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Posted: Monday, December 25, 2023

Festivities, Food and Family

In our country, holidays are closely tied to food-centered family gatherings. You know your family and friends will bring your favorite holiday foods to the table, so how do you avoid overdoing it this holiday season? If stretchy, elastic-waist pants and a post-meal nap aren’t ideal, consider not only what, but how you eat. Making even one simple behavior change can mean better appetite control and enjoying the holiday without feeling miserable.

“This time of year is full of gatherings and many opportunities to overindulge. As a dietitian for more than two decades, I’ve come across good tips over the years to help prevent overindulging that don’t butcher any family recipes. A wise option is to go in with a plan: take your own healthy option, eat off smaller plates, eat slowly and savor the foods that you only get once a year,” Blount Memorial registered dietitian Heather Pierce said. Another strategy is to remember to keep alcoholic drinks to a minimum, since they can cause an increase in appetite. Studies show that drinking alcohol before or with meals increases caloric intake by 30 percent.

In addition, if blood sugar is regulated, our body handles the hormone insulin more efficiently. Insulin has important functions in the body, but high insulin can bring on sugar crashes, leading to more hunger. Eating often equals higher insulin levels more often, making it hard to manage weight. Food order eating is a newer approach, and great for anyone with insulin resistance or diabetes. It allows eating in a way that fulfills without spiking blood sugar and better appetite management. “Studies comparing eating carbs first versus protein and vegetables first show a clear advantage to blood sugar and insulin management with the latter,” Pierce explained.

Meals that are heavy in carbohydrates will spike blood sugar and insulin. It’s ok to eat carbs, but eating your food in a certain order can reduce those blood sugar and insulin spikes. First, fill half your plate with a green option, such as a salad or non-starchy vegetables that contain fiber. Fiber is slow to digest and filling, so it acts as a nice landing spot for the rest of the meal. Along with the vegetable, protein should take up a quarter of the plate. Protein also is a food that digests slower and is satisfying, so along with your veggies, have some meat, deviled eggs, cheese, or choose a vegetarian option such as tofu. Starches and sweet treats are digested the quickest, so have them at the end when there’s already protein and fiber there to help slow down the effect of carbohydrates. Pick your absolute favorite carb, starch or sweet for the last quarter of the plate to polish off and enjoy the last part of the meal.

“If you still overdo it, then take a walk, throw some football, or shoot hoops rather than take a nap. Muscles act like a sponge to use up the excess sugar in the blood, so use your muscles! Just a 10–20-minute walk can make a big difference in how you feel,” Pierce added.

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