My Tips and Strategies for a Healthy Holiday Season
Food is an intricate part of all holiday celebrations and gatherings with family and friends. Unfortunately, this time of year is also one that can be easily filled with one too many indulgences; as a result many may gain a few extra pounds by the time the New Year rolls around. It is extremely important to enjoy and savour each moment of this wonderful time of year, as well as take good care of ourselves. Here are some of my top healthy and guilt-free tips to help you along the way!
1. Don’t skip any meals or snacks
Too often people will skip a meal or all meals and snacks leading up to a party or gathering …don’t do it! In fact, I encourage you to eat as you normally would, or even focus on eating smaller meals and nutritious snacks every 2-3 hours. Make sure to eat a nutritious and satiating, protein packed snack before you go to a party, this way you are not starving when you get there and can better control your intake. Here are a few of my favorite snacks: a handful of unsalted nuts and an apple, natural peanut or almond butter spread on banana slices or two ounces of tuna drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice with a few wholegrain crackers.
2. Beware of those cute little appetizers
They may be cute, but most are caloric bombs! Did you know that two little pigs in a blanket can set you back 130 calories, two chicken wings another 200 calories, a mini quiche another 70 calories… You’ve just consumed 400 calories, almost a full meal’s worth (not including whatever drink you were sipping on to make it all go down smoothly) and of course the actual meal has not even started and you have barely put a dent in your hunger!! Be careful because the calories accumulate really quickly at this time of year. Don’t forget it only takes an extra 500 calories a day above your normal intake to gain one pound in a week.
If you are hosting, for healthier and less damaging finger food options choose a platter of crudites accompanied with a hummus or yogurt based dip, chicken satay or kebabs, cantaloupe slices wrapped with smoked salmon or prosciutto or even a platter of cocktail shrimps (22 calories for 4). Finally, if you’re the guest why not offer to bring one of these dishes yourself to a holiday gathering so you can be certain to have a healthier option available?
3. Stay focused on eating all your veggies
Wherever you are, whether at home, at a friend’s house or at the restaurant, always start your night or meal with a plate of veggies. Make sure to steer clear from any type of vegetable that is served fried, scalloped, gratin style or battered! The high fiber and water content of vegetables, salads or broth based vegetable soups will provide a feeling of fullness and leave less room in your tummy for that second serving of pasta or mashed potatoes or dessert. And when you are just too tempted to go back for a second round, start again by filling up your plate with vegetables.
4. Drink smartly
Save your alcoholic beverages for the nights where you have a party or gathering and skip the occasional glass of wine with your regular suppers at home or at the restaurant leading up to it. When you do drink, enjoy your drink, but make sure to always start with a glass of mineral or plain water and keep drinking another glass of water in between alcoholic beverages. Another great tip is to limit yourself to one alcoholic drink per hour. Not only will these tactics keep you from over drinking, but they will also keep you hydrated and will help prevent a hangover. Another benefit to drinking less, or moderately, is that you’ll be less prone to mindlessly overeating. That second piece of cake or handful of chips will be much less tempting!
Skip the fancy drinks like margaritas, cosmopolitans, and other exotic cocktails are full of extra sugary additions that add on the calories. Also, beware of spirits, they have a high calorie and sugar content and those made with cream (ex. Baileys), are also high in fat! Eggnog is also a particularly dangerous concoction; one cup can contain as much as 400 calories and the equivalent of an additional 4 packets of sugar and 5 pats of butter in comparison to other beverages!
Your best options are a glass of wine (90-100 calories per 4 ounces) or champagne (70-120 calories per flute) or light beer (100-115 calories per bottle) or if you prefer a vodka or gin and soda or simple martini can also be safer choices. Personally, I always alternate between my favorite glass of red wine and mineral water. **a standard drink contains 10g of pure alcohol, example 4 on of wine or one shot of vodka or a regular bottle of beer is considered a standard drink.
5. Don’t deny yourself and indulge when it’s actually worth it
The most important rule for this time of year, or anytime, is try not to eat mindlessly. We all know how easy it is to keep eating those hors-d’oeuvres or cookies or chips just because they are there in front of us or have some bread and butter with our meal, but all these little things add up quickly.
Instead, why not be more attentive to your choices and lighten them up as you can, while saving those indulgences for a special food or drink you have actually been waiting to have for a while or simply don’t want to miss out on, like grandma’s famous Christmas log. And if there is more than one thing you have been looking forward to sinking your teeth in, just use a smaller dish, take a smaller serving or limit yourself to the three bites rule and enjoy and savor every single one of them!
6. Get back to your healthy routine on the days where there are no festivities
It’s easy to keep feeling festive and keep drinking and eating more on the days between the big parties or gatherings, but that can easily amount to two whole weeks and more of excesses, and a size or two more on the waistline come January!
So if you end up with lots of leftovers pack the up and give some to your guests to take home or store them in the freezer for a later date.
On those days that you have nothing planned; try to make an effort to stick to your routine. Staying in a routine will make it much easier to get right back on track after the holidays. Get plenty of rest, keep active, meditate, avoid alcohol and stick to eating balanced meals and nutritious snacks right away!
Happy Holidays and may the New Year be a healthy and happy one!