It’s the time of year when parties and family gatherings are at a fever pitch. Whether you’re celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, the holiday season packs on the fun but also packs on the pounds. So why is it that people feel compelled to binge on unhealthy food this time of year? It may be to acknowledge that the days are special by doing something different. It could also be the notion that this is the time of year to “gift” yourself with a little something extra. Whatever the motivation to overeat, it is possible to thoroughly enjoy the festivities while consuming foods made from healthy ingredients without sacrificing taste.
Consider this – the average American will consume close to eight thousand calories on Christmas day. Add to that the parties where it’s easy to take in thousands of calories in food and beverages in one evening, and soon you’re looking at a true case of overdoing it. So why do we want to eat so poorly?
There is a physiological reason we crave certain foods, particularly those that are high in sugar, fat or salt. Most of us have experienced the craving for one or more of these ingredients. Companies that manufacture food actually measure the satisfaction of their foods based on something called the “bliss point”. It’s the specific amount, or combination of these ingredients, that generates the most pleasure when consumed. Until that bliss point is reached, people will continue to eat foods that contain these ingredients.
Combinations of certain flavors such as salty and sweet or crunchy and creamy can achieve the ultimate in satisfaction. The texture, chemical interaction, and base ingredients can all work to sabotage your desire to be healthy. It’s a challenge, but you can find a way to fight the urges to achieve that bliss-point through food.
Bring a Healthy Dish
How do you combat the assault of the fatty, sugary, salty treats that will be spread out in front of you at every turn over the holidays? Know what you’re eating. The best way to know what you’re consuming is to either make it yourself or purchase it from an establishment that routinely offers healthy, local food that isn’t loaded with sugar or fat. Most party hosts would be grateful if guests contribute to the food offerings. If you bring a dish, make it a healthy one that you can eat if there are no better options.
Many appetizers and canapes don’t seem highly caloric, though they can be. Because they aren’t filling people tend to consume several. Prepare a dish made from healthy ingredients but with plenty of flavor. Generous use of seasonings and spices can take the place of the flavor provided by the fat or sugar content in many foods. Consider the texture and flavor combinations above and come up with a dish that will satisfy certain cravings in a healthier way.
Give Up the Guilt
Often people overeat at parties because they don’t want the hostess to feel bad that no one is eating. When someone goes to the trouble of preparing food for guests, we wouldn’t feel right about there being a lot of leftovers, or for them to feel that no one was enjoying the food. So, the solution is to gobble up more than we intended in order to make a show of support.
No one’s feelings will be hurt if you sample a few items and then compliment the chef on their spread. Find your holiday bliss in the company of friends, the sound of the music and laughter, and the beauty of what’s around you.
You may feel the best way to celebrate the holidays is to indulge, just this once, in caloric, sugar-laden foods. Consider this however, will you be celebrating after you’ve overeaten and feel guilty about what you’ve done? Allow moderation and healthy choices to be the gift you give yourself. Celebrate by remembering the reason for the party.