Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone!
The holidays are a special time of year to gather with your friends and family, with food often being a focal part of these gatherings. Tis’ the season, right?! I know for many, including myself, it can be challenging to stick to a healthy lifestyle at this time of year. My intent in writing this post is to provide you some helpful tips to stay on track, while not denying you of life’s pleasures (like shortbread!). I’ll be the first to admit, I can’t wait to get my hands on my Oma’s shortbread, I’m just going to do my best not to eat the entire plate! My goal is that at the end of the holiday season, you feel good about your choices and don’t feel like you need to do a total over-haul in the New Year. Try to look at it like you’re making a couple manageable ‘holiday resolutions’ versus over-the-top New Year resolutions.
1. Be aware
• It can be very easy to dish up way more than what we need or would even be hungry for when attending a potluck or special family meal. Think about how much you would normally eat at a regular dinner and keep this in mind while you serve up. Try to pick the things you really want, versus everything offered.
• Using a smaller plate can help keep your portions in check as it gives the visual of more food. A large plate makes it easy to serve up more than we actually need.
• Before going back for seconds, take a moment to allow yourself to recognize your hunger and fullness cues. It can take a few minutes before the hunger signal goes to your brain. Perhaps you want to sit and visit for a few minutes and then, if you’re still hungry, dish up a bit more. Also, consider if dessert is being served, as a second helping may not be necessary. I’m sure we’ve all have that feeling of uncomfortable fullness after a meal, so lets try to avoid that!
2. Prepare healthy meals
• Don’t anticipate many healthy options will be available at your holiday party or potluck? Well, be the one to bring it! Click on the website links below for some recipe inspiration.
• Look for healthier versions of your favorite holiday foods. For example, on the Cookspiration website by Dietitians of Canada you will find a great spinach dip recipe. That specific recipe has 15 calories and 0.25 grams of fat per 2 tbsp. Compare that with a store bought brand like Summer Fresh that has 130 calories and 13 grams of fat for the same serving size. Yikes!
3. Balance your meal
• A lot of rich, high fat or sugar dishes come out during the holidays. You don’t have to avoid these altogether, rather try to make the majority of your food choices healthy and take a smaller portion of those rich, high fat or sugar ones.
• For instance, fill up on some fresh fruit or veggies with hummus or yogurt-base dip and less on the cheese ball or bacon wrapped sausages. Okay, I know fresh cut veggies sounds boring, but you understand the overall idea.
4. Balance your day
• Have a lighter breakfast or lunch if you’re attending a potluck, family dinner or holiday party. This will help keep your overall intake for the day in check.
• Don’t skip meals! Skipping meals leads to over eating later in the day and slows down your metabolism as your body views it as a state of starvation.
5. Consider your drink
• Alcohol, egg nog and other cozy holiday drinks can add a lot of calories, sugar and potentially fat, while contributing little to fullness.
• Egg nog: 1 cup of regular nog has 240 calories, 4 grams fat and 42 grams sugar. Note the nutrition label is typically for a 1/2 cup serving size, but I’ve stated it for a cup because that’s more likely what one would have. Don’t be fooled by the light version as 1 cup still has 220 calories, 3 grams fat and 42 grams sugar. If egg nog is a holiday must, try to stick to a smaller portion size or try a non-dairy version like soy. One brand of soy I looked at had 140 calories, 3 grams fat and 22 grams of sugar per cup – almost half the calories and sugar of the regular nog!
• Alcohol is another beverage that can provide a lot of unwanted calories and sugar. Part of that is due to the mix – pop, juice, sugar syrups, etc. If having hard alcohol, try using soda water and a splash of juice instead of pop. If having white wine, try a spritzer made with soda water and throw in some fresh fruit (I’m sorry to all you wine connoisseurs cringing right now!). Also, try alternating your beverage with a glass of water to stay hydrated and avoid excess consumption… or being the out of control one at the Christmas party hah!
6. Get active!
• Staying active is a great way to feel good these holidays. It also makes it a lot easier to get back to your regular exercise routine in the New Year.
•Find motivation in friends and family. Ask them to join you at a spin class or complete a body-weight circuit if you’re staying home. Grab a deck of cards and give every suit a different exercise (squats, push-ups, sit-ups, etc.). Go through the deck by doing as many reps are on the card.
• Get outside and enjoy some skating, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing or a snowball fight. Whatever it is, just try to get off the couch!
I hope some of those tips were helpful and lead you to have a happy, healthy holiday season and leave you feeling great in the New Year!