Thursday, December 07, 2006

Surviving Celebrations

Ever notice how every holiday and national sporting event has come to revolve around eating? Birthdays mean cake and ice cream. Valentine’s Day is synonymous with candy. The Super Bowl is an overgrown tailgate party. Thanksgiving—please. No need to go there. It’s hard to be “good” when you’re surrounded by so many temptations. But it’s not impossible. Here are a few strategies:

If you can, eat before you go to the party. Have a high protein meal or snack—a protein shake or bar is a good choice if you’re short on time—so you won’t be tempted to overdo it when you find yourself face to face with mounds of artery-clogging fried chicken, fat-laden spinach dip, and chocolate-flavored sugar bombs meant to express our affection for one another. Even if you have to partake, you are likely to eat less. No food should be off limits. Just enjoy it in moderation.

Can’t eat before you go? Fill your plate with healthier choices—vegetables (without the full fat dip), fruit salad, lean cold cuts, white cheeses instead of yellow, a single slice of French bread—and down as much water as you can to help fill your stomach. Leave just enough room on your plate for a small taste of your favorites. A spoonful of that loaded baked potato salad or a sliver of death by chocolate cake can go a long way.

If you’re having a hard time staying focused—eyes off that dessert tray!—think about the workout you’ll have to do the next day to burn it all off. Is it really worth it? That piece of cake might be 900 calories. You’d probably spend a few hours on the treadmill before you came close to burning it off. But one bite won’t put you over the edge, so enjoy it.

Substitute whenever possible. Chips and guacamole are tasty, but if you make them yourself, you’ll save a lot of fat and calories. You can make your own guilt-free tortilla chips by slicing tortillas and baking them in the oven. Some argue that although avocadoes have a lot of fat, it’s a healthy fat. And some diets count avocadoes as a fat rather than a fruit. Enjoy them in moderation. Or switch to salsa. Pure vegetables, no fat, and about 30 calories a serving. As an added bonus, tomatoes are loaded with lycopene, an antioxidant linked to a reduced risk of prostate cancer. (It’s also found in watermelon.)

Finally, focus on the reason you’re celebrating, not the menu, and you’ll have an easier time setting limits and saying no to foods that can set you back.

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