Holiday Meal Myths to Avoid
Nov 27 2019

Holiday Meal Myths to Avoid

By: Celeste Turner

For most people, the holidays mean endless family feasts and special party events serving cocktails and tasty treats. Undoubtedly, our seasonal celebrations from mid-November through February, particularly after Mardi Gras, do encourage overeating, sweet desserts, and calorie-rich foods.

This year, don't give yourself the gift of guilt by packing on those extra pounds. When the holidays arrive, try not to fall back on popular diets and mindless eating. Rather, arm yourself with alternatives and good choices. In this article, local experts weigh in on the nutritional myths to avoid during the holidays and provide recommendations to combat this season's weight gain.

Myth #1:
Eating at night makes you fat.

Fact:
The total number of calories matters, day or night.

"That is one giant myth," said Molly Kimball, registered dietician at Ochsner Fitness Center and author of the Eat Fit Cookbook. "The issue is that we often eat too much late at night, including the mindless snacking. I usually suggest a lean protein with a vegetable for reasonable late-night eating. For good digestion, you should give yourself at least two hours between dinner and when you lay down for bed."

Kimball emphasized to worry less about the time and concentrate more on the various types and quantity of foods that you are eating.

Myth #2:
Liquid calories don't matter if I cut back on my carbohydrate consumption.

Fact:
Alcoholic drinks can contribute to a significant amount of sugar and empty calories which can lead to weight gain.

"Fasting and overindulgence does not work," said Blythe Peters, a local registered and licensed dietician and owner of Competitive Nutrition Education, L.L.C. "Alcoholic beverages do contribute to your overall calorie consumption and can also contribute a significant amount of sugar, depending on the cocktail mix. Most people think that they can go to a party and drink because they skipped a meal or fasted during the day."

During the holidays, alcohol, soda, and other calorie-rich beverages can lead to an increased appetite and possible weight gain. Peters' suggestion is to eat a healthy snack and hydrate before you go your holiday party in order to make good choices and limit your intake of alcoholic drinks. "Skinny Seltzers are lower in calories," said Peters, "There are other options like low-carb, low-calorie beers and low-calorie mixers, but you need to watch your portions. Appropriate portions are one drink per day for women and two drinks for men."

Myth #3:
All carbs make you fat.

Fact:
Complex carbohydrates, like whole grains, are not fattening foods. Again, it is more about the type and quantity of carbohydrates that you eat that may cause weight gain.

"Carbs do not make us fat," says Kimball. "Nope. It's more about how much and how many carbohydrates do we eat. I always use this example: A half of cup of pasta is one serving, which fits into a cupcake wrapper. We tend to reach for things that are readily available and easy to grab, which generally means quick refined carbs."

Many refined carbohydrates contain excess calories and sugars. For example: desserts, white breads, white rice and pasta, and snack foods like chips, crackers, and pretzels are stripped of their outside grain, which contains primarily the fiber and a little protein prompting a spike in insulin levels.

Kimball suggested sticking to protein and good fats. "Carbohydrates can put you on a rollercoaster of cravings," she said, "where you'll crave more sugar and carbs."

Myth #4:
It's important to fast periodically and detox your body for good health.

Fact:
There's no such thing as "detoxing" in medical terms. Diet and exercise is the only way to get healthy.

"Fasting for short durations can have benefits," said Kimball. "Studies have shown that fasting for a 12-hour duration, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., may help with inflammation, brain health, and blood pressure. The idea is trying to cut back on your mealtime and fast while you're sleeping."

However, the assortment of detox products at health food stores, including smoothies, drink mixes, and dietary supplements claiming to rid your body of its toxins, can simply be a marketing ploy, rather than a weight loss plan. "These cleanse-detox products may include dandelion root or apple cider vinegar," added Kimball. "Both are natural diuretics, which are fine, but know all the ingredients before you try it."

Office parties, dinner buffets, and potlucks are common during the holiday season; however, these celebratory occasions don't have to wreck your diet and add unwanted pounds.

According to Peters, these 5 tips can help you control your weight and prevent the "holiday bulge."

Focus on your portion size. Stick with a larger portion size of fruits and vegetables and small portions of the other food items.

Get your protein in at your holiday meals. Steer clear of fried foods and foods laden with heavy sauces.

Reach for fresh vegetables and fruits from the serving trays, when possible. Fiber is your friend. Fill your plate with vegetables and good carbohydrates. If you are aching for some oyster dressing or cornbread stuffing, then take only a small portion on your plate of your favorite food.

Balance dessert and alcoholic beverages. If choosing a cocktail drink, cut back or cut out the dessert. Also, avoid the calorie-ridden, sugary alcoholic drinks like daiquiris and margaritas.

Grab a healthy snack before you head out to the party or dinner gathering. It's best not to go when you're overly hungry. And make sure you hydrate to prevent overconsumption.

Beyond these general dietary tips, it's best to stay on your normal schedule of regular exercise and eating patterns. Kimball said, "Make your favorite dishes a priority. Negotiate for the foods that are really important to you and special to that time of year. Pull back from the impulse grabs like the holiday Hershey's Kisses or Oreo cookies that you can eat all year round."

"Most importantly, don't beat yourself up when you splurge," stressed Kimball. "You can indulge on something you really want. You don't have to be perfect."

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