Healthy Holiday Helpings: How to fill up without filling out

Food is at the heart of most holiday celebrations. And knowing how to serve yourself some healthy holiday helpings is at the heart of the fat loss lifestyle, especially during the busy holiday (or as we know it, FEASTING) season!

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Holidays come with the possibility of all kinds of indulgences. Whether it’s deep fried turkey, buttery mashed potatoes or your mom’s famous pumpkin pie, you should enjoy your favorite holiday treats IN MODERATION, of course!

When it comes to the feasting season, however, it seems moderation flies out the window. In fact, experts estimate the average American consumes thousands of calories at Thanksgiving dinner. (ONE meal!)

The truth is, it is possible to enjoy a holiday meal that leaves you full and satisfied without stuffing down thousands of calories. All our smiles in the picture above are proof that Thanksgiving can be healthy AND happy! The key is simply to be mindful of what and how much goes onto your plate.


Healthy Holiday Helpings: How to fill up without filling out

Healthy Holiday Helpings Step 1:  

Use a smaller plate. Over the years, plate sizes have expanded significantly. One tip to help with holiday portion control is to use a smaller plate. Studies show your brain associates empty space on your plate with less food. If you use a smaller plate, that plate fills up and your brain signals fullness faster. So salad plates (8-10 inches), rather than larger tray-like plates (12+ inches), actually help you feel fuller with less food!


Healthy Holiday Helpings Step 2:

Fill up on produce. Begin by filling your plate with vegetables, which are lower in calories and higher in fiber. Studies show that women who eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day exhibit less likelihood for weight gain. Focusing on produce helps fill up your stomach while keeping calorie intake minimal. Vegetables and low sugar fruits provide your body with the fiber it needs to feel full, as well as essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.


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Additionally, most produce is low on the glycemic index. This means they won’t spike your blood sugar and put your body into storage mode like starchy carbs tend to do. Raw salads or roasted, baked, sautéed, stir-fried or steamed vegetables are the best way to ensure you get a plateful of healthy holiday helpings. Focus on non-starchy veggies like brussels sprouts, green beans, asparagus, bell peppers, or a green salad instead of starchy, higher-calorie veggies, such as corn, potatoes, green peas, and winter squashes. Check out 7 Healthy Holiday Swaps here!


Healthy Holiday Helpings Step 3:

Prioritize protein. It’s important to eat a high-quality protein source at every meal. After you’ve filled your plate up with produce, add a serving of protein to your healthy holiday helpings. Protein satisfies hunger, balances cravings, stabilizes blood sugar levels, and proves very beneficial for fat burning. Protein contains amino acids, crucial to our bodies’ ability to build and maintain muscle. Furthermore, it releases the fat-burning hormone glucagon. Getting a quality source of protein at every meal may sound basic, but it’s the key to boosting your metabolism and building lean muscle mass. Try to get a 3-4-ounce serving (about the size of your palm) of lean turkey/chicken breast, beef tenderloin, fish, etc. at every meal–especially at holiday meals and parties!


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Healthy Holiday Helpings Step 4:

Savor a small serving of starch. After the 2 most important Ps (protein+produce), you should have room for a reasonable serving of starch (about the size of your fist) on your plate. Starches include sweet potatoes, rice, or even mashed potatoes. Just keep in mind that while simple carbs like dinner rolls or mashed potatoes do provide energy, they generally lack the nutrients, vitamins and minerals that are found in many complex carbohydrates. Get these complex carbs from food like sweet potatoes, legumes, corn and whole grains.

In general, your body breaks down simple carbs more quickly than complex carbs. This quick breakdown creates a spike in blood sugar (insulin) that leaves you feeling more hunger more quickly. Insulin spikes lead to increased cravings and decreased energy. So rather than loading up on lots of starch, focus on the 2 P’s (protein+produce)  to balance hunger, energy and cravings. Savor small tastes of the starches you’re truly craving.


Healthy Holiday Helpings: Other things to consider

  • Sauces:  Cranberry sauce, gravy and butter are high in added fat and sugar. Aim for 2-3 tablespoons (a serving about the size of your thumb).
  • Soups: Starting your meal with a bowl of seasonal veggie soup is a great way to fill up on good stuff first. This helps you slow down while eating, and research has shown it may even reduce the number of calories you consume at your main meal. Find a broth-based, rather than cream-based, soup as your starter.
  • Beverages: Sip on water or unsweetened tea or coffee if you can. If you want to eat, drink and be merry with alcohol, limit yourself to 1 to 2 drinks per party. Finally, always hydrate with water between drinks.



Healthy Holiday Helpings: Feast in order

When it comes to fat-loss friendly feasts, remember: eat your veggies first, protein second, and starch last. Enjoy rolls and other simple carbs as the LAST part of your meal, but only if you’re still hungry.

Eating your vegetables and protein before you eat starch means you’ll feel more satisfaction, eat less, and experience less of a negative hormonal response. 

Cheers to filling up instead of filling out with healthy holiday helpings!



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