It is a common lament of international students that American food is fattening, unhealthy, and way too plentiful! The holidays can be especially frustrating for students who wish to stay fit, and a common method of coping with all the eating is to isolate yourself and just not participate—and this is a bad idea, too!
So our first ESLI tip for the holidays is to enjoy them. Americans are even more friendly during the Christmas season, and we love to share what we have with others. If you have the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with an American family, take it! Be thankful for all that you have, and enjoy American hospitality and good food, and you will never regret it.
That said, a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner can be huge and overwhelming. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has some tips for eating well during the holidays without putting on extra pounds, and you can use them to navigate the buffet table without gaining extra weight—and you can even eat some of the sweets!
1. Use a smaller plate. You will have less room for lots of food, and will, therefore, eat less, even if you go back for more. Plus, when you fill a small plate, the sight of it being full tricks your mind into believing you still have plenty!
2. Eat vegetables and/or salad first. These are healthier offerings, and you will have less room for the things that aren’t so healthy.
3. When you move on to the entrees, take small portions. This is especially helpful if you are unfamiliar with American holiday foods since a small portion will let you try a little of everything and decide what you like and what you would rather not have more of.
4. Eat slowly and really let yourself savor each bite. Take time to find out what the dish is while you eat, and wait at least 10 minutes before you go for more to make sure you really want it.
5. Take dessert, but just a little bit. As with the other foods, take just a small amount of dessert and keep in mind that international students often find that American desserts are very sweet. A little will go a long way!
6. Last of all, after dinner, do something physical. Take a walk, play a game of football or basketball, or help your host family with the clean-up. Sitting down and watching the football game while Dad snoozes on the couch is not a great way to work off any extra calories!
If you stay active during the holidays, you can eat what you want and fully enjoy the season without putting on a lot of extra weight. For information on the fitness offerings on your campus, check out our blog post from April and look into the indoor activities available when the weather is too cold and/or snowy for outdoor exercise. And above all, enjoy the holiday season here in the US!
From all of us at ESLI, have a safe, happy, delicious, and healthy Thanksgiving and Christmas season!