Be selective and savor foods at New Year’s parties

Thanksgiving and Christmas have come and gone, but the tempting treats continue through the new year. As the New Year’s Eve parties begin, make sure you focus on eating mindfully. Focus on really enjoying your food. Eat slowly and savor the foods that you love. Don’t eat something if you don’t even really like it, but it just happens to be there.

This holiday season has been filled with excitement, joy, busyness and food. Everywhere you look - food, food and more food. But that doesn’t mean we have to eat constantly just because food is everywhere. Try to maintain a sense of normalcy.

Eat a healthy breakfast, don’t skip lunch and have a healthy snack before you go to that party. We often skip meals before a big party in order to save room for extra calories at the party. This usually backfires, resulting in even more overeating if you show up absolutely starving.

Practice listening to your hunger and fullness cues. Eat when you are hungry and stop when you are satisfied, not full. That sounds simple enough, but most of us don’t practice this very well. We don’t need to eat until we are too stuffed to move. And, don’t wear your “stretchy pants” to the parties.

While at the party, be selective. Don’t try a bite of everything simply because it is there. If you walk by a platter of store-bought cookies that don’t even look that great, don’t dig in simply because they are there. Save your appetite for something that is worth it. Then, focus on really enjoying each bite. Take small bites, chew well and eat slowly. You’ll often be satisfied with a much smaller portion that way.

Also, it often is a good idea to enjoy a small dessert after you’ve eaten a balanced meal, rather than having that dessert in the middle of the afternoon or late at night. If it has been several hours since you have eaten real food, you are more likely to over-eat sweets. If you’ve just had a filling, balanced meal, you are less likely to overdo the dessert course.

I’m not a fan of recommending that we absolutely avoid any foods. I think a great goal is to learn to enjoy less-healthy foods in moderation. But, you must be honest with yourself about what moderation entails. Focus on keeping the biggest part of your eating habits healthy. If you eat a balanced diet with lean meats, lots of fruits and vegetables, and whole grains at most meals, you have room to indulge a bit in moderation. I like the 80-90 percent/10-20 percent rule. If you eat well 80-90 percent of the time, there is room for some less healthy treats 10-20 percent of the time.

Also, make sure you’re keeping up your regular activity routine. If you exercise regularly already, try to keep your normal routine as much as possible. If you don’t have a normal exercise routine, try adding short walks into your day when possible, or consider joining the Blount Memorial Wellness Centers at Springbrook or Cherokee. This is a great time of year to get started. You might find a new class that you love, and exercise is a great way to relieve stress that is sometimes brought on by the hectic holiday season. For more information on the Wellness Centers, call the Springbrook location at 865-980-7100 or the Cherokee location at 865-238-6091.

Don’t strive for perfection. If you overeat a bit at a holiday party, just accept it and move on. Don’t give up and start a spiral of continued overeating. Get right back on track.

Angie Tillman is a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and director for the Blount Memorial Weight Management Center.

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