Now that we’re on the other side of 50, we have the experience and knowledge it takes to avoid bad holiday eating habits, right?
As we get older, it can become more difficult to maintain our weight, particularly during the holidays. As we age, we lose muscle mass and often become less physically active. And, while calorie needs decrease, many nutrient needs increase.
Older adults are prone to deficiencies in vitamin B12, calcium and vitamin D, so it’s important to visit your health care provider regularly. It becomes more important to make sure the foods we eat are nutrient-dense – low in calories and high in vitamins and minerals.
Try substituting ingredients in your favorite recipes to cut down on fat and calories without sacrificing taste.
We have many years of memories and may have high expectations of the holidays. This can bring on additional stress and make us prone to overeat, but we don’t necessarily have to resign ourselves to putting on the traditional 1 to 2 pounds this year. Good nutrition and physical activity play an important role in ensuring we have a healthy holiday season.
Here are some tips for getting better nutrition during the holidays:
- Don’t go grocery shopping on an empty stomach. The stores have an abundance of tempting holiday items and you are more likely to give in if you’re hungry. Make a list and stick to it. Use the Nutrition Facts Label found on products to comparison shop and find lower fat and sodium versions of your favorites.
- Don’t skip meals before attending or hosting holiday parties. Grab a nutritious snack (Hint: fresh pears and apples are now in season.). It takes about 20 minutes for your brain and stomach to experience a feeling of fullness, so this can keep you from ravenously attacking the party food. Use a smaller plate if one is available and drink plenty of water, particularly if you’re also drinking any alcohol. Restaurants now have nutrition information on their menus so you can make informed choices when dining out. Portions can be extremely large, so plan to save at least half of your meal for the next day’s lunch or dinner. You’ll save money on your food budget, too.
- When traveling or shopping, pack some snacks, such as fresh fruit and cut-up vegetables or a 1 oz. portion of nuts, to avoid giving in to unhealthy mall or airport food. Fluid needs are increased when you are traveling by air, so drink plenty of water. If you wait until you’re thirsty, you are likely already dehydrated.
- Increase the fiber in your diet along with sufficient water. Eating fiber contributes to a feeling of fullness and promotes regular bowel movements. The soluble fiber contained in dried beans, oats and nuts helps to lower cholesterol levels. Healthy adults should be consuming 20 to 35 grams of fiber per day. If you are consuming less than this amount, increase your fiber slowly and stay hydrated. Fruits and vegetables are a great source of fiber, and you can increase the amount of different nutrients and antioxidants by consuming many different colors of them.
- Make physical activity a part of your day. Regular physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day is good for the body and the mind. Pick an activity that you like to do and you are more likely to continue it. Walk and take the stairs when you have the option. Little things add up.
- Think about what triggers your appetite. Do you overeat when you are angry, tired, sad, anxious, bored . . . or a combination of these? Being accountable to yourself or someone else can be very helpful. Keep a food and activity log or look to a professional for support. Take the time to enjoy a relaxing activity or a favorite hobby.
- Be positive. Enjoy the time that you have with family and friends and realize that we all have our quirks. Laughter is a great stress buster.
Sharon Martin is a clinical dietitian at NorthBay VacaValley Hospital in Vacaville.