The holidays are here – a magical time of year filled with sparkling lights, homemade treats, loved ones and holiday feasts. Although there is much more to this season than these large meals, the festivities most certainly can become centered around the dinner table.
Many give up on their health goals during this time of year, planning on picking back up where they left off in the new year. It can sometimes feel like a lost cause even attempting, but I have some good news for you! You do not have to compromise your health goals this season, and better yet, you also don’t have to compromise missing out on your favorite holiday meals. Focus on a healthy balance of food, activity and fun by implementing a few of my simple tips to help you stay healthy through the holiday season and beyond.
Don't Go Out with an Empty Tank
Before setting out for a party, eat a light snack so you don't arrive famished. Excellent pre-party snacks combine complex carbohydrates with protein and unsaturated fat, like apple slices with peanut or almond butter, raw vegetables with hummus. You will be less tempted to over-indulge.
Ditch and Switch
Ditch the refined foods and switch them with healthier options. For example, instead of using refined white flour and/or sugar, use almond flour or coconut sugar instead. There are many alternatives to choose from, and you can most definitely find one that you will love – and I bet you nobody will even notice! Aside from the sweets, you can also trade out white rice or mashed potatoes with creating cauliflower rice or mashed “potatoes” out of cauliflower.
Fresh Herbs and Spices
You can really dress up a meal by adding fresh herbs and spices to it – I personally use them every time I cook. It’s incredibly affordable and simple to keep a small, fresh herb garden growing in your kitchen window, and you will always have direct access to fresh herbs. Even better, there are incredible health properties in many of the herbs and spices we use and love. Many of our favorite holiday spices are greatly beneficial for our health and a strong immune system, which is certainly helpful during cold and flu season. Cinnamon, turmeric, cloves, and nutmeg are a few of these popular holiday spices that you will reap healthy benefits from, so find a place for them in your recipes anywhere you can!
Survey Party Buffets before Filling Your Plate
Choose your favorite foods and skip your least favorite. Include a ton of vegetables to keep your plate balanced.
Distance Helps the Heart Stay Healthy
Don't stand next to the food table at a party. That makes it harder to mindlessly reach for food as you talk.
Use Different Plateware
One of my favorite, most powerful tools to stay on track with my health goals is getting creative with portion control. Instead of using dinner-sized plates, which we tend to fill, use smaller plates. Use a mid-sized saucer or salad plate for your dinner plate, and then go back for seconds if needed. A lot of the overeating that we do is mindless, habitual eating because it’s in front of us and we were taught to clean our plates. Taking this temptation away helps tremendously, and you’ll very quickly learn how much you actually need to feel satisfied – I guarantee it is less than you are used to!
Chew 30 Times and Put Down Your Utensil
Try to get 30 chews out of each bite. (30 is a rough guide, as it might be difficult to get even 10 chews out of a mouthful of oatmeal or mashed food)! Take time to enjoy the flavors and textures in your mouth before you swallow. This may also help prevent overeating by giving your gut time to send messages to the brain to say your're full.
Often we are already preparing the next morsel with our fork and knife while we are still on our previous bite. Try putting down your utensils after each bite, and don't pick them back up until you have enjoyed and swallowed what you already have in your mouth.
Take 10 Before Taking Seconds
It takes a few minutes for your stomach’s “I’m getting full” signal to get to your brain. After finishing your first helping, take a 10-minute break. Make conversation. Drink some water. Then recheck your appetite. You might realize you are full, or want only a small portion of seconds.
Be Careful with Beverages
Alcohol can lessen inhibitions and induce overeating; non-alcoholic beverages can be full of calories and sugar. Alcohol should be avoided on an empty stomach as it will increase your appetite. If you drink alcohol, have a glass of water in between drinks.
Plan Time for Exercise
Plan time for exercise. Exercise helps relieve holiday stress and prevent weight gain. A moderate and daily increase in exercise can help partially offset increased holiday eating. Try 10- or 15-minute brisk walks twice a day. If you are at a family gathering, suggest a walk before the feast or even between dinner and dessert.
With these simple tips, you’ll be well on your way to not entering January feeling bloated, discouraged and off track. Although food is an integral part of the holidays, put the focus on family and friends, laughter and cheer. If balance and moderation are your usual guides, it's okay to indulge. A truly healthy life revolves around balance – and finding your own personal balance will take trial and error.