It’s the holiday season. And that means family dinners, cocktail parties, and lots of festive fare. But while the season is a welcome time for celebrating, it is all too easy to overindulge. A little planning and sound nutritional strategies can help you stay healthy through the holidays and maintain your weight to boot. Here are seven ways to maintain your health and keep your weight in check…
1. Keep Your Hormones Balanced
Stuffing with gravy, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie. Foods rich in refined and high-glycemic carbohydrates spike your blood sugar and put your body on a hormone roller coaster. This triggers more hunger and more eating. But you can avoid this vicious cycle by sticking to lean proteins (including organic poultry, wild fish, and grass-fed meats), healthy fats (like nuts and olive oil), and nutrient-rich veggies (especially leafy greens and crucifers). And beware of the refined carbs lurking in not-so-obvious places – like sauces and gravies made with white flour or “healthy” fruit salads with sugary dressings and jello with canned fruit.
2. Beware of Hidden Hydrogenation
Flaky-crusted appetizers and buttery pies, piping hot from the oven, are tempting. That is, until you find out that they’re loaded with trans-fats! Unless you made the dish yourself, err on the side of caution and assume the baked goods being served are of the store-bought variety (and therefore contain partially hydrogenated oils). If there’s any food to avoid during the holidays, it’s the puff pastries and pies. Reach, instead, for whole foods like shrimp cocktail, crudites, and baked sweet potatoes, or offer to bring a healthy, homemade, low-glycemic, gluten-free dessert.
3. Scope out the Feast First
With a large spread, and dozens of delicious dishes to choose from, it’s tempting to grab a big plate and sample everything the host has to offer. A good strategy is to scope out the buffet line first and choose the items you’ll be having (opting for the roasted Brussels sprouts instead of the creamy casserole, of course). Then, when it’s time to dine, opt for a small plate to help keep portions (i.e., calories) under control.
4. Don’t Fall Victim to Liquid Calories
While most cocktails have around 150 calories, festive sips (like traditional egg nog, spiked punches or alcoholic hot cocoa drinks) can pack a whopping 300 calories and more than 20 grams of sugar. Because your body doesn’t register liquid calories the same way it does calories from food, it’s all too easy to keep sipping those calorie-laden cocktails, without triggering a feeling of fullness. But it’s not just the calories that cause concern. It’s also the way our body processes alcohol. When you drink alcohol, your body will burn through acetate – a byproduct of alcohol metabolism – instead of body fat. Consume alcohol in moderation. And to reduce sugar and calories, opt for non-sweet cocktails and “cut” fruit juices with sparkling mineral water. (If you drink alcohol, be sure to see Strategy #7 below).
5. Give Your Old Desserts a Makeover
Did you know that one piece of pecan pie has more than 500 calories, 65 carbohydrates, and 32 grams of sugar? And that eating just 100 grams of sugar can reduce your immune system’s ability to fend off invaders by a whopping 40 percent! But the problem with sugar doesn’t end there. Sugar also disrupts the endocrine system, boosting your “fat storage hormone” (insulin), promoting cancer and speeding physical aging through the production of advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs). The good news is that you can enjoy treats that have all of the sweetness of sugar… with none of the sour side effects. Simply replace the sugar in your baking with organic erythritol. This “almost sugar” is all-natural, has no calories, and has a glycemic index of zero. Use it cup for cup in all of your favorite recipes to safely sweeten and delight your guests. (Learn more about baking delicious desserts using erythritol and other all-natural, low glycemic sweeteners in Guilt Free Desserts).
6. Chew on This
Have you ever been “done” eating, only to find your way back to the buffet line one last time? Here’s a reliable way to send your body the message that the kitchen’s closed: Chew a piece of all-natural, sugar-free gum. Not only does peppermint taste terrible with sweet potatoes and turkey, but chewing gum for at least 45 minutes was found to suppress hunger, appetite and cravings, while promoting a feeling of fullness, according to recent research published in the journal Appetite. Look for Spry or B-Fresh gum at your local health food store. They’re made with all-natural xylitol – a low-glycemic sugar alcohol that also helps to reduce cavities.
7. Bolster Your Immune Arsenal
Our immune system isn’t something we typically think of… until it fails us. And the known immune wreckers – stress, alcohol, sugar, and lack of sleep and sunshine – are par for the course during the holidays. But here’s the good news: You can get your immune system in tip-top shape and bolster your defenses to guard against many of the most common winter woes. Taking a high-quality, whole-food multi-vitamin/mineral and a fish oil supplement can mean the difference between a happy, healthy winter an one plagued with illness.
Source: One of my favorite programs America’s 10 City Challenge produced this article. Join us for 30 days of free coaching to live a healthier life.