‘Tis the season! Over the next few weeks, schedules are filled with shopping, holiday parties, relatives, financial pressures, obligations, and plenty of food and spirits. Socializing during the holidays can be stressful and challenging, especially if your friends and family are not as health-conscious as you. The abundance of holiday treats and homemade goodies can be hard to resist. Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do to avoid holiday weight gain, manage your blood sugars, stay healthy, happy and fit, and enjoy celebrating the holidays.
Strategies to maintain, not gain this holiday season
• Hydrate. Even though the temps are cooler, be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day to avoid dehydration. Drink a glass of water upon waking to hydrate. It’s not only important for hydration after a long night, but it can cut daily food intake by 13 percent. Add the juice from a lemon or lime to your morning cup of water to nourish liver function increasing your body’s ability to cleanse itself of toxins. Remember, when you’re hydrated your body no longer retains water and helps minimize that puffy, bloated look.
Stay active and move your body every day, which helps relieve stress, regulate appetite, increase metabolism and boost your mood. Rev up your metabolism with a 30-minute metabolic strength training workout.
• Move your body when you can. Take a bike ride, walk your dog, join a fitness class, practice some stress-relieving yoga, hike with friends, get up and stretch or hire a strength coach/fitness expert.
• Sleep. Don’t skimp on sleep. Prioritize seven to nine hours of restful sleep every night. Sleeping less than seven hours per night disrupts hormones and increases your desire for carb-heavy, sugary junk foods. Research shows that those who fail to get enough restful sleep consume more calories, especially from unhealthy foods, thereby increasing body fat.
Healthy eating during the holidays
• On the go. Avoid becoming famished when you’re away from home. Prepare ahead and pack healthy snacks in your purse or glove compartment. Some healthy options include a protein shake, raw nuts or seeds with an apple, celery with almond butter, hardboiled eggs or beef jerky.
• Breakfast. You might be tempted to skip breakfast to reserve calories for an upcoming party, however, skipping breakfast is a sure backfire to weight gain. Consume a well-balanced breakfast with protein and fiber, which will provide you with a feeling of fullness, plus you’ll eat less later on in the day. What you choose to eat for breakfast will reflect how you feel the remainder of the day. Try some of these healthy breakfast options.
• Mid-morning buzz. Pass on the white chocolate peppermint mocha with whip cream, which is full of artificial sweeteners, sugars and a whopping 700 calories. Instead, opt for organic coffee. Add a bit of heavy, organic cream, butter or coconut oil and cinnamon for holiday flavor. Sip on some yerba mate or green tea to increase mental alertness and energy without the jitters. Research suggests the ECGC in green tea can boost fat burning.
• Lunch. Fill up on protein such as organic chicken, grass-fed steak or wild salmon. Include fiber from non-starchy veggies or a dark leafy green salad mixed with plenty of olive oil or avocado, plus lemon or apple cider vinegar to stabilize your mood, boost energy and prevent late afternoon sugar cravings.
• Afternoon energizer. Avoid starchy carbs, sugary snacks and sodas full of empty calories and void of any nutritional value whatsoever. Sure you’ll get a quick burst of energy, but at the expense of creating an insulin spike, depleting yourself of energy, craving more carbs, creating hormonal havoc, and eventually add inches to your waistline creating a nice muffin top or spare tire.
• Party time. Before the party, snack on some beef jerky, a protein shake or a handful of almonds and sip a cup of green tea. The fat and fiber from the almonds will reduce your appetite. The caffeine from the green tea will help keep you energize and increase mental alertness. If you’re going to a party where healthy options will be limited, plan ahead and bring a healthy dish of your own for all to enjoy.
A great natural appetite suppressant and blood sugar stabilizer is mixing one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with a small amount of water before meals. Once you’re at the party, graze on veggies and guacamole, shrimp with cocktail sauce, chicken skewers or nuts.
• Sweet tooth? Save it for after a balanced meal and opt for some dark chocolate with at least 70 percent cocoa content or strawberries dipped in dark chocolate versus cookies, pies or cakes, which are full of unknown ingredients. If you choose to indulge in a treat, do so without guilt, take a small portion and limit yourself to three or four bites.
• Alcohol. I’m all for socializing and enjoying a glass of wine or two. If your goal is to look good and feel your best, remember calories from alcohol tend to be stored in the midsection and contribute to excess belly fat, reduced testosterone levels and a nice-looking muffin top or love handles. Most liquor is made from corn or wheat and is trouble for those with hidden food allergies. Alcohol is metabolized before food in order to rid it from the body and it lowers your inhibitions and judgment causing you to indulge in excess eating.
If you’re going to indulge in alcohol, opt for a glass of red wine or cocktails made from fresh ingredients. Beware of eggnog, white Russians or mudslide mixes, which are full or sugar and contain up to 500-800 calories per drink. Drink plenty of water or, better yet, coconut water for the additional electrolytes, between each alcoholic beverage, which will prevent dehydration and accomplish the social goal of having a glass in your hand, while cutting down on the excess calories and the hangover.
• Be accountable. Keeping a journal is one of the best ways to stay in check and keep yourself accountable and aware of what and how much you’re actually eating and any emotions you may be experiencing. Those who journal what they eat tend to lose twice as much weight and make much healthier food choices versus those who do not keep a journal.
• Practice portion control. Graze, don’t gorge. Say a silent prayer or gratitude and thanksgiving, chew your food thoroughly and remember to take your Digestzymes.
Wishing you a safe, happy and healthy holiday,
• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Paula Owens, M.S., is the author of two books, is a nutritionist and fitness and fat loss expert with more than 25 years of experience. Visit Paula at www.PaulaOwens.com.