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Whether you have a chronic disease that you’re managing through food or you’re trying to lose weight by watching what you eat, it can be harder to stick to a healthy diet over winter. Overeating is common throughout the holidays and winter, but you don’t have to let the temptation of seasonal comfort food derail your health in the cold months.
If you’re living with diabetes, hypertension, or another chronic condition, it’s especially important to stick to your dietary plan so you don’t ruin your numbers. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your favorite foods every now and then. Here are our top ten tips for healthy eating in the winter season so the negative health effects of overindulgence don’t reverse the progress you’ve made towards good health.
1. Follow the 80/20 rule.
Achieving good health doesn’t require completely eliminating all of your favorite foods. However, it does require being more mindful about what and how much of something you’re putting into your body. A good parameter for sticking to a healthy, well-balanced diet is choosing to nourish your body with healthier choices 80 percent of the time, while allowing yourself to enjoy some not-so-healthy foods 20 percent of the time. So if you’ve filled your plate with lean proteins and green, fibrous vegetables, it’s generally okay to enjoy a small serving of dessert.
2. Monitor your portion control.
When planning your meals or filling your plate at a special event, make balanced choices. A healthy plate consists of some type of green vegetable, as well as a lean protein such as fish, turkey, or chicken. Focus on filling your plate with those items, leaving only a small portion of your plate for simple carbohydrates such as macaroni and cheese or mashed potatoes. This will help you to be more satisfied for longer after your meal. In addition, keeping a plant-focused meal that emphasizes vegetables will help you to consume less calories and sodium. To learn more about a healthy plate, visit MyPlate.gov to learn how much you should eat from each food group based on your unique factors.
3. Eat slower and pause before helping yourself to seconds.
One of the best ways to reduce your risk of overeating is to take time to enjoy your food slowly. Sometimes we get so excited about certain foods, or we’re so hungry that we inhale the food. When this happens, we’re eating so fast that our stomach hasn’t yet signaled to the brain that we’re full. As a result, we overeat by the time the brain has caught up. Before filling your plate with second helpings, let yourself sit for ten to fifteen minutes to consider whether or not you actually are still hungry.
4. Stay hydrated.
If you wait until you’re thirsty to drink water, you’re already dehydrated. Instead, be proactive about getting your fluids in by drinking water first thing in the morning and throughout the day. Eating fruits and vegetables that are high in water content, such as watermelon and cucumbers, can also help you stay hydrated. To make it convenient to drink water, consider keeping a water bottle with you wherever you go.
Watch the video below to learn more healthy eating tips and about the MedStar Health Food RX program:
5. Avoid sugary beverages.
In addition to drinking more water, don’t let sugary drinks make up the bulk of your caloric intake. Sodas, sweet teas, and even coffee laden with sugar and creamer can quickly increase your sugar and calories. Swap these out for low-calorie, sugar-free beverages like sparkling water or sugar-free tea, and consider adding lemon juice or other fruit for flavoring.
6. Don’t leave your house hungry.
If you’re heading to a special event or a favorite restaurant, don’t save your entire appetite for the spread of delicious dishes that will just tempt you. Instead, have something light before you leave the house, such as a salad or soup. The hungrier you are, the more likely you may be to overeat.
7. Be willing to try new things.
If you’ve already started making adjustments in your diet to help manage your weight or chronic conditions, your taste buds may have changed. As you get used to eating healthy by choosing foods that are higher in fiber and lower in sodium and saturated fat, you may not crave some of the things that you used to. But when you still want to enjoy certain comfort foods or recipes, consider swapping out some of the ingredients for healthier ones. Or, maybe you can just incorporate more vegetables into the recipe which will leave you feeling more nourished. It may taste slightly different than you’re used to, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad.
8. Moderate your alcohol intake.
Excessive alcohol adds calories without any nutrient benefits, so it’s important to watch how much alcohol you consume. If you’re going to drink alcohol, we recommend sticking to one drink per day for women and up to two per day for men, considering the following:
- One glass of wine is 4 to 5 ounces
- One beer is generally 12 ounces
- 1.5 ounces is one serving of liquor
If you’re drinking to ease stress or anxiety, consider finding another way to cope. A behavioral therapist can help you work through any anxiety around food or alcohol in social situations. In addition, if you have diabetes, it’s important to stick to something low in calories, eat while you drink, and be sure to check your blood sugar before, during, and after having a drink.
9. Choose foods lower in sodium and fat.
When shopping for ingredients, consider choosing foods that are marked low-sodium and low-fat. You can’t always avoid sodium, as it’s found in naturally-grown foods such as tomatoes. However, you can choose alternatives when it comes to canned products containing tomatoes, such as low-sodium marinara or canned tomatoes with no added sodium. There’s also so many different low-sodium spices and seasonings that can add flavor to your food without salt.
Likewise, there are a variety of dairy products that offer skim or part-skim varieties which can help lower your fat intake. (Although try to avoid fat-free options, as the body does need some fat to absorb nutrients.) These small changes can reduce your fat and calorie consumption without drastically changing the flavor of your food.
10. Remember that the food will be around tomorrow.
Many foods are tied to good memories from childhood to adulthood, especially if they’re only served on special occasions like holidays or birthdays. But it’s important to recognize that the food isn’t going anywhere, so take the time to enjoy the company with you and worry about the food later. If you don’t get to sample everything you want at a special event, consider making a to-go plate so you can enjoy some of the other foods that you didn’t get to try the next day.
Your health is the most important thing. Food will come and go, but your blood sugar is forever. If you or someone you love could use help managing a chronic condition with food, contact us today for more information about our Food Rx program. Through our Food Rx program, we provide nutrition and clinical support to help you achieve your best health.