A Survival Guide To Holiday Eating
- Create a sensible plan ahead of time. Before the holidays arrive, evaluate how much time you are realistically able to devote to creating healthy meals and exercising. Then create a plan for incorporating good nutrition and fitness into your daily routine.
- Don’t skip meals. When you skip meals, you are more likely to overeat during your next meal, or be tempted by unhealthy food. Never go to a party starving. Before you leave home make sure you eat something like an apple, celery, dates or veggies with hummus. I call this “defensive eating.” Remember to drink a lot of water the day of the party.
- Don’t shop when you’re hungry. Eat before you leave home and bring healthy snacks with you so you won’t be tempted by unhealthy treats. Park far away so you have to walk, (you’ll probably have no choice) and take the stairs instead of the elevator. Incorporate extra walking wherever you can on your shopping extravaganza – then your credit cards won’t be the only thing getting a workout.
- Bring your own food to the feast. When invited to a party, bring something you know you are going to feel good about eating, like wild rice stuffing, quinoa salad, baked sweet potatoes, squash and sweet potato soup, gluten free rolls or cookies, hummus or guacamole with vegetables or a fruit platter.
- Fill up on the healthy stuff first. Under fill rather than over fill your plate. Consume smaller portions of your favorite foods. Start out by eating salad and/or vegetable soup; you will be more likely to control your appetite if you have already filled up on healthier options. Eat slowly and take a break in the middle of eating to take inventory of how you feel.
- Eat smaller amounts of sugary foods. You can still enjoy your favorite sweets during the holidays if you eat smaller portions to avoid weight gain. For example, eat 2 cookies instead of 4 cookies, or have half a slice of cake or pie. Better yet, bring your own healthier homemade cookies.
- Don’t avoid fat. Use avocados in salads or as a dip, or try tahini, eggplant baba ganoush or hummus for dips. Add a few walnuts, pumpkin seeds, or olives to your salads or stuffing. Eating small amounts of healthy whole fat during the holidays will help satisfy your appetite.
- Don’t overindulge. Alcoholic beverages pack on the calories, so if you’re drinking alcohol stick to light beer, vodka w/soda and lime or a champagne/wine spritzer. Most of the calories from alcoholic drinks are consumed in mixed drinks. Have some water or coconut water in between drinks.
- Stop eating when your stomach feels full. You may be tempted to overeat when you linger by the food table at holiday parties, or if you become bored or restless at certain events. Drink additional glasses of water if you feel like you want to keep eating after you are full, or choose healthy snacks like vegetables.
- Concentrate on your meal while you’re eating it. Focus on chewing your food well and enjoying the smell, taste, and texture of each item. Slow down, and become more mindful of how much and how fast you are eating. It takes about 20 minutes for your body to send you satiety signals telling you that you are full.
- Substitute the ingredients in your favorite holiday baking with healthier ones. For example, use ground flaxseed to replace eggs (1tbsp of ground flax with 3 tbsp of water to replace 1 egg), switch to gluten-free flour and use dairy substitutes such as almond, tiger nut or rice milk in your baking. You can use applesauce, pumpkin, zucchini, beans, or bananas in place of fat.
- Don’t forget to exercise! Try to fit in some form of physical activity for one hour each day. Exercise helps to burn calories, relieve stress and elevate your endorphins and mood. Take a brisk walk, go for a run, do some yoga, dance or bike-ride. If you can, fit in a yoga class, a fitness class, or get to the gym. Plus, when you exercise, you can enjoy your meal “guilt free”. If you can’t dedicate a whole hour at a time, do at least 15 minutes.
Bonus Tip: Focus on what really matters; friends, family, laughter and some much needed down time and rest.
Finally, take a meditative moment at least once a day to breathe deeply, clear your mind of all the clutter, and be grateful for all that you have.