Hints for holiday stomach stuffers

Originally Published: December 21, 2001 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: November 23, 2011
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Dear Alice,

I was wondering if you could offer any advice as to how to keep from getting that miserable full feeling after eating a big holiday meal. Are there any food combinations it would be best to avoid to keep you from feeling so miserable?

Thanks, Stuffed

Dear Stuffed,

Put your fork down for a minute and raise your glass: here's to feasting more sensibly, moderately, and contentedly:

  • Eat your regular daily meals. Going to a party or holiday meal overly hungry is a recipe for too much holiday cheer. If you're starving when you arrive at the event, you'll go wild over the hors d'oeurves, bread, and/or other pre-meal munchies. By the time you eat dinner, you're already stuffed and feeling uncomfortable.
  • Pace yourself during the cocktail hour or pre-meal period. Try to spend time talking with other guests. Focus more on the people, less on the fare.
  • Think about your options as you are deciding about taking them. For example, if you choose stuffing and mashed potatoes, do you really need a piece of bread and butter, or will some veggies do just fine?
  • Foods that are high in fat make us feel full. If your holiday table is filled with fried foods or dishes with rich sauces, enjoy a limited amount of these. Also balance your plate with plain vegetables and roasted meats if they are available.
  • During the meal, eat slowly, chew thouroughly, chat with your neighbors, and sip water regularly to let your brain catch up with your stomach and register your fullness.
  • Check in with yourself to see how you're feeling. Are you starting to get satiated? It takes a little time for the brain to realize the stomach has had enough. Try to become more in tune with your fullness cues and listen to them.
  • If the meal is served family style (passed around the table in serving dishes), it's fine to decline some items. For chow you do select, take portions that are the amount you usually eat. Many people pile up their plates, and then feel obliged to eat everything.
  • If it's appropriate to do so, get up between courses. An extra pair of hands clearing the table is often appreciated.
  • If the holiday meal is served buffet-style, check out all the offerings before getting in line. You can avoid overloading your plate by taking only the items you really want to eat. Buffets are invitations for over-sampling the savories and sweets. Try to avoid going back for seconds.
  • Instead of taking seconds, perhaps the host/hostess will offer yours (or your leftovers) in a doggie bag to enjoy the next day. (If you're at your own home, you know you can have some the next day.)
  • Decide ahead of time to save some of your feast for homeless people, or others who don't come by food so easily. This will reduce your intake and help the hungry for whom overeating isn't even a possibility.
  • Watch out for the effects of alcohol. It increases one's appetite, setting the stage for overeating.
  • Take a stroll after the meal to get some exercise and help the food settle in your stomach.
  • Check out Alice!'s nutrition resources page for more information, including a guide to hosting a healthy meeting or event (party perhaps?). 

Enjoying the holiday season doesn't have to mean overindulging in holiday cheer. Being mindful of your eating (and drinking) doesn't have to be limiting; it can actually enhance your experience. 

Happy Holidays,