The festive season is definitely my most favorite time of the year! The endless supply of chocolates, snacks, delicious home cooked foods, festive drinks and much more… I guess it truly is a very good time for foodies, but perhaps not the best time for our waistlines! In fact, statistics show that average person eats over 6,000 calories on a Christmas day with a recommended daily allowance (2000 kcal for women, 2500 kcal for men) already reached by 2pm! Although it is really easy to go overboard during the festive season, however with a few little tweaks we might be able to curb this figure and enjoy this beautiful holiday season without deprivation but also stopping our weight from ballooning. With some effort and careful preparation for Christmas, it is easy to change your eating habits and with a combination of a wholesome diet and improved levels of activity this festive season will not look that worrying anymore! If you would like to know my best tips how to handle it, then keep reading…
LOAD UP ON VEGETABLES
Fill in half or at least a third of your plate with vegetables before you choose the rest of your dinner. You will still have enough room for a few treats, but you won’t really be able to get overboard with it. When choosing protein, opt for a leaner version of meat, fish or poultry, or maybe check out plant-based options instead, including lentils, beans, soy containing foods such as tempeh, organic tofu, edamame, etc. Tofu and tempeh both can be marinated, so it is a really good alternative to meat, especially to processed meat products. Actually, tempeh might just be the most nutritious soy product out of this bunch and it also contains natural occurring healthy bacteria from the fermentation process. Opt for organic, non-GMO soy products, if available. Always ask for a salad dressing on the side, because this way you can control how much you eat. Ideally, instead of various dressings opt for cold-pressed virgin olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice to drizzle onto your salad or vegetables.
The feelings of guilt and deprivation are not going to encourage a good relationship with food. In fact, it will most likely do the opposite. It is important to learn to enjoy your favorite treats without the guilt and without the need to go overboard. Pick one or two of your favorite treats, sit down and enjoy it with a sense of JOY. Allow only good thoughts in your head “My body knows how to break down this food”…
Christmas only lasts one to two days. If you do end up overindulging, don’t let that dictate how you eat for the rest of the day, weekend or the entire week. The next meal or next day just get back on track, stick to a healthy eating and an exercise regimen. Remember 80/20 rule – if you live 80% healthy, you can indulge 20% of the time. Our bodies can deal with 1-2 or more not ‘perfect’ days, it will not make you fat! Even if you do end up gaining one or two kilos, let it go, you can lose it in January!
Plan how much you are going to drink (if at all) before you start and alternate alcoholic drinks with water. Set yourself a limit of the day and stick to it. Remember to keep hydrated with loads of water and maybe go for the clearer spirits as opposed to the dark ones, because that way you could be saving calories. Try to stay away from syrupy and sugary cocktails and anything too creamy. For instance, just 50ml of Irish Cream provides 175 calories whereas a bottle of wine comes in with over 500 calories. Remember that liquid calories can easily add up, so make sure you drink in moderation. Drink a glass of water between every alcoholic beverage. It will keep you hydrated and you will probably end up drinking less alcohol. For everyone who likes to hold a glass of wine just to feel more social, instead, fill up your glass with sparkling water and a slice of lemon, it will do the exact same thing!
It’s easy to confuse the feelings of thirst and hunger. If you are not entirely sure if you are actually hungry, drink a glass of water and if after 10 minutes you still feel hungry, get some food. To avoid this confusion, don’t forget to stay well hydrated throughout the day.
“RULE OF 3”
Eat what you LOVE, not just what you LIKE. When you sit at the table full of mouth-watering foods or you walk around the loaded buffet table – your eyes want everything. However, I find myself that the “rule of 3” really helps when I need to decide on my treat foods – choosing no more than 3 treats on my plate helps me to choose the best ones, not just the ones that may seem “ok”! Choose no more than three indulgent foods and fill the rest of the plate with healthy options.
PLAN SOME OF YOUR MEALS
Just because it is festive season it does not mean that you should forget your everyday habits. If you know that you will be having a Christmas dinner with a family or festive lunch at work with your colleagues, plan your healthy meals and snacks around that leaving some wiggle room for the occasion. If you continue with your regular healthy meals in-between treats then this will help you to stay on track more easily. Even on a Christmas I start my day with a glass of water, nourishing breakfast and a gentle exercise routine or a walk. Also, spreading your meals throughout the day might keep you from getting too hungry and overeating.
HAVE HEALTHY SNACKS AVAILABLE
Try to always have some healthy snack options on hand. When we get “peckish” we tend to look for whatever is available around us and, more often than not, we will go for anything! Therefore having a healthy snack in your bag, fridge or freezer definitely makes things easier. I always like to have some nuts and seeds with me in a snack container, fresh fruit, spicy roasted chickpeas or carrot sticks. These foods will not only satisfy your “cravings” but they will help to nourish your body, too!
HAVE A SNACK BEFORE A DINNER PARTY OR A CHRISTMAS EVENT
This is, by far, my favorite trick of all times. I know many people would starve themselves if they know that they have a dinner party in the evening. However, if you arrive to your party absolutely starving, chances are, you will overeat. I know from my own experience, if I want to eat I can grab almost anything and healthy choices fly out the window at this point. Therefore, I always have a healthy snack before I go somewhere, it can be as simple as a piece of fresh fruit with nut butter, a handful of nuts or vegetable sticks and hummus. Sometimes I would go for a hard-boiled egg, small salad with lean protein or a protein shake. It depends. Having some protein will help you to fill up so that when you come to a party you can still think straight and do not get lost between many different food options.
