By Joy Bauer
Halloween marks the beginning of the holiday season—a fun time of year for enjoying friends and family, but also filled with edible booby traps! Candy for trick-or-treaters is everywhere, and pretty soon we’ll be seeing Thanksgiving pies and Christmas cookies, too. But that doesn’t have to mean you’re destined to herald the new year with extra padding. All you need is some coaching on how to handle the temptations.
Let’s start with Halloween, because it’s right around the corner. This holiday may be marketed to kids, but grownups often use it as an excuse to indulge in their favorite sweets. Not a problem if you limit yourself to Halloween night itself, but that can be difficult, since the candy onslaught begins well before the 31st and often lingers for days (sometimes weeks) after. You can survive the caloric nightmare with these three simple guidelines:
1. Buy the bare minimum of candy you think you’ll need for trick-or-treaters.
2. Don’t open the bags until October 31.
3. Give away the leftovers the day after Halloween.
If you really don’t want to part with all the extra candy you bought for the trick-or-treaters, allow yourself (and your kids) to keep eight to 10 favorite snack bars or mini bags, and portion them out— one or two per day—as long as they last. For your kids, they make perfect portion-controlled lunchbox or after-dinner treats. For you, one fun-size bar can be substituted for your usual afternoon snack, or you can enjoy 150 calories’ worth of Halloween goodies as your “Everyday Extra” (if you’re following our Slimdown diet and you’ve reached Step 3.
Thanksgiving, Christmas and Beyond
As for the rest of the holiday season, my tried-and-true “Food Rules” will help you maintain a steady weight despite all the caloric temptations at parties and dinners. Start following them as soon as possible.
Don’t skip meals. When you allow yourself to get too hungry, you run the risk of eating more (unhealthy) food later and wasting calories on fattening treats you didn’t really want to eat in the first place. Instead, eat on a schedule, and enjoy three meals and one or two 100- to 150-calorie snacks every day.
Bank your calories. Whether it’s a holiday party, Thanksgiving or Christmas, if dinner is going to be a feast or you’ll be grazing on hors d’oeuvres, save on calories throughout the day by choosing a breakfast, lunch and snacks that are heavy on lean protein (chicken, fish, turkey) and veggies, and light on fat, sugar and starch. Protein and fiber are the most filling nutrients around, so even though you’ll be eating fewer calories, you’ll still feel satisfied.
Drink lots of water—including two glasses before lunch and two glasses before dinner. Mild dehydration mimics the sensation of hunger, and drinking water prior to a meal starts to fill you up before you take your first bite of food so you’ll eat less.
Eat plenty of “Unlimited Foods” throughout the day. These foods contain few or no calories, which is why you can eat as much as you want of them. Make sure you have a variety on hand at all times. This will prevent you from reaching for something less healthy when hunger strikes. Snacking on these foods will also keep you from feeling deprived while you’re saving on calories for a party that night.
Make sure you exercise for 30 to 60 minutes five or more days per week. Exercise goes hand-in-hand with calorie control. It’s also a terrific stress buster—which makes it even more crucial now, because holidays can be a trigger for people prone to stress eating. Try to include some interval training, which means alternating faster-paced bouts of activity (like speedwalking) with slower ones. For example, during a 30-minute walk, try weaving in one or two 3-minute bursts of going as fast as you can.
Have a few not-to-be missed treats. There’s no reason to skip your favorites, whether they be Mom’s turkey gravy, your best friend’s pecan pie or Aunt Ida’s famous deviled eggs. Thoroughly enjoying a holiday includes eating richer fare than you would otherwise, and denying yourself is bound to backfire later. Just eat these goodies only on the holiday itself (if there’s more than one item, have a taste of each), then get back on track the next day. No picking at endless leftovers!