5 tips to recover from a food binge

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Are you suffering from a holiday season meal pig out? Or maybe you devoured an entire bag of chips because you were stressed out and it was the first thing in sight? 

If you’re filled with regret after you overindulge at a holiday meal or binge on junk food during a stressful or emotional time, there’s no need to despair. You might feel sick and maybe a little bit guilty, but a food binge isn’t the end of the world. It might take a few days, but you can get back on track to healthy eating.

Kacie Vavrek, an outpatient dietitian at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, offered her top five tips on how to recover from a binge:

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

“Drink lots of water – at least two liters or more – the next day to rehydrate your body after consuming high-salt and high-sugar foods as well as alcohol,” Vavrek says. Keeping your body well-hydrated is always a good practice, especially after a binge, because water aids in digestion and reduces bloating. 

Fill up on high-fiber, nutrient-rich foods, lean protein and don’t forget healthy snacks

Vavrek recommends sticking with vegetables, fruits and other foods with high-fiber content as well as lean protein the day after a binge. These foods can help restore lost vitamins and minerals. Lean protein is also important she says because it is digested very slowly which keeps you feeling full and helps prevent food cravings. 

Vavrek suggests these options:

  • At breakfast, have a veggie omelet or Greek yogurt, which is high in protein. 
  • For lunch, good choices include a chicken or turkey sandwich, salad or wrap with edamame (soy beans), another source of protein.
  • For dinner, try grilled salmon, chicken or sirloin steak – any “loin” cuts of beef are leaner than others – with a baked sweet potato and grilled or sautéed veggies such as asparagus, broccoli, Brussel sprouts or peppers.

“The key is also not waiting until you’re famished to eat because that is when we crave the worse foods and overeat. Add small snacks between meals to avoid getting to that point,” she says.

Always have a protein with your snack to keep you full. Some combinations to try are veggies or fruit and string cheese, apple and peanut butter, hummus and veggies, whole grain crackers and cheese or fruit and nuts.

Get active

Vavrek suggests making a plan to exercise the rest of the week, but it doesn’t have to be super-intense, she says. Light exercise like a long walk still burns calories, and most importantly, aids in digestion and levels out your blood sugar.

Hit the sack

Research studies show that a lack of sleep can increase your appetite because it alters your hormone levels and throws off normal feelings of hunger. You’re also more likely to crave unhealthy, high-carbohydrate and high-fat foods when you’re tired. That’s why Vavrek suggests getting eight hours of quality sleep to keep your hormones regulated so you can make smart food choices.

Give mindful eating a try

Of course it’s always possible to avoid the feelings of gluttony after a binge by thinking ahead and having a plan of action to keep your eyes and stomach on the same page. 

“At holiday meals, focus on having smaller portions of the food that you don’t normally get to eat throughout the year. You don’t have to have huge portions of everything on the table.”

The next time you feel a feeding frenzy coming on, tune in to how you’re feeling and why. Before you scarf down that bag of chips or go back for seconds or even thirds at the holiday meal table, Vavrek says to think about whether you’re really hungry or not, and eat slowly because it takes about 15 minutes for your brain to register if your stomach is full.”

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