It’s that time of year again! I think it’s safe to say we all love the holiday season, however it does pose its challenges when it comes to staying on track with our health and fitness goals. Holiday parties, family gatherings, work pot-lucks, etc, etc etc. Not to mention all of the seasonal flavors we just have to get our fair share of (hello again, pumpkin and peppermint mocha).
One’s willpower can certainly be tested to its limits when pumpkin loafs and Christmas cookies are looking you square in the eye for 1+ months. The cycle I often hear is “well, it’s the holidays so I’ll just splurge as much as I want, likely gain a few pounds and then make my New Year’s resolution to lose 10 lbs”. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want to enter a brand new year with the daunting task of having to lose weight. Major mood kill.
We should be able to enjoy and embrace all of the beautiful things the holidays have to offer without letting our health take a back seat. So without further ado, here’s to staying happy and healthy during the holiday season and making sure the only thing stuffed at your table is the turkey ;).
1. Strive for weight maintenance. Setting goals around this time of year needs to be realistic. Considering the average American gains 1-2 lbs over the holidays, if we can conquer the challenge of simply maintaining our weight, we should give ourselves a pat on the back.
2. Get physical! Sign up for a fun Turkey Trot where you and your family or friends can enjoy a walk or jog together before Thanksgiving festivities get underway. Or simply start each morning with a walk or jog around your neighborhood. Even if it’s only 10-15 minutes, at least you’re movin’! The more consistent you stay with your workouts, the more wiggle room you have to indulge here and there.
3. Avoid fasting before feasting. This is huge! When extreme hunger gets the best of us, all inhibitions go out the window. This is when we dive face-first into a buffet table like we haven’t seen food in a week. Eat a meal or snack of substance at least an hour or two before attending a party in which you know food will be served. Don’t be that person that greets the buffet table before greeting any of your friends because you’re famished.
4. Decide *how* you want to indulge. Whether it’s allowing yourself to have one treat every day or one bite of multiple treats, make a conscious decision so that you don’t go off the rails.
5. Avoid drastic shifts in eating behaviors. If you do overindulge in some holiday favorites, don’t skip meals or try to eat bare minimally the next day. Instead, focus on light meals that incorporate lean protein, vegetables and whole grains. Your body recovered from being overfed, so now it deserves to be nourished with the nutrients it craves. Getting back on track is as easy as you make it! Remember that ;).
6. Make simple swaps to lighten up your favorite holiday dishes. You can easily reduce the fat, calorie and sodium content without sacrificing taste. For example,
- If a recipe calls for one egg, use two egg whites in its place to reduce the amount of total cholesterol.
- Use low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth in your mashed potatoes in place of butter or margarine.
- Use unsweetened applesauce in place of vegetable oil or butter in muffin or bread recipes.
- Use 0% fat, plain Greek yogurt in place of mayo or sour cream. Add a little Stevia and it’s also great to use as a “whipped” topping for desserts!
- Use sliced, unsalted almonds in place of fried onion strings for a nutritious, crunchy topping on casseroles.
- Use evaporated skim milk in place of heavy cream. This way you’re removing the bulk of the fat and calories while maintaining the thick consistency.
- Choose reduced-fat or low-fat cheeses for salads and casseroles.
- Use fresh herbs in place of seasoning salts. This way you’re getting the flavor impact without the excess sodium.
- Use oat or whole wheat flour in place of white flour.
7. Bring your own healthy holiday dish to a gathering. If you’re attending a pot-luck or participating in any meal prep, prepare something nutritious and filling so you know you have at least one healthy option to rely on. If this is not an option, fill up your plate with mostly nutrient dense foods such as lean proteins, fruit and veggies, and leave a little space for samples of the richer dishes.
8. Practice portion control. Survey party buffets and decide what looks best. Portion small amounts of your choices onto your plate, sit down, get comfortable and enjoy your food until you feel satisfied. Wait at least 15 minutes before paying another visit to the buffet table. The buffet table will not get up and walk away, I promise. Give your stomach enough time to send a signal to your brain that you’ve reached a point of satiety. Drink a large glass of water in the meantime. If you still feel hungry after 15 minutes or can’t stop thinking about that truffle mac & cheese, going back for seconds is OKAY. Just practice the same mindful-eating routine.
9. Be mindful of your alcohol intake. This is where the empty calories and excess sugar can really add up, especially with festive holiday cocktails. Set a drink limit for yourself at the beginning of the night and plan accordingly to stick to it. Whoever made up the rumor that your dance moves improve with alcohol intake is sitting in a recliner somewhere laughing. Trust me.
Also, to avoid the nasty hangover the following day, hydrate hydrate hydrate! Drink one glass of water in between each cocktail, as well as before bed.
10. Don’t be too hard on yourself. There is no need to stress over what you will be eating that day or what you ate the night before. Try to make reasonable choices to the best of your ability, but if something looks really good, treat yourself to a small amount without any feelings of guilt. Your body and mind will thank you for it.