This time of year is marked with family get togethers, celebrations, resolutions and, for many of us, overeating. While experts advise not to simply deprive ourselves during these times of indulgence, it is essential to approach this time of year with a strategy to stay healthy, maintain weight, and avoid overeating. Dairy products can play a pivotal role in achieving these goals.
Here are a few ideas on how to enjoy our time together with family and friends and jump start the year with good habits, all the while incorporating the nutritional goodness of dairy.
Start Your Day Right: Don’t Skip Breakfast –
Some people might think that skipping breakfast is one way to cut calories by eating less, but the reality is people who skip breakfast on a regular basis can actually gain weight. And, skipping breakfast before going to a holiday get together may mean overeating later on. A nutritious breakfast high in protein kickstarts your metabolism and helps keeps you to feel fuller longer, thus reducing the temptation to overindulge later. Dairy products like Greek yogurt or a glass of milk are excellent breakfast options. A glass of milk, for example, has 8 grams of high quality protein, which keeps you satiated.
Substitutes and Swaps –
One of the simplest and fastest ways to cut calories without sacrificing flavor is by substituting high-fat ingredients with healthier alternatives. For instance, replace mayonnaise in your recipes with Greek yogurt. It’s lower in calories and fat but high much higher in protein and probiotics, making it not just a healthier choice, but one that adds a creamy texture and tangy flavor to your dishes. Similarly, use cottage cheese instead of cream cheese for spreads and dips. There are also many low-fat dairy products to include in your favorite recipes like low fat milk, cheese, yogurt and even ice cream for dessert.
Portion Control: Your Plate Matters –
It’s easy to lose track of how much you’re eating when faced with a spread of holiday delicacies. Practicing portion control is crucial. A good trick is to fill half of your plate with vegetables, a quarter with lean protein (meats as well as dairy-based foods like cottage cheese or a slice of quiche), and the remaining quarter with starch or grains. This way, you can enjoy a variety of foods without going overboard. Another way to control your portion is to drink a glass of milk before eating. It will help you feel fuller when you are ready to serve your meal or to eat. Also, have a plan prior to going to a family get together for a dinner – such as to limit yourself to only 1 plate of food to ensure you don’t overeat. Finally, be present at the moment and savor each bite. Eating slowly and mindfully helps you recognize when you’re full, reducing the likelihood of overeating.
High Protein, High Satisfaction –
Protein is your ally in controlling hunger pangs. In addition to not skipping breakfast, snacking on high protein foods during the day, like a piece of cheese or eating some yogurt, can help curb your appetite and prevent overeating during meal times. When planning your holiday menus, include dishes that are rich in dairy-based proteins. A cheese platter as an appetizer or a ricotta-based dessert can be both satisfying and healthy.
Stay Active: Balance is Key –
While food is a central part of the holidays, don’t forget the importance of staying active. Balancing the extra calorie intake with physical activity is crucial. Go for a family walk after a meal, play a game of tag with the kids, or engage in a friendly dance-off. Staying active not only helps in maintaining weight but also boosts your mood and energy levels. In addition, hydration is Important. Often, we mistake thirst for hunger. Staying well-hydrated is key to avoiding unnecessary snacking. While water will help keep you hydrated, milk could be a better option as in addition to being composed primarily of water, it also has 13 essential nutrients that provide more value and benefits than plain water.