A leading national ‘Blue’ health insurance organization is taking an innovative and fresh approach to holiday stress and eating, with more than 2,000 of its members already signed up for an innovative weight-management program this holiday season.
BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York’s “Maintain Don’t Gain” program provides the motivation, resources and rewards individuals need to battle what is sometimes referred to as the “season of excess.”
“We’re challenging our employees and members to leapfrog the traditional ‘New Years’ Resolution’ dieting, which has proven to be largely unsuccessful,” said Kelly Hahl, a registered dietitian and supervisor of wellness programs for BCBS. “Taking simple steps so that you don’t gain significant weight during the holidays will save a lot of effort and time as January arrives and people start to think about Spring.”
The program’s guidance includes the following tips:
1Preparation is key: Holiday schedules can get hectic and consumers tend to rely on processed foods. “Packing lunches throughout the holidays is really important, especially if you’ll be tempted by dinner or appetizers at restaurants later in the day,” Hahl said.
2. Thanksgiving dinner: This meal alone can easily push past 3,000 calories – 1½ times the recommended daily intake – but it can be enjoyed for much less with planning and portion control. “You don’t want to tell somebody, ‘You can’t have your mom’s stuffing she makes every year or homemade cut-out cookies,’ ” Hahl said. “Indulge, but have a smaller portion. Enjoy in moderation.”
Stick to a white meat serving the size of a deck of cards when it comes to turkey, which is loaded with protein and low in saturated fat. Mash potatoes with the skins on, for more fiber and potassium, and use skim milk in the blend. Scratch the bean casserole, which is loaded with fat, and steam or saute beans in olive oil and garlic. Make stuffing with whole grain breads, bits of dried fruit, poultry sausage and fresh vegetables including carrots, mushrooms and onions. Roast carrots or squash. Don’t forget the sweet potatoes, a “good” carb, but skip the marshmallow topping.
3. Routine thinking: Cut out foods you normally eat. “The roll and butter, is that really that special during a holiday meal?” Hahl asked.
4. Enjoy the experience: “You spend so much time preparing a special holiday meal and within 15 minutes, people are done. They’ve devoured everything,” Hahl said. “I always tell people, ‘Really savor that, and enjoy your food, especially if these are things you don’t normally allow yourself to eat.’ ” Also, relish that time with friends and family.
5. Drink to your health: Alcohol has almost twice the calories per gram as a carb or protein, and soda and juice become more popular this time of year. “You have all these food calories to deal with, and all of a sudden you have 500 calories just from beverages,” Hahl said.
Limit alcohol intake to one or two drinks a day. Too much impairs judgment and can lead to overeating. “Water is the healthiest beverage choice,” Hahl said. “A glass before dinner or a party can help fill you up enough to say no to needless calories.”
6. Desserts: Pecan pie is really popular around the holidays, but one slice can have more than 500 calories and almost 30 grams of fat. “Take a tiny sliver and really enjoy and savor it,” Hahl said, “or consider pumpkin pie, a ‘one-crust pie’ that is healthier for you.”
7. Work choices: Food tends to show up in offices. Leftover Halloween candy soon will be replaced by holiday goodies, some of them not so healthy. Hahl said, “It’s hard to say no. To avoid temptation, bring a small bag of almonds or a container of Greek yogurt to work.”
8. Avoid discouragement: “Don’t go through the holidays saying, ‘I can’t have this, I can’t have that,’ because then you’re just building yourself up to binge eat,” Hahl said. “If you’re at a get-together and all of a sudden you have five cookies, you can’t say, ‘Oh well, my whole day’s ruined anyway, I might as well throw in the towel and eat whatever I want.’ Instead, just get back on track. Attitude is important.”
The “Maintain Don’t Gain” program is fairly simple. Individuals’ weight is privately recorded by a health coach at the beginning of the program and then again in early January. The initial weigh-in took place the week prior to Thanksgiving and the challenge ends when participants “weigh-out” the week of January 6th. If participants’ post-holiday weight is equal to or less than their pre-holiday weight they will have successfully completed the “Maintain Don’t Gain” challenge. BCBS employees will be rewarded with bonus points towards gift certificates and other merchandise.