My Top Foods and Strategies to Help You Stay Healthy and Cope with Overindulgence During Holidays
Updated: Oct 21, 2020
The holiday season is definitely a tricky time of year for our healthy eating habits and consequently our waistlines. With all the office parties, friends’ gatherings, family meals and festivities, it is easy to get swept away and pack on a couple of extra pounds by the time the New Year has kicked in! So instead of surrendering right now to making “losing weight” or “going on a diet” one of our New Year resolutions, I thought I would share with you my top secret foods and strategies that will nourish and support your body daily throughout the holidays and help you avoid sabotaging yourself. In other words, I want to help you breeze through the holidays with ease, full of energy, without any extra pounds piling up or pesky hangover or virus to cure!
1. Don’t Skip a Meal
I know it can be tempting to “save up” your calories, in fact most of us think it is the best strategy for coping with the indulgences to come, yet research has shown that skipping meals or fasting all day to save your calories for the big meal ahead has a high probability of backfiring and adding even more calories than you tried to save! Instead, stay consistent with your good eating habits and opt for sensible, balanced meals and healthy snacks throughout the day, starting with the most important meal, breakfast, which studies have shown jump-starts our metabolism and helps with weight management .
2. Fruits, Vegetables, Grains...Fiber!
Do get a proper dose of fiber in your diet; put a special focus on your intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains throughout the party season. These foods are typically low in calories, yet are chockful of vitamins, minerals and fiber, nutrients that are all too often lacking on a holiday menu. Foods that are high in fiber are digested slowly and therefore pass through your stomach more slowly, consequently making you feel full and less ravenous when evening comes. The fiber found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains is slowly digested and acts like a buffer for alcohol. Focusing on these the day of a party is a great way to help us stay sober and ward off a nasty hangover! Finally, overeating and over drinking causes our cells to generate higher levels of free radicals in our bodies. Making sure we eat our daily recommended servings of fruits and vegetables will ensure we are giving our body the antioxidants it needs to neutralize the free radicals and prevent them from causing cellular damage.
3. Proteins To Keep Hunger and Hangovers Away
Including a healthy serving of protein, the most satiating source of fuel, at every meal and snack will not only keep you full longer, but also reduce cravings throughout the day and evening. Like fiber, protein also takes longer to digest and helps better control your blood alcohol levels by slowing how quickly they rise. In fact the amino acid cysteine, which is found in many high-protein foods such as eggs, yogurt, cheese, meat, quinoa, oats, helps breakdown the toxic by-product our liver naturally produces when we drink alcohol which is also responsible for the side effects we feel when we are hungover.
Personally, I never leave home without grabbing a small handful of nuts before heading out to a supper or evening out, an easy grab-and go snack that is full of protein, healthy fats and fiber, the perfect triple threat for keeping hunger and a quick buzz or a dreadful hangover at bay!
You also know my love for hemp. The non-hallucinogenic one that is! I love it so much because it is one of those rare plant foods that are a source of high quality, complete protein (contains all the essential amino acids), healthy fatty acids and fiber, they are delicious, lightly nutty and can be used pretty much in any recipe or to top any dish. I’ve recently discovered hemp flour, think of it as the cousin of hemp protein powder; you can use it for baking or to boost your smoothie with a high quality, completely natural, highly digestible source of protein. It is gluten-free, high in fiber and protein, contains fatty acids, vitamins and minerals, an important one being iron, and you can use it to replace some of your regular flour in recipes or to thicken sauces. I love using it in my smoothies to add lots of fiber, protein and some healthy fats to my frozen fruits and vegetables and turn it into a perfectly fuss-free and well-balanced liquid meal, ideal before the party or for the next morning! I also think it’s great for adding a nutritional twist to your Holiday baking recipes. I encourage you to try a local brand I love, Orijin’s raw hemp flour which is 100% Quebec grown, certified organic and non-GMO, additive and preservative-free.
