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I certainly don’t mean to be a Scrooge for your holiday celebration, and I would never claim to be a food monitor, but admit it, pigging out on carbs is easy to do this time of year. Carb loading is a great thing, if you’re about to run a marathon, compete in some type of strenuous sport, or do a heavy workout (at least 1.5 hours worth). But with colder weather and shorter days, all most of us (I’m referring to myself) want to do is veg out at home in a cozy, warm place with plenty of holiday goodies to keep us company. Can you relate?
According to the US National Library of Medicine, carbs are the most important energy source for our bodies. We need them to exist. Most foods we eat, with the exceptions of meats and oils, contain carbs.
Carbs are measured in grams—e.g. an apple has 20 grams of carbs. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of carbs for someone on a 2000-calorie per day diet is 225-325 grams, or 75-108 grams per meal.
Eating during the holidays is anything but normal. Check out the following charts prepared by Beyond Type 1.
Yikes! It’s easy to make your daily quota plus some in just one Christmas dinner.
But don’t despair. The good news is that there are some easy ways to help us (me) balance the pleasure of yummy carbs with staying healthy throughout the season. Here are a few:
Be Realistic: The holidays are probably not the best time to start a new diet. That would be dumb. Maintaining your current weight is probably a better goal. Keep your eye on the “long game” and don’t beat yourself up if you splurge a few times.
Eat Instead of Drinking Your Carbs: Avoid sweetened beverages. Drink water instead. I like a squirt of fresh lemon juice in mine.
Read the Labels: I’m not saying that you have to be a fanatic about this, but it’s a good idea to have a general idea about the carb count of some of your favorite holiday foods. This handy carb counter might help.
Measure or Eyeball Portions: I have no sense of proportions when it comes to food, especially things like holiday pies, cookies and mashed potatoes. To help you get a grasp on proportions, these visuals may help: 3 ounces is about the size of a deck of cards, 1 cup is about the size of a baseball, 1/2 cup is about the size of a tennis ball, 1 tablespoon is about the size of a thumb, and 1 teaspoon is about the size of an index finger at the nail.
Request Non-Carb Gifts: I know, sometimes this is hard to do without hurting feelings, but it is worth a try.
Eat Before you Leave for a Holiday Party: Likewise, don’t run errands or do holiday shopping on an empty stomach and take the risk of gorging because you’re craving sugar, salt and fat. Don’t go anywhere without your water bottle.
Order Kid-Sized Meals or share a regular one when eating out.
Sample and Taste, then STOP. Those bowls of holiday goodies are so enticing. Sample slowly and chew each bite thoroughly. Remember that eating in front of a tv or drinking alcohol while eating can make you less aware of how much you’re actually consuming.
Keep Moving. Don’t forget your exercise program during the holidays. Also, after a large meal, the worst thing you can do is just loll around. The more you move, the better, and any kind of movement counts. After a big meal, recruit some friends or family members to join you for a walk, or have your Uber driver drop you off before you reach your house, and then walk the rest of the way home.
It’s Okay to Say No. When we’re presented with a spread of tempting options, it is okay not to try it all. When your Aunt Millie is pestering you to try her famous fruitcake, it’s okay to say that you feel full, or that you’re trying to be careful this day/week/month/year, and although it looks incredible, you’re going to pass this time.
Finally, if sticking to your fitness goals seems to be impossible this holiday season, remember that Christmas and New Year’s Eve are just one day each—not an entire season. And, last but not least, be sure to enjoy yourself, because after all, the holidays are about spending time with family and friends, not food.
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This is my first Christmas since quitting sugar. It is not as bad as it sounds, with lots of sweet fruits and juices it has been easy to substitute. After a careful analysis of the charts I chose “spirits” with the zero carbs and maximum effect.