How to Eat What You Want While Staying Healthy During the Holidays

December 19, 2014

Healthy HolidaysHoliday season can wreak havoc on most people’s plans, especially when it comes to following a diet or exercise program.  During this time of year you might be wondering what you can do stay on track while still enjoying time with family and friends.  Let’s start with a simple exercise.

List in your head all the ways you can think of to reduce the amount of food you eat over the holidays.

Go on. I’ll wait.

I’m willing to bet that one thing that came to your mind was to use a smaller plate. Was I right?

I’ve asked this same question to many people in the past and I usually get the same answers – plan my meals, use a smaller bowl, don’t hang out with certain people, etc.  All of these are logical ways that would likely lead you to eat less.  But, how likely is it that you are going to plan your meals out over the busiest time of the year? How likely is it that you will not hangout with your friends and family over the holiday season, even if you know they will sabotage any effort to maintain your diet?  Chances are you responded “not likely”.

We know that this time of year is hectic. We know that there will be times this holiday season that you want to go have some drinks with friends. We know that you are going to want to finish off the meal with some awesome dessert. Knowing all of those things, what can we do to at least maintain some sort of control over our eating?

My answer is probably similar to one you thought of. Use a smaller plate. That’s it. Simple. Eat whatever you feel like eating just do it from a smaller container or a smaller glass.You can even go back for seconds if you’d like. Just do it with a smaller container. This is a very basic solution but one that has been shown to be effective.

In the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, the authors tell of a study which shows that larger containers equal larger consumption.  In the study moviegoers were given free popcorn for the show. The popcorn was popped several days in advance.  It was stale and probably didn’t taste very good.  Some of the moviegoers were given small portions and others were given large portions.  The “small” containers, however, were so large that a single person could not finish all of the popcorn. At the end of the movie the moviegoers were asked to return their uneaten popcorn. The researches weighed all of the buckets and found that those with the larger buckets consumed 53% more popcorn than those with the smaller buckets.  The authors indicate, “…that’s equivalent to 173 more calories and approximately 21 extra hand-dips into the bucket.” This study was done in several other cities and the results were astonishingly similar – small container, small consumption!

In conclusion, using a smaller plate really does lead to a decrease in calorie consumption. Would it be better to stick to a regimented diet and not change anything just because of the holidays? Sure, but chances are it isn’t very likely. So, embrace the fact that life is going to be crazy for a few weeks and adjust accordingly. Don’t deprive yourself of the awesome desserts this year just enjoy them on a smaller scale! Then when the holidays are all over you can get back to a more structured diet and exercise plan.  Good luck and Happy Holidays!

Let me know in the comment section what some of your strategies are when it comes to managing your eating over the holidays!