With Thanksgiving—and then the holiday season and New Year’s—right around the corner, the season of feasting is here. Thankfully, it’s possible to enjoy holiday gatherings to their fullest without sacrificing your or your loved ones’ health or waistlines. Here’s how.
Host a healthier gathering
Keep unnecessary noise to a minimum
You don’t have to go full Silent Night: a big gathering should get a little boisterous. But there’s no need to add the blare of background television or cranked up music. Why? Being able to hear the sounds their food makes as they chew it—every crunch and chomp—can help your guests eat less. Researchers call this “the crunch effect.”
Remember that what you serve first matters
Researchers found that starting a meal with soup led people to eat 20 percent fewer calories. Of course, that’s contingent on that soup being reasonably low-calorie. Go for a chunky or semi-pureed soup: researchers have found people rate those thicker soups as tastier and more visually appealing than straight-up broth with veggies.
Cook with herbs
Cooking with spices like ginger and cayenne or using herbs like fenugreek can help improve digestion, blood sugar balance and stress response—all of which can make for a more pleasant dining experience (and may even have a positive effect on body weight over time).
Holiday gatherings can involve more physical activity than migrating from dining room chair to living room couch. Why not round up your family for an after-dinner walk or active game?
Have a healthier holiday as a guest
The decision to eat mindfully starts way before you get to Grandma’s dining room. If you’re heading to a family dinner, you probably have a good idea of what will be on offer. Choose your treats ahead of time: will it be Uncle Darren’s pumpkin pie or Mom’s Christmas pudding?
Go to bed on time
Healthy holiday gatherings have as much to do with crawling into bed as they do with sitting down at the table. Research shows we tend to stay up past our regular bedtimes during the holidays. Late nights can lead to greater calorie consumption—especially when there are plenty of after-dinner snacks on offer.
Omega-3s and probiotics are superstars all year long, and the holidays are no exception—especially considering that both have been linked with healthy changes to body weight. Ensuring adequate magnesium intake could also help you battle the bulge now and in the coming year—deficiency has been associated with abdominal fat, insulin resistance and energy metabolism impairment.
You might also want to nab a few special supplements. If you’re destined to eat a rich dinner, digestive enzymes could save you from the dreaded bloat. These supplements help break down the food we eat (the enzyme lactase, for example, tackles the lactose in dairy products).