How to have Your Cake (or Pie) and Eat It Too!

11.16.2012 / Blog Posts Health and Wellness

Jane Jakubczak MPH, RD, CSSD, LDN; Washington Redskins Team Dietitian

The holiday season has officially begun! 

With Halloween candy dwindling, many of us have our sights on the Super Bowl of all feasts - Thanksgiving! Last week’s guest nutrition blogger, Christine Turpin taught us the many health benefits of the traditional holiday fare: Click here to read the article.

The fact that many of the foods filling our plate at this time of year have an abundance of nutrients is great news, however, never is the adage “too much of a good thing is a bad thing” proves to be truer than when it is applied to our diets. Don’t worry, I promise not to take the “fun” out of your holiday indulgence! Keep reading to find out how to enjoy both your favorite foods and the feeling of health.

An important principle to understand when it comes to eating behavior is humans are strongly driven by visual stimuli. In the caveman days, fast food establishments weren’t on every corner, snack displays at every checkout, nor were exposure to a constant assault of food images on billboards, TV commercials or computer pop-up advertisements part of daily living.

When the cavemen saw food, they needed to be prepared to eat because it may be days before they found food again. These survival mechanisms still exist in our biology today. When we see food, mechanisms are triggered within our bodies to prepare to eat. Many believe that the fact that our biology is designed for (food) scarcity yet our environment is one of (food) abundance is to blame for our current obesity problem.

The following tips include strategies to manage our natural born survival mechanism during this time of year when our natural tendency to eat everything in sight is most tested.

Use smaller plates.
It really works! I was reminded how effective this strategy is when a client told me she lost 100 pounds and the first thing she listed when I asked her how she did it was she bought new, smaller plates. Learn more about the power of a smaller plate here.

Survey the landscape of food first and choose what you really want.
I pick foods I don’t normally get a chance to enjoy the rest of the year. I select sweet potato casserole instead of mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie over chocolate cake.

Put less on your plate to begin with, you can always go back for seconds.
Once food is on our plate a “need to complete the task” tendency takes over, trumping any full-signal screaming to “abort the mission”. Put less on your plate; give yourself at least 5 minutes before going for seconds.

Don’t leave bowls, platters or serving dishes on the table.
Serve either buffet style or if family style is part of the tradition, place the serving dishes on a counter or separate table once they have been passed around. Both strategies will take the food out of your direct visual path and reduce unconscious nibbling.

When you’ve decided you’ve had enough, put a piece of gum in your mouth or have a mint.
The gum is a barrier to putting anything else in our mouth and a strong mint flavor is often not conducive to any other flavor you might be tempted to put in your mouth (think mint flavored mashed potatoes ;o)

I am a true believer that food is one of the pleasures in life and holidays such as Thanksgiving provide us an opportunity to celebrate this gift. Throw out the “good food: bad food” attitude and mindfully enjoy the flavors of this special holiday. By being cognizant of portions through listening to your hunger-full signals and including physical activity in your holiday plans you can truly “have your cake (or pie) and eat it too”

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!


I would love to hear ways WOW members practice enjoying their favorite foods in moderation and how you include physical activity into your holiday plans! Please comment in the section below.

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