How does Santa stuff himself down chimneys during the holidays? All the cookies and milk aren’t helping the jolly old elf out.
Similarly, you may be wondering how you’re going to stuff yourself in your jeans after overstuffing yourself on the endless offerings of mandatory holiday gatherings. While you may consider winter weight gain inevitable, science has something positive to say about the matter. Here are 10 science-backed ways to avoid overeating this holiday season.
Hydrate and wait
Feeling hungry? When was the last time you drank some water? Hunger pangs are one sign of dehydration, so finish an eight-ounce glass of water. Then, wait 15 minutes before eating to see if the pangs pass. Yes, most people who think they are hungry are mostly thirsty and just need to drink more water.
Focus on fiber
High-fiber foods fill you up for longer periods, since your body takes longer to break down the food. High-fiber foods also maintain healthy digestion and prevent constipation. Examples of high-fiber foods are brown rice, lentils, broccoli and avocado.
Eat healthy fats
Not all fats are bad, and healthy fats give you energy while helping you feel full. Swap out butter with healthy fats like olive oil, and snack on nuts and guacamole.
Some cooks swear by substituting vegetable and fruit purees for unhealthy ingredients in baked goods, such as applesauce for vegetable oil — especially when you can’t afford to keep olive oil constantly in your pantry.
Use smaller serving trays
Have trouble remembering your portion control sizes? Making associations helps you recall portion size, such as steamed rice as the size of a cupcake wrapper and a cheese serving as the size of your thumb from tip to base.
When you fail to recall portion sizes, focus on using smaller serving trays and dishes to combat your temptation to overstuff. Forbidding yourself from going back for seconds also helps.
Don’t skip meals before a feast
It’s tempting to “save room” for a big holiday dinner, but don’t do it — your hunger cravings will tempt you to overstuff before you realize it. When you skip a meal, you may lose weight in the short term, but research reveals you’re really losing muscle and will regain belly fat. You run low on nutrients, and your body wants to remedy that ASAP.
Though you may not be a breakfast person, stick to eating reasonable portions or snacking on healthy foods throughout the day before the big holiday dinner. That way, you won’t overstuff.
Chew to 32
Many parents tell their kids to chew slowly, at least 32 times, but probably don’t follow that advice themselves. Chewing slowly allows your body to realize it’s getting full, and you’ll consume 100 fewer calories on average as your stomach registers its fullness.
There isn’t a specific number you should count to while chewing, but the old “chew to 32” suggestion is a good rule of thumb to follow.
Say the magic word
While science isn’t backing magic, the power of saying “no” and sticking by it will maintain healthy family boundaries and protect your waistline.
Peer pressure influences your food choices with the transmission of food behaviors socially. Your family may pressure you to stick with the status quo by associating finishing a very full plate with being polite and keeping everyone happy. It’s OK to say no.
During the holidays, you’ll be on the go between various functions and destinations. Healthy snacks, like nut clusters or a cup of Greek yogurt, contain fewer calories and soothe hunger pangs without spoiling your appetite for the big dinner to come. Instead of buying junk food, prepare your own snacks, especially since many people now view snacks as meal replacements or supplements.
Choosing healthy snacks will help your body maintain portion control as you select what you want to eat at each holiday gathering.
Whether you’re cooking or heading home after a holiday visit, you’re likely to be stuck with all kinds of leftovers. You end up having to invent new ways to eat those leftovers before they spoil, and the pressure leads you to overstuff or waste food by throwing it away.
Freezing leftovers stops you from overeating or wasting them in a rush due to the scientific truth of the adage: “Out of sight, out of mind.”
Chew your favorite gum
Chewing gum at holiday functions will aid you in regulating how much you eat in the short term. Orosensory stimulation satisfies appetite and suppresses cravings for high-energy snacks, such as sweet and salty junk food.
Stick to a healthy routine and avoid overstuffing with these 10 tips. Holiday functions tempt you to overeat, but keeping your plate light will make the joyful highlights of the season stand out all the more.
This article was written by Megan Ray Nichols. If you enjoyed this article, please visit her page Schooled by Science.