4. Load Up on Hydrating Liquids
Sure all registered dietitians will recommend you limit your liquid calories, especially the ones from alcohol which is often more abundant during this festive time of year, but what I like to focus on is overall hydration and here’s why. Often times what our brain registers as a hunger signal is actually just us being thirsty. Consequently, staying well hydrated can help ensure we don’t dig into that bowl of chips and nuts and end up eating foods we didn’t really want or need.
If you do plan on drinking alcoholic beverages, keep in mind that alcohol is a known diuretic and its effects are much stronger when you’re already dehydrated! A rule I have lived by since my 30s is to stick to the same type of drink (my beverage of choice being wine) all night. In my case I have found that this is what helps me keep headaches away. In fact, this may be due to the fact that mixing drinks leads to the production of more by-products which can worsen the undesired side effects of alcohol, headaches being a common one.
Drink water throughout the day of a party: before, during and after the event. The best habit to get into whenever you plan to drink is to load up on water on the day of your big event and pace yourself by having a non-alcoholic drink between each alcoholic beverage. Steer clear of caffeinated drinks as they have a similar diuretic effect as alcohol and may also contribute to its undesired effects.
A glass of tender coconut water is the perfect beverage to help us quickly refuel and hydrate when alcohol is involved. Its high concentration of electrolytes and natural sugars rehydrates the body quickly; thereby also improving common symptoms felt the morning after having partied the night away, like a headache or nausea. It also contains antioxidants that protect liver cells from damage caused by the alcohol. Another interesting way to use coconut water and reap all of its benefits is to replace some of the tonic or soda water or alcohol in your cocktails and drinks with coconut water for a refreshing drink that won’t hit you as hard. Just be careful when choosing your coconut water as they are not all created equally. You don't want the coconut water to be made from concentrate or mature coconuts, but instead from young coconuts for the most nutritious version. Young coconut water is not only refreshing but also slightly sweet; consequently you want to avoid any brand that uses added sugars or sweeteners. This could also be an indication that the water may have come from mature coconuts which would be more acidic and need the added sugars to remove that acidic taste. When in doubt, look no further then to a product I love and use: Buddha Brands, a local, Montreal coconut water brand. They never use concentrate, the coconut water is sourced from young, non-GMO coconuts, their waters are low in calories, have zero added sugars, are packaged in BPA-free cans or tetra packs (the latter being certified organic and fair-trade as well) and available as both regular, sparkling and flavored coconut water, which also make great cocktail mixers!
Finally, milk is another great hydrating beverage because it is made up of 90% water, it is a very good source of potassium, a mineral which helps keep fluids and electrolytes in balance and the protein in milk also makes it an interesting choice as your pregame hydration option.
5. Probiotics to Keep Regular and Fight Off Infections
Finally, probiotics should definitely be a part of your arsenal of foods to help you cope with this holiday season. This is a time of year when we are particularly busy, always on the go, more stressed, we are exposed to more indulgent foods and a few extra cocktails than usual, and we forget that our gut is at the receiving end of it all. Probiotic-rich foods and supplements help keep our digestive system functioning properly and regularly. They can also help control the side effects of alcohol and lack of sleep, while boosting our immune system and we all know that this time of year is also one when germs and viruses may spread faster than holiday cheers! I love adding fermented foods and beverages to our diets, such as kimchi, sauerkraut, brined pickles, miso, kombucha, kefir, etc. Even though our routine is off during the holidays, I make sure we don’t skip taking our daily probiotic plus our multivitamins and minerals supplements which in combination have been shown to reduce the duration, severity and more importantly the incidence of the common cold and flu. Make sure to select a probiotic that contains strains that have been proven to confer health benefits such as Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium or Saccharomyces boulardii, and that supply at least 1 billion colony forming units (CFU) and must be able to survive passing through the digestive tract. A product like Bio-K+ which is 100% probiotic, meets these requirements and can be taken daily.
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*This post is in collaboration with Orijin and Buddha Brands. All content, opinions, tips and information are my own.