The holidays can be anxiety-producing for those who are committed to improving and maintaining their health and keeping the weight off. I get it. From Halloween until the beginning of the new year, it seems like candy, desserts and booze are tempting you at every turn. Luckily, there are strategies for staying on track and avoiding a two-month splurge fest. With a little planning, you can make this holiday season festive–and even indulgent–without throwing your health goals out the window or packing on the pounds.
Here are my tips and tricks to help you tackle this holiday season:
9 Ways to Enjoy the Holidays Without the Weight Gain
1. Support your Gut
Make sure you’re giving your microbes some love by taking a good quality probiotic supplement and eating fermented foods, such as kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha, before, during and after the party season. Keeping your gut in balance is essential for controlling cravings because bad bacteria feed on sugars and are capable of manipulating our appetite in an effort to get the sugars they thrive on. For more gut health tips, check out these must-dos.
2. Stay Hydrated
With all the boozing during the holidays, it’s easy for proper hydration to take a backseat. Start your day with a big mug of hot water with the juice of half a lemon. Sip on warm or room temperature water throughout the day to help flush your lymph (the drains of the body). If plain water is tough for you, make it more exciting by infusing it with fruit and herbs, like strawberries and mint. When you’re hungover (probably inevitable once or twice!), make my Natural Vitamin Water.
Natural Vitamin Water
Add 1 cup plain water, 1 cup coconut water, juice of ½ lemon/lime, a rosemary spring, slice of fresh ginger, the seeds of half pomegranate to a jug. Let sit for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to infuse then drink up!
3. Write It Down
Studies show that people who write down everything they eat lose twice as much weight. A food journal keeps you accountable whether or not you’re showing it to your nutritionist or health coach. It makes you think twice about having another cup of eggnog because you’re going to have to make note of it later. Keeping a food journal can also help you identify trigger foods or situations so you can make a plan for how to avoid them next time.
4. Don’t Arrive Ravenous
Plan ahead and make sure you’ve had a nutritious meal or snack which includes protein, fat and fiber before you arrive to the party. Try having one of my Chocolate Protein Balls:
Chocolate Protein Balls
In a food processor, whiz up 1 cup of pitted Medjool dates, 3/4 cup of almonds, and 3/4 cup of walnuts. Make sure the dates and nuts are thoroughly ground up before you add the rest of the ingredients: 2 Tbsp chia seeds, 2 Tbsp ground flax seeds, 1 Tbsp melted coconut oil, 1 Tbsp hemp protein powder, 1 Tbsp raw cacao powder, dash of cinnamon and a pinch of sea salt. Pulse until everything is well combined. Use your hands to roll the mixture into balls. Feel free to leave as is, or roll the balls in shredded coconut, sesame seeds, chia seeds, etc. to add a little crunchy coating to the outside. Makes 15 – 20 balls. Store in the fridge or freezer.
This will balance your blood sugar and reduce cravings. If you can’t manage to consume a healthy snack before hitting the party, drink a glass of water and fill a small plate with the healthiest options available (think: vegetable platter, guacamole, meats, etc.). Save your first alcoholic beverage until after you’ve gotten a little something in your stomach, otherwise out go the inhibitions and in comes mounds of baked brie!
5. Follow the 3-bite rule
Indulging a craving, as long as it’s in moderation, can absolutely be apart of your healthy holidays lifestyle. Forbidding a certain food or food group may only make it seem more attractive. Instead of trying to exert hardcore willpower all month long, make a deal with yourself that you can have three bites of whatever you’re craving. Indulge those three bites, mindfully savoring and enjoying each bite and don’t feel guilty. Then step away from the pumpkin pie, pop a mint or piece of gum and spark up a chat with someone interesting!
6. Wait 20 minutes before grabbing seconds
It takes time for your body to register fullness. You can give your brain and hunger hormones a chance to catch up by slowly enjoying your food, putting down your fork between bites and engaging in conversation instead of racing to clean your plate. If you’re hankering for seconds, give yourself 20 minutes and another glass of water before returning to the chow.
7. Bring your own
When appropriate, offer to bring a healthy side dish (like one of these!) to your friend or relative’s house. That way, if everything being served is a gluten-, cheese- or sugar-bomb, you can fill most of your plate with whatever healthy creation you brought and have only a little room for tasting the other decadent dishes. This goes for desserts as well, which is one of my favorite strategies. My go-to is vegan avocado chocolate mousse so everyone can enjoy a decadent treat without the guilt!
8. Serve meals restaurant-style
Many holiday meals are served family-style where platters of food are left on the table. It’s all too easy to reach for another bread roll or a “little more” corn pudding when the food bowls and platters are within arms reach. Instead, serve the meal from the kitchen and leave all the food near the stove. When food is out of sight, you’ll be less likely to reach for a second helping.
9. Walk it off
After a heavy meal, get the whole gang up and out of the house for some fresh air and exercise. You’ll feel better, get the digestive juices flowing and help burn off those mashed potatoes.