It's that time of year when parties and gatherings are more frequent, and food and drinks seem to be the center of every event. If you have been working towards a health goal and fear what the holidays may bring for you, or you are just trying to avoid that extra holiday squish that seems to sneak on between November and January, read on for some tried and true ways to stay on track with your weight, while enjoying all that the holidays have to offer.
Many of us have deep family traditions rooted back to long-time recipes around the holidays and food we eat. It just wouldn't be the same without Grammy's orange rolls, or mom's potato au gratin. There are beautiful traditions we can practice and enjoy, without it completely derailing our goals along the way. Likewise, parties and work events may have us feeling obligated to indulge-after all it's only once a year. The problem comes when they opportunities pile up and we are not equipped with a game plan to keep ourselves balanced. Here is a handful of helpful tools to help guide you through a beautiful holiday season without the bloat, discomfort, and reget.
Don't Ditch Your Routine
Keeping as close as possible to your normal healthy habits, such as sitting down to 3 meals, moving/exercising every day, and getting 8 hours of sleep are an excellent way to keep yourself on track. Just because it's holiday season doesn't mean we have to throw our normal routines out the window. Find ways to incorporate family and friends into your routine when you have visitors or are traveling. Invite them on a daily walk with you instead of sitting around indoors surrounded by food and treats all day.
Watch Your Beverages
Drinks have a sneaky way of packing in sugar and calories. Between sodas and alcohol, you can easily lose track of hundreds of extra unwanted calories before the meal is even served. Aim for flavored sparkling waters with no added sugar, or decide ahead of time how many drinks you will have for the event, and stick to that, being sure to hydrate with water throughout the day as well.
Keep The Food For Meal Time
Holidays can turn into a 24 hour buffet lifestyle. There are snacks and appetizers when you arrive, a meal in the oven, drinks while you wait, and dessert to top it off. Remember your body has the same capacity for food that it did in the middle of spring-so think of all those bits and pieces adding up to make a meal. Instead of picking at the endless bites while you prep, chop, mix and cook and socialize, reserve the food for your plate at meal time.
Plate Up and Sit Down
When it is time for a meal, look over all the options before plating up to avoid putting more than you need on your dish. Sit down and take a deep breath before beginning your meal, checking in with your hunger level. Take your time, enjoying the flavors of the meal. By slowing down, you give your body the advantage to lead you in when you have had enough. Sometimes we feel FOMO (fear of missing out) during the holidays because of a special food that is only prepared once a year. If this comes up for you, remember you can always set aside a separate portion for the next day or freeze for later. You don't have to eat it all at once to enjoy it.
Focus On Protein and Fiber
Aim for 1/3 of your plate to be protein, 1/3 non-starchy vegetables, and the last 1/3 for carbs as a general rule for most people. Keeping your plate high in protein and fiber will promote satiety and keep your energy balanced through the day. Avoiding too many starchy carbs will also help prevent puffiness, bloating and the energy dip that comes after a quick sugar rush. Remember, root vegetables like squash and potatoes, are considered carbohydrates.
Center Recipes and Meals Around Whole Foods
Sometimes we need/desire to adapt our traditional family meals to suit our health needs and goals. Experiment with simple swaps to see a difference in your fiber, fat and protein intake, and feel better overall. The taste may differ slightly, but the body benefits will be worth it.
lowfat dairy vs. whole fat
unbleached, whole grain flour vs. white, bleached flour
substituting/reducing sugar in recipes for 0 calorie sweeteners like monk fruit, or just natural fruit
extra virgin olive oil vs. butter when roasting or sauteeing
Remember the Reason For the Season
At the end of the day, the real reason for all the food and drink is not just to enjoy delicious things, but to celebrate being together with the people we care about the most, slow down and connect with them in meaningful ways, and celebrate the holidays that matter most to us. Keeping our focus on the bigger picture is sometimes all we need to get our attention off the food and onto the meaning behind it all.