DON’T SKIP BREAKFAST
Nourishing breakfast meal will help you to kick start your day by controlling your hunger and blood sugar levels, which will leave you more in control when you see tempting foods all around you. Play a trick on your stomach by adding some festive spices to your porridge, pancakes or a smoothie, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, etc.
BE THE ONE WHO INITIATES CHANGE
Don’t blame others for not putting healthy foods on the table, but instead, be the one who offers vegetable sticks and guacamole or festive winter slaw salad at the party. In fact, I think that some of the healthy treats taste much better than the traditional unhealthy versions. Research some of your favorite food blogs and make a healthy dessert. There is no doubt that your family and friends will be inspired and so eager to try it.
SOCIALISE AWAY FROM FOOD
This may sound weird, but when you think about it, it really makes sense. From my own experience I know that sometimes we can spend the entire day sitting at the table, which leaves us unconsciously munching on foods without a stop. Encourage everyone to take a walk or move away from the table to do something different as that will help to avoid unconscious snacking when you are not hungry.
IT’S OK TO SAY “NO”
Although saying “no” isn’t easy, but with some practice it will become a second nature. I often find people getting frustrated at me because of my willpower to say “no” to junk food, but I want to be in control of my choices and eat my favorite foods when I want to and not when I am asked to. Remember to always be polite. Phrases such as “No, thank you, I am stuffed” or “Thank you, this looks really good, but I might try it later” won’t hurt the person offering, but it will leave you in control of your food choices rather than mindlessly eating everything that is offered to you. Be confident about your dedication to healthy living. It is ok to do so.
OPT FOR HEALTHIER COOKING METHODS
Instead of deep-frying your potatoes, vegetable and protein, maybe opt for grilling or roasting only spraying food lightly with some coconut or avocado oil. Keeping the vegetables and potato pieces chunky, rather than skinny, will also help to reduce the amount of oil that they absorb.
TAKE YOUR TIME AND PERUSE THE TABLE
Don’t feel pressured to dive straight into eating. Take your time and check the foods available. I am sure you will spot a bowl of vegetables or salad. Start from there. Also, don’t rush eating. It takes 20 minutes for our brain to realise that we are eating, which means that finishing your Christmas meal quicker than this will leave you craving unnecessary extras. Therefore try to practice chewing your food well and maybe even putting your fork and knife down in between mouthfuls. No on is going to steal your food, trust me! Eat until you are 80% full. The stomach is the size of our fist – think of that when you are eating.
One of the problems with the festive season is that our activity levels decrease considerably, which is one of the reasons why we might be gaining holiday weight and why our digestion strikes. Don’t give up on your exercise – keep moving! A walk before and after the meal will not only mean that you have less time to sit by the table and eat, but it will increase metabolism (the rate at which your body burns calories). Move because it gives you energy and keeps you healthy, but don’t ever use exercise to punish yourself for indulging too much.
SKIP THE CAFFEINE
Although holidays should sound like something really fun and relaxing, in reality we tend to stress out more than any other time of the year. Buying presents, pleasing everyone, etc. Caffeine will only add up to already stressed out life and to everything your stomach and your body need to deal with. Although it may look tempting when you are busy, try to opt for herbal teas instead as most of them do have amazing properties that can help to calm your system, leaving you much happier! Chamomile, peppermint, lavender, etc.
ALWAYS EAT FROM A PLATE
Although this may sound obvious, sometimes we can end up eating foods straight from the package, tin or the main bowl. However, that way we are not aware of how much we already ate. Try to stay to a portion when you decide how much of the snack, dessert your want to eat and put it on a plate.
GET A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP
While it’s important to savor this beautiful festive season, it is also important to take good care of ourselves. Think of it as a gift to yourself! People that are sleep deprived tend to eat more calories than they need perhaps to deal with feeling tired. Try to plan out your day so that you can have enough time to sleep. If you have trouble sleeping look into ways to unwind before bedtime and make your bedroom comfortable for sleep. Talk to your naturopath or other health care specialist if self-care tips for better sleep do not help. Aim for 8 hours whenever possible since holiday parties will make this difficult some nights.
LET GO OF “ALL OR NOTHING” THINKING
When it comes to eating, so many of us tend to gravitate towards “black and white” thinking, which means that if we eat, we eat REALLY well and the minute we treat ourselves, that’s it, we feel destroyed and all the guilty thoughts come into play. But this is wrong. It’s not the way to live. Saying “Oh, I have already ruined my good eating today, I will just eat crap” is just like saying “Oh, I dropped my phone on the floor, so I will just smash it till it breaks”. Our bodies can handle some indulgent meals, but it cannot handle them ALL the time. Choose your favorite treat and enjoy it with a sense of joy. If you go overboard, let it go and make a healthier choice next time.
DON’T LET THE FOOD BECOME A FOCAL POINT
Although many of us associate festive season with food (loads of it), it is not only about that. Remember the real reason behind it – the people, the occasion, etc. As long as we don’t put food in the centre of happiness, it will not control us. Use this time to catch up with your loved ones. Embrace the true meaning of Christmas, remember the good times, tell stories and jokes, go through pictures, go for a walk, visit places you haven’t seen for a long time.
Let me know if you found this post useful. Maybe you also have some tips that you wouldn’t mind sharing with HH community? You can always leave your comments, thoughts, suggestions, or simply say “hi”, in the comments section below!
Happy and healthy holiday season everyone!