Pittsburgh – The holiday season is fast approaching, and along with it comes a wide array of festive treats, holiday comfort foods, and – of course – busy schedules. This time of the year can be everything from wonderful to stressful. It can also be a very big challenge for those of us trying to pursue healthy eating during the holidays. So, are you among the 79% of Americans who indulge in more sweets and treats during the holiday season?
If so, do not worry: you can do it without feeling deprived. One strategy may include a better understanding of your cravings, along with some planning that involves healthier alternatives.
While cravings are natural, and we cannot eliminate them, we can make them more manageable so that we’re not as quick to give in
to temptation. When we can resist foods that do not align with our goals, we strengthen our resistance muscle. Similarly, when we give in to cravings quickly, just the opposite happens because we are basically strengthening our giving-in muscle.
Think of cravings as waves; as the intensity rises, our desire to eat that food goes up and up. But, like all waves, it will come crashing down after a certain amount of time. For most people, this is about 10-20 minutes. So, if you can “ride the wave” and allow the intensity to recede, you may be able to resist eating that food – or choose to indulge but eat less.
The Four D’s
To help you surf through the urges this holiday season, just refer to the 4 D’s:
After you first feel the food craving, wait 10-20 minutes. Tell yourself that you can have the food, just not right now. Managing cravings in a healthy way means we do not practice deprivation.
Choose a healthy behavior like taking a walk, playing with your kids, reading, or doing a puzzle. Engage your mind in something else.
Since we can sometimes mistake thirst signals as hunger signals, enjoy a glass of water or a hot cup of tea.
Finally, even if you have done all of this, you may still decide to give in to the craving. Choose just a few pieces of your favorite candy to savor mindfully.
Healthy Holiday Eating Alternatives
One seasonal example of a healthy alternative to candy: spiced nuts. To make spiced nuts, simply start with raw nuts (2 cups) and seeds (any kind), mix in one-quarter teaspoon of salt, one tablespoon of maple syrup, and about one teaspoon (total) of mixed dried spices, like curry and rosemary, onion powder and thyme, or paprika and cayenne. Spread in an even layer on a baking sheet and bake at 375° F for 15 -20 minutes, stirring once midway through. Allow everything to cool before scooping it into jars to enjoy.
Matt Mrazik, RD
Weight Management & Performance Dietitian
Pittsburgh Fitness Project
Schedule an evaluation with Matt for the New Year at the link below: