Cookies and chocolate and pie – oh my! Eggnog, champagne and wine – divine! The holiday season is officially here! There is excitement, stress, and for most of us, lots and lots of eating. Many of you are traveling, or have at least departed from any sense of normal. As the majority of us know only too well, any attempt at healthy eating goes sailing out of the window during the holiday season. We tend to conveniently forget about our health and diet, and instead, take the opportunity to over-indulge in every way possible.
According to a recent Weight Watchers report, the average American gains around 7-10 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. This is through pure over-indulgence and gluttony. Lack of time to exercise probably doesn’t help either. Moreover, much of this weight is maintained from thereon despite our promises to go on a diet as soon as we ring in the New Year (as we shovel another brownie in our mouths).
It is not hard to understand why people fall into such bad habits during the holiday season. Everywhere you go there is somebody waiting to thrust a glass of wine or a box of chocolates in front of you. Surely it would be rude to refuse. Trips to the supermarket also turn into a tantalizing adventure of temptation as you find yourself in a maze of aisles displaying a range of colorful, tempting goodies that are excitingly packaged and screaming at you to buy them and eat them. All this, coupled with the huge dinners, parties, and festivities that make maintaining control a huge challenge. For the better part of the year, many of us make healthy eating a habit. Yet, as soon as Thanksgiving rears its over-indulgent head, the obsession swings the other way as we indulge in eating as much unhealthy, rich food as possible.
Despite all this, with a little good planning, it is possible to avoid being part of that swelling statistic and maybe even still fit into that little black dress you were hoping to wear to the holiday parties.
Don’t try to diet during the holidays. Just maintaining your weight during this time of year can go a long way.
Limit the liquid calories:
Soda, eggnog and cocktails can pack amazing quantities of calories, most of them devoid of nutrition. If you limit the holiday treat to foods, you will easily cut down on sugar and calories. Meanwhile, load up on water, tea, and other calorie-free drinks to keep well hydrated and feel fuller.
This is an obvious one, I know, but it is also obviously simple to blow off during holiday season. It comes down to being committed. You have to commit in your mind that exercise will be a priority. Plan it and put it in the schedule. You might not always be able to do your normal workout routine, but if you at least walk or do some strength moves at home daily, take stairs rather than elevators, dance to holiday music, play outside with the kids, it will help release stress, improve immunity, minimize and maybe even eliminate weight gain.
Tame your appetite before the party:
One of the worst things you can do is to starve yourself the day of a party to bank calories. Not eating can severely mess with your metabolism (as in, slow it down) and your hunger will likely send you straight to the buffet line to overindulge. Instead, eat a high protein snack like a handful of nuts, a few rolls of turkey, a spoonful of tuna or some low fat cheese. You should also drink a full glass of water before every meal to stay hydrated. Thirst can often be mistaken for hunger and can cause snack attacks. At the party, load up on veggies and high protein dishes. Limit the carbs and greasy fare to a minimum.
Use healthy substitutes for holiday fare. Instead of whole milk products, use low fat or non-fat variations. For example, use plain nonfat Greek yogurt instead of sour cream to make your favorite holiday dips and consider other healthy dips like salsa and hummus.
Limit holiday splurges:
Write all the holiday parties and gatherings in your calendar and then commit to limiting splurges to those special events. Your greatest source of extra calories is probably from the daily intake of cookies and other goodies that seem to pop up everywhere this time of year. If we give ourselves license to go off program the entire month between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the results could take months to undo. It takes far more effort to lose a pound than it does to gain one. Unfortunately, it only takes one big meal to send the scale soaring for most of us. In between holiday splurges, fill in all the other days with regular healthy meals and careful planning.
Dining in a group causes the average person to eat almost double than he or she normally would eating alone. Keep a mental checklist of how much you’re consuming and if you feel yourself accepting every passed appetizer, it’s your eyes telling you that you need more food, not your brain. Take a second to look at every bite before you eat it — maybe even take a deep breath to slow yourself down at the buffet table.
Food and festivity will always be a major part of the holiday season – and there is certainly nothing wrong in that. However, the holiday season is also a stressful time for many of us, and we need plenty of energy and stamina to cope with it. It is therefore essential that we eat the right type of food with the necessary nutrients to give us energy and reduce stress levels. This is not to say that we shouldn’t allow ourselves to indulge a little, enjoy a healthy glass of red wine, but we should eat in moderation and maintain a varied diet. Imagine starting the new year feeling your best and getting back on the path to a healthier you rather than having to begin the race again ten pounds behind the start line.
The holidays are usually about family, fun and food…lots and lots of food! Last I read, the average person gains about 7 pounds over the holidays (the “holidays” being defined as Thanksgiving to New Year’s). However, this does not need to be the case. Studies have shown that if you indulged on only those three days (Thanksgiving, Christmas/Hanukah/ Kwanza, and New Years), you would not gain weight. The problem is, when people start eating on Thanksgiving and eat their way until New Years. Between the office parties, holiday parties, family gatherings and yummy holiday treats popping up at your favorite coffee shops, it’s a nonstop, all you can eat, time of year!
Here are some tips to help get you through the holidays, without derailing your healthy lifestyle habits, and causing you to make the dreaded New Year’s Resolution of “Lose 10 Pounds!” Now is that really a positive way to start the year?
Plan your day.
If you know you have a holiday party after work, and you know you are going to indulge, plan to eat a healthy breakfast and a light lunch. Eat something high in protein, such as an egg white omelette for breakfast, a salmon salad for lunch, and then enjoy half of your steak and a few bites of the chocolate soufflé at dinner. Top it off with one glass of wine versus a sugary cocktail drink. Again, plan what you are going to eat at the party, and stick to your plan.
Do something active before a big holiday meal.
Take a morning walk with your family, schedule some time at the gym, or sign up for a holiday race. Many towns have a Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot 5k. It is a fun event to get you into the holiday mood. Plus, it gives you something to train for, so that you establish a fitness routine as you enter the holiday season. Check out www.active.com for a race near you.
Have a healthy snack like vegetable soup before the meal.
The worst thing you can do is go into a meal starving. You’ll be more likely to ignore your internal cues, and overeat. There’s nothing worse than enjoying a meal, but then walking away from the table feeling sick, regretting the last few bites you ate. By eating something light before the meal, you curb your appetite without extra calories, and prevent yourself from eating too much.
Wear your tightest pants to the meal!
I know this may sound strange and frankly uncomfortable, but you’ll end up feeling fuller faster. This will allow you to indulge in your favorite foods, without going over board. Furthermore, it will keep you reminded of your goal and commitment to yourself to get to or maintain a healthy weight.
Before you indulge, ask yourself, “Do I really want this? Is it really worth it?”
My personal example of this is the rolls on the buffet table at our Thanksgiving dinner. They are nothing special – just plain, white rolls. Not even the good ones they serve at restaurants that are hot and crispy on the outside. Every year I walk by the rolls and I think, “Sorry, you’re so not worth it. I can have you anytime I want. I’d rather have my mom’s famous sweet potato casserole and Aunt Mary’s delicious stuffing, since I only get those once a year.” The holidays are the perfect time to be picky and turn up your Holiday Eating Survival Guide nose at foods that just really don’t excite you. Do not feel compelled to eat something just because it’s there. If your Aunt Mildred insists you try her green bean casserole, take a small bite, tell her it was delicious, but unfortunately you are full.
Don’t keep leftovers in the house.
If you are a guest in someone’s home, decline the doggy bag. If you are the hostess, either send the leftovers home with your guests, donate them to a homeless shelter, or toss them in the trash! As painful as that sounds, you will feel a lot better about them being in the trash than on your waist line. Take notes and remember how much was left, then vow to cook a little less next year.
Plan meals for the days after the holiday and have healthy snacks on hand.
Don’t wake up the day after Thanksgiving with nothing but pumpkin pie for breakfast. Get right back on track with your usual healthy eating plan.
Indulge ONE day. I know it’s easy to get caught up in the month long spirit, but try to keep it to a minimum. Be selective with your food choices. Don’t get stuck in the holiday trap of eating just for the sake of eating because “you are in the holiday spirit” and someone has painted a snowman on it or put it in a Hanukah tin.
Remember what the holidays are really about.
They are about having family and friends around and enjoying being together. Start nonfood related holiday traditions, like volunteering at a homeless shelter on Thanksgiving, or going caroling on Christmas Eve. Give movie tickets or Lotto Scratchers as holiday gifts instead of boxes of chocolate or tins of cookies.
If you choose to stay mindful and be aware of what you are putting in your mouth, plan ahead, enjoy when it’s appropriate and really focus on nonfood related holiday cheer, you can get through the holidays without the gift of extra weight!
It is only 7 am on Tuesday and you are already feeling overwhelmed! Your long list of things to do include dropping the kids off at school, picking up the dry cleaning, meeting with your web designer, taking care of your customers, developing a new product, picking the kids back up from school, taking Jonny to soccer practice and Missy to ballet, and then, somehow manage to feed your family a healthy meal. Whew! I’m exhausted just writing this! Now, it’s 11 pm, you finally have some time to yourself, and you realize you have not had a decent meal all day! You picked a little off of your kid’s breakfast plate and finished up what was left of your husband’s dinner, but that’s hardly a balanced meal. The hunger pains start to kick in and the next thing you know you are raiding the cabinets and consuming anything you can find, from crackers to ice cream. This scenario is all too familiar to me. I see it all of the time with my moms who are trying to balance a family and a career. They do not have time to cook, so they end up picking up fast food on their way home. Or, they have been out all day, running around, and forgot to stop for lunch. Here are some tips to stay organized and hopefully prevent you from missing a healthy meal and becoming a slave to fast food or whatever junk food happens to be in your house at the moment.
1. Plot out your week ahead of time. I am sure you have heard this before, but it is worth repeating. You need to know ahead of time when you will have time to cook and when you will need to pick up food. Schedule meals like you would appointments, or get a meal planning calendar. My favorite comes from momagenda.com. You can plot out your family’s activities for the week, and then plan your meals around them. This will allow you to see when you need to pick up food on your way home from soccer practice, what nights you need to reheat leftovers, and what nights you actually have time to cook.
2. Find a free day (Sunday’s work best for most people) and prep ahead of time. You can make multiple meals at once, then freeze them. Cook up some ground turkey and use it all week for pasta sauces, burgers and tacos. Bake a dozen chicken breasts and shred them into soups, stews, tacos, salads or to top a baked sweet potato. Slice up a bunch of sweet potatoes, spray them with olive oil and bake for 20 minute at 425 degrees. You can sprinkle with a little sea salt, then portion them out into individual baggies for a healthy, tasty snack on the go.
3. Wash and do most of the prep work as you unpack the groceries. I wash fruits as soon as I take them out of the bag, and put them in a fruit bowl on the counter. Then I know I always have fresh fruit that is ready to grab as I’m walking out the door. If you’re anything like me, the idea of taking the extra time in the morning to wash that apple will actually prevent me from taking it as a healthy, “on-the-go” snack. Wash and cut up veggies right away and store them in Tupperware. Portion out chicken or fish into individual freezer bags with marinade. Put nuts into snack baggies or purchase the individual portion packs. Taking these little extra steps will guarantee you have a fridge full of grab and go options, and will actually save you time in the long run.
4. Pack a cooler with food for the day to keep in the car – grab a sandwich or a snack in between meetings, errands or appointments. Some of those coolers can keep food cool for up to 12 hours! Add some ice, a large bottle of water, some fruit, a pack of nuts, a hard boiled egg or string cheese, maybe a tupperware of some leftovers, or even a salad! Just don’t eat while you’re driving! Before you hop out to pick up the dry cleaning, reach in and grab that hardboiled egg and maybe a handful of grapes. After your 12:00 meeting, scarf down half a sandwich before you drive off to meet your customer. Finish the other half and maybe a few cucumber slices when you’re done. Snack on some nuts while you’re waiting for your kids to come out of school or while you’re watching them at soccer practice. The key to being a Balanced Mom is to take advantage of stolen moments.
5. Leftovers are your friends! Make a big batch of quinoa or brown rice – have it for lunch or as a hot breakfast cereal. Add leftover salmon to a salad or chicken in a sandwich. Crumble leftover turkey meatloaf over pasta.
6. Steamer Bags! The easiest way to cook vegetables. Yes, fresh is better or steamed in a pot, but this magazine is called Balanced Mom not Super Mom! Don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re doing the best you can. You can purchase frozen vegetables already in steamer bags, or purchase special bags to put fresh vegetables in.
7. Find grocery stores with salad bars. One of the easiest things to do for dinner is to stop in on your way home from work, make a salad and grab a roasted chicken or some cooked salmon to have as an entree.
8. Eat when your kids eat! For you moms who always skip breakfast: While you’re pouring cereal for the kids, spread some almond butter on a slice of toast, or microwave some of that oatmeal you prepared on Sunday (and froze in those individual baggies). At the very least, have a hard-boiled egg or some yogurt while you’re putting on your make-up.
9. Unpack that Crock pot your in-laws gave you as a wedding gift. Remember, “Set it and Forget it!”
10. If you must do fast food, pick places that have healthy options such as salads, turkey burgers and grilled chicken sandwiches. Even Wendy’s now serves sweet potatoes.