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How to Save Calories and Money over the Holidays
Provided by Lake County BCC Employee Assistance Program's Work-life Balance newsletter.
Posted: November 09, 2011


Portion Control Over the Holidays

Holidays tend to involve larger meals and more opportunities to snack on special foods at parties and family get-togethers. So it’s easy to gain weight if you don’t keep an eye on how much you’re putting on your plate. Recent research has found that when you serve yourself a larger portion, you eat more. In one surprising study, Cornell University professor Brian Wansink found that moviegoers who bought jumbo-sized buckets of popcorn at theaters ate up to 34 percent more than people who had medium-sized containers even though both groups had just had a big lunch and weren’t hungry.

Tips on how to avoid overeating

Fortunately, there’s a simple solution to what Wansink calls “mindless eating”: Learn to control your portion sizes so you won’t eat more than you intended. Here are some tips.

  • Downsize your plates. Large plates make portions look smaller, Wansink says, and can encourage overeating. Try eating from a smaller salad or dessert plate instead of a dinner plate at a holiday buffet so you don’t overeat.

  • Keep an eye on nutrition. To make sure you get the nutrients you need while controlling portions, follow the U.S. government’s guideline: Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, divide the other half between protein and grains, and get calcium through fat-free or low-fat dairy products. If you’re doing the cooking, have lots of healthier choices available for everyone so people aren’t tempted to fill their plates with high-fat, high-calorie foods.
  • Learn to estimate serving sizes. Knowing how to estimate serving sizes can help you avoid overeating. One serving of fish or lean meat (about 3 ounces) is the size of a deck of cards, for example, so you’ll get more than one if a restaurant serves a hamburger much larger than a deck. Visit the site for the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (www.nhlbi.nih.gov) and search for “Serving Size Card” to download a wallet-sized card that lists other serving sizes and how many to eat.
  • Make healthy choices at meals whenever possible. For meats, choose grilled, baked or broiled, not fried or coated. Avoid foods cooked in oil or cream sauces. Skip the gravy or butter, as well as sour cream on potatoes. If you’re having stuffing, you might pass on the bread basket.
  • Plan for holiday parties. You might have a small healthy snack before you leave home so that you aren’t hungry when you arrive at the party. Don’t linger by the food table. Visit with other guests away from the food table. Don’t feel you have to try every dish. Take small portions of the foods you will most enjoy. Often people choose a large portion just because they like the food.
  • Drink lots of water. This will not only fill you up, but will also help you avoid drinking empty calories. Limit your servings of beverages such as wine, soda, and punch.
  • Have a strategy for controlling portions when you eat out. Choose restaurants that serve small or moderate, not oversized, portions. When you can’t find one, split the main course with a friend. Or ask to have your meal split in half and wrapped up to take home before you take a bite of it. Research has shown that if food remains on your plate, you’re more likely to keep eating even if you’re no longer hungry. Avoid going to restaurants with salad bars or “all you can eat” buffets, as you’ll be more likely to eat more than you need or plan.

Higher prices this winter at the supermarket

Get ready for sticker shock at the grocery store this fall and winter. You can expect to see higher prices on meat, pasta, vegetable oil, and more because of the summer heat, drought, and floods, according to a government survey. And prices for peanut butter could increase 20 to 40 percent due to crop problems this past year. Overall the U.S. Department of Agriculture expects food prices to rise by 3 to 4 percent in 2012.

Ways to save at the grocery store

Here are some ways to manage the increases and save on grocery bills during the holidays:

  • Plan ahead. Make a list of what you need and shop early, whether you’re buying groceries for everyday use or for a big holiday meal. Consider lower-cost store brands or generic products and less expensive alternatives when meal planning.
  • Watch for coupons that offer discounts. To find the best deal on what you need, compare the discounts offered by several sources of coupons, such as Sunday newspapers, in-store displays, and websites that offer grocery coupons, such as CouponCabin (http://couponcabin.com) and SmartSource (www.smartsource.com).
  • Use new tools that help you save on groceries. Look into grocery-shopping apps for smartphones that make it easier to find bargains. These software programs let you make grocery lists, scan barcodes, compare prices, and more. You might check out the app GroceryIQ, created by Coupons.com (http://coupons.com), which you can download for free in Android and iPhone versions at www.groceryiq.com.
  • Make and freeze meals when you find bargains. You’ll always be able to find good deals on some foods even if the prices of most are going up. Use sale items to make and freeze breads, sauces, meat portions, casseroles or other items.
  • Rethink your holiday meal. If the cost of a holiday meal strains your budget, revise your traditions. Invite relatives to a potluck brunch or dessert party at which you serve punch or mulled cider and homemade treats.


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