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How to stay on track this holiday

Avoiding overindulging during the holiday season can be tough, but luckily, a local dietitian is here to help.

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  • | 8:40 a.m. December 18, 2019
  • Health
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The hustle and bustle of the holiday season can throw daily routines out of whack, which means healthy meals and exercise are often an afterthought until they hit New Year’s Resolution lists.

Despite the common misconception that the end of the holiday season comes with a new notch on a belt buckle, Laura McLeroy, a Sarasota Memorial Healthcare clinical dietitian, said that doesn’t have to be the way.

“A lot of people have this all-or-nothing mentality, and they figure in the new year, ‘It’s going to be all different,’ and ‘I’ll just start over,’” she said. “But the holidays can be a time to pre-set yourself for making healthy choices.”

With a plethora of holiday parties, potlucks and family dinners, the time from Thanksgiving Day through New Year’s Eve is filled with spiced drinks, rich pastries and hearty meals, which can be OK in moderation, McLeroy said, because it’s all about balance.

“You have to prepare for the day and be graceful with yourself,” McLeroy said. “Say, ‘This is the holidays, and I’m probably going to have some things I wasn’t counting on.’ It’s not the end of the world [if you indulge], but you have to be able to self-monitor.”

Upon walking into a holiday party, McLeroy suggests first taking a visual tour of the food area to make a mental note of what is available. She said to aim for a plate filled with vegetables, fruit, hard cheese and protein.

At a buffet-style gathering, she advises to avoid standing by the buffet table to eat because it makes it easy to pick up more food than you mean to. Although some people might be able to have one piece of chocolate and feel satisfied, she said others might have one piece and not be able to stop.

When considering dessert, start by taking half of a portion or splitting a piece with a friend, McLeroy said.

“It definitely is a mindful game, so you have to ask: ‘What do I want to eat? Why do I want to eat it? … Is it nourishing me, or is it just for pleasure?’” she said. “We can always go back and get a second portion, or we can always finish that cookie. But once we’ve already had it, now you just have to accept the fact that you had it and move forward.”

Having a mantra can help keep your mind on track, McLeroy said. A few options she recommends are: “My health is worth it,” or “I’m only going to get out what I put into my body.” Setting a predetermined daily goal is also a method to stay on track, such as, “Today I will drink enough water.”

Although it’s important to be mindful of food choices, McLeroy said the holiday festivities are meant to be enjoyed.

It’s OK to indulge in sweet treats with friends, as long as you balance it out elsewhere. For example, if you’re baking cookies, she suggests finding a way to be active while they are in the oven.

“The Christmas holiday really only comes once a year — it’s meant to be enjoyed, and it’s meant to enjoy your family traditions,” McLeroy said. “You can always pick and choose what that looks like for you. And it doesn’t have to look like what anybody else is doing.”