A holiday grilled turkey. (Tracy A Woodward/THE WASHINGTON POST)

I believe the answer lies in what I call the power of the two P’s:  purpose versus preference.  Most of us eat based on what our taste buds prefer rather than eating for the purpose of healthy nourishment. I’m from Jamaica so I believe food has to taste good. But we must minimize the space on our plates for unhealthy options.

What if you just filled your plate with healthier options and saved a corner on that same plate for one of your favorites?  It’s a both - and proposition; not either - or.

I know what you are going to say: “It’s the holiday season.” You’re right. It is a festive time and great tasting food is part of the holiday nostalgia we long for all year. But eating whatever we want adds pounds that must be shed in the new year.

Can you have your cake and eat it too?  The answer is a resounding, “Yes!” As the holidays approach, ask yourself: is the food I’m adding for purpose, preference or both? Here are three tips to get you through the holiday season without adding unwanted pounds.

1.  Drink up.  Studies show that drinking 16 ounces of water before meals can reduce the overall number of calories consumed at each sitting.  So play the volume game.  Drink two cups of water BEFORE going down to that holiday party and keep drinking no-or-low calorie beverages during the events. 

2.  Go for protein first.  Protein takes a longer time to digest making you feel fuller longer.  It also lowers the level of ghrelin, the hunger hormone while boosting cholecystokinin, another hormone that makes you feel full.  So grab the chicken skewers, meatballs, and turkey and, please, no separate plate for desserts!

3.  Put on the brakes. Slow down your eating. It takes food about 15 to 20 minutes to pass from your esophagus into your stomach. This means that from the time you take the first bite to approximately 20 minutes later your brain has no clue that you are actually eating.  Therefore, if you eat large amounts in 10 minutes your chances of overeating increase because you still have 5 or 10 minutes before the signal to put the fork down actually turns on. So take a bite then share a laugh with your co-worker, sway a little to the holiday music and enjoy the conversations happening around you. Then, take another bite!

Rahsaan Bernard is the President and CEO of Beyond Excellence, a boutique health management firm specializing in corporate wellness services. Follow him on twitter (@beyondexcell).

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