I know now I’ll enjoy my meal and beverages more if I’m not overstuffed or hungover the next day. Great advice!

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36 Shel@PeachyPalate December 13, 2013 at 3:19 pm

Great tips!!! I think when people try and restrict or limit themselves too much they’ll end up with an almighty splurge, it’s one day, enjoy it! It’s the days before and after or continually eating the same overload that pack on the pounds for people but one day of indulgence like you say will all balance out in the end!

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37 Lisa C. December 13, 2013 at 3:20 pm

If only more people would take this reasonable approach! I get so tired of all the extreme fad diets that are popular now. It really is so much simpler to listen to our bodies and enjoy a nice balance of light and rich foods.

I like your little tree!

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38 Livi December 13, 2013 at 4:00 pm

wonderful tips!!

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39 Sally December 13, 2013 at 4:40 pm

Always love your practical, laid-back “philosophies…” Couldn’t agree more and pretty much follow the same principles. Thanks!

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40 Sara December 13, 2013 at 5:18 pm

Just wanted to say I really enjoy these kinds of posts about nutrition/health/diet…hope there will be more to come!

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41 Maryz December 13, 2013 at 7:45 pm

Love this approach! I use your ‘squiggly’ line approach a lot. I use to count every bite I put into my mouth every day of the year. I would deprive myself of all treats! Not any more! Squiggly is the best route to go!

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42 Laura December 14, 2013 at 7:09 am

Such a wonderfully worded post! You have such a good perspective on things. I agree that the older I get, the more relaxed I am about the holiday indulgences is — and the easier it is to wake up the next morning and resume a healthy lifestyle. Besides, if we didn’t indulge ever, we wouldn’t be reminded that too many treats make for a sluggish mind and body… It’s strategic, really ;)

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43 chris December 14, 2013 at 8:58 am

Great reminder post as we head to Richmond for yet another party! My mind-trick is not to eat anything standing up at parties. It’s simple and helps me keep track of what I’m eating. Plus balancing a glass of wine with a hot appetizer on a napkin can be dangerous. When I have to make a little plate of treats and sit down to eat it, I can be more mindful.

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44 Cheryl December 14, 2013 at 11:10 am

I love this post and the squiggly line approach! Thank you and Merry Christmas

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45 Amanda December 14, 2013 at 11:34 am

Thank you for this sensible post!!

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46 Elizabeth December 14, 2013 at 1:08 pm

Great post! I feel people get so caught up in the “dieting” and ways to make food healthier and “top 10 things NOT to eat this holiday season” that we forgot it is ONE day. And we might have some parties thrown in, so add 3 or 4 days and this makes up 5 days approximately out of 365/366. I love this post so much, this topic is always brought up around our house during the holidays (i’m a nutritionist and my cousin is a personal trainer) I can’t wait to share with everyone! Once again great post!

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47 kyla December 14, 2013 at 6:21 pm

From one RD to another, thanks for your perfect example of enjoying the most wonderful time of the year (within moderation)

:)

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48 Florence December 14, 2013 at 7:20 pm

Thank you for providing such a balanced take on the holidays. So often the diet advice is entirely unrealistic, like who can expect to get through Christmas day without even a sip of egg nog?! Promoting moderation is so important, yet your guidelines are specific enough so that a little eggnog is, as you said, a shot glass worth and not, oops I downed half a carton. Happy Holidays!

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49 Lindsay December 15, 2013 at 12:56 am

I thought this was a perfect-non-preachy reminder post! I’m leaving tomorrow to fly back to the mainland (we live in Hawaii) and we’ll be snuggled eatin-home cookin for three weeks in Ohio. I’m excited and terrified. I know my workouts and eating will be far different with family, but this was just what I needed to read. I can still enjoy, just thoughtfully;)

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50 Sarah (Kale & Cupcakes) December 15, 2013 at 7:58 am

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

Like you, I’m a Registered Dietitian. And I’m constantly being asked, “how do I resist temptations around the holidays?” And I’m constantly getting letters on how to “teach” your clients about how to eat at Thanksgiving/Christmas/etc.

My response is always a little dumbfounded. I wouldn’t eat salad all day on Christmas and I wouldn’t want my clients to do this either!! It’s all about balance. And as your post so eloquently pointed out, a couple days out of the year is not what ruins a perfectly healthy diet. It’s the days after and the days before and all of those other days in between.

I may use your squiggle line effect with future clients too…what a great visual aid!! :D FABULOUS post, Kath!

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51 Michele December 15, 2013 at 3:02 pm

The squiggly line approach is how I throughout the year. I truly believe if you feel deprived you’re more likely to overeat anyways, so enjoy your food and eat healthfully the majority of the time. Thanks for your wonderful blog!

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52 Darcel Hunt December 15, 2013 at 11:06 pm

Great tips! Socializing or dancing work too! If you’re busy talking or getting your groove on, you will spend less time around the hors d’oeuvres table.
http://quobreakerfitness.org/

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53 Amelia December 16, 2013 at 5:06 pm

Love this advice :)

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54 Alex @ Kenzie Life December 17, 2013 at 10:11 am

I love these types of posts and it’s nice to have your perspective as an RD! Because I have an eating disordered past, I like to try and eat the way I usually eat throughout the year but be mindful of my splurges. December is a big month since it’s both my birthday month and Christmas, so I ate my usual balanced meals before my birthday and then went to the Melting Pot and enjoyed myself. Like you said, it’s one dinner. I would love to see a post like this around New Years if you feel inclined at all!

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55 Lauren Paradis December 17, 2013 at 12:09 pm

I love this post! I can’t agree more.

The older I get the more I understand nutrition and what it is all about! Calories over chemicals, because in the end… our bodies recognize real vs. fake any day!

Again, I agree.. the holidays are once a year! The less we stress and the more we enjoy.. we really forget about the “food” and realize what the holidays are truly about.. to enjoy! We will make it all up throughout the year. :-D

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56 Spice Chicken December 18, 2013 at 12:41 pm

I also scratched my head at the 7000-calorie holiday meal estimates. Then again, many families’ holiday spreads may contain fewer vegetables and more starches (mashed potatoes + sweet potatoes + stuffing + rolls?!) than mine, and other readers of this blog. My local newspaper recommended 1/4 cup serving of green beans per person, but in my house we eat eight times that amount roasted with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. Holiday meals may be a little more calorie dense than normal dinners and contain special-occasion treats like a glass of sparkling wine, but they probably aren’t quite the disaster predicted for people with healthy approaches to diet and lifestyle.

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57 Liesl @ Fitnessinthekitchen December 19, 2013 at 11:42 am

This is a great post. I totally am with you on the drinks in a shot glass. Whenever I have some red wine, I know I only want a taste, so I just have a small shot glass of it. And it is just the amount that I want.
I truly believe enjoying what we are truly going to savor is the best way, and the bigger picture is consistency with healthy habits. Thanks for clearly sharing your knowledge.

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