Health Matters…Happy Holiday Plate

            Around the 1st of November each year, we begin to worry about the holiday meals and our weight. We know that three holidays are back-to-back – Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. We begin to contemplate how we will contend with so much food in such a short time and maintain the weight we have struggled to bring under control since these holidays invaded our lives last year.

            Forty years old is when people stop working and playing quite so vigorously, but we continue eating vigorously as we always did. Over the holidays, we gain five pounds – which is the usual weight gain. Each year another five pounds – and another five pounds – and another five pounds.

            After ten years, at age fifty, we are now fifty pounds heavier and can’t understand how or why we got to be so heavy. What can we do to prevent these holidays from adding the extra pounds? Here are ten simple rules to insure a Happy Holiday plate – with little or no weight gain. Five rules around the plate and eating – and five rules around the nutrition on the plate.

            Rules about Eating

#1 – When we go through the buffet line or are being served at the Thanksgiving dinner, we must insist on an ordinary plate size, not a platter and not a saucer. Platter-sized plates encourage us to load up the plate with something of everything, a sure way to overeat. Saucers encourage us to come back for seconds for the things we passed over the first time.

#2 – With our normal-sized plate behind our backs, we look over the offerings on the table or on the buffet line. Of all that is offered, we decide which foods we will choose, then place ONLY those foods we really want and leave everything else alone (which is easier to do in a buffet line than when every bowl is passed under our noses on its way around the table.)

#3 – This one is hard. Eat only at an organized meal, at a set table. We must NOT eat snacks or leftovers during the game or over holiday activities. Most snacks have lots of calories and very little real nutrition. And save the leftovers for the next meal. This is hard. But just like the battle on the football field, we are fighting a battle for our long-term health. Snack calories end up on waistlines. Don’t do it!

#4 – Slow down when eating. Put the fork down next to the plate after every bite. Talk with the people at the table; enjoy the fellowship of the holiday. Generally, the body requires a half-hour to digest enough food to register as getting full. Eating too fast encourages eating too much.

#5 – Do not eat and then sleep. Sumo wrestlers get up very early in the morning and exercise extremely hard until early afternoon. Then, they are given a huge meal and are put to bed for a long nap. That’s how they manage to get so heavy. They eat – and then they sleep. And all those calories they are not burning immediately are converted to fat.

Rules about the Food

#1 – Don’t plan meals around carbs, fats, protein, and fiber. Think of a balance of the kinds of real foods we eat. And think about each meal as fitting on a single plate (even though some meals are served by courses or in bowls and saucers.) Divide this “imaginary” plate into fourths. All the foods we will choose for each meal will now fit into one of these “imaginary” quarters – with NO overlaps!

#2 – One fourth of our “imaginary” plate is reserved for whole grains – the source of energy-producing complex carbs, healthy fats, protein, and fiber. Whole grains contain the outer fibrous coat and the inner protein/fat/mineral-loaded kernel. Whole grains are called “the staff of life” for a reason. Whole-grain rice, couscous, whole grain bread, and cereals fit in here.

#3 – One fourth of our “imaginary” plate is reserved for legumes – that is, beans – with seeds and nuts (plant-based protein and fiber) or the meat – which must fit within this one-fourth space (but has NO fiber). Most people eat too much protein, not too little.

#4– The remaining half of the plate is for fruits and vegetables, depending on the kind of meal being consumed. Eat for color – and brown, white, and gray are not nutritional colors. These colorful foods are the source of healthy carbs, lots of fiber, and most of the vitamins and minerals essential for our body to use the other nutrients.

# 5 – Add sparingly foods that are high in fats. We make all the fats we need (and we do need them.) So, fats are for garnish, like salad dressings and nut cups, not as a main course. Fats have almost twice the calories of other foods. Be careful of hidden and added fats (deep fried food, sauces, and creamed toppings.)

In general, the higher the calories, the lower the nutrition and fiber. The lower the calories, the higher the nutrition and fiber. Preserve carefully the cultural and familial traditions we will include in our holiday celebrations. Emphasize personal relationships and cultural observances. But carefully protect our health by our food choices. Happy Holidays!

Leave a Reply