The holidays are here! How will you stay sane and healthy(ish) through it all?
For many, holidays were always a magical time as a child. There were presents galore, holiday decorations, cookie baking, vacations, smiles and cheer. Now, traditions and cultural influences take on a whole new look and feel when seen through adult eyes, no matter what holiday we are celebrating. Also, having that perfect magical experience may now be difficult or even unrealistic for many reasons.
One of the biggest holiday pressure cookers tempting our every craving and indulgence is food. Can we really be healthy through all of the family gatherings, celebrations, and holiday parties? Second, holidays can resurface memories of major life events or people that may make the time more painful than jolly. Third, as our society becomes more culturally diverse, conflicting values and beliefs become evident during this season, paving the way for conflict and compromise. Finally, commercial pressures make it tempting to spend beyond our means and may cause financial stressors.
Let’s tackle holiday eating habits first. It can be very easy to overeat at holiday events and social gatherings. And remember, it’s a long season. If you start with indulging in Halloween candy and continue letting go through the new year, you’ll risk packing on the pounds and the guilt, leaving you overweight, frustrated and committing to too many resolutions come January 1st.
Keeping your health on track
Here are a few quick tips to keep your health on track during the holidays, so you can still enjoy yourself without any dieting or restricting:
1) Weigh yourself weekly. While I usually don’t condone weighing yourself, this tip is not about obsessing over the number on the scale. Weighing regularly during the holidays will keep you conscious of your weight so that you don’t get scale shock when January 1st rolls around.
2) Move more. Don’t let the holidays become an excuse for laziness. Get out and move your body or at least keep up your usual exercise regiment. Exercise has a plethora of benefits – it will keep the belly away, help manage your holiday stress, allow you to sleep better and simply feel better about yourself overall. Wins all around.
3) Watch alcohol consumption. I’m not saying don’t enjoy your favorite holiday spiked cider but similar to your food choices, don’t overindulge. Alcohol increases our blood sugar content, which inevitably causes us to pack on the pounds. Alcohol also increases likeliness of overindulging and overeating in unhealthy foods. So keep it in moderation.
4) Plan your sleep. If you plan on staying out late, try to fit in a nap or a down day when your body has time to catch up. Adequate sleep helps manage hormones and helps keep those added pounds and stressors at bay.
5) Drink water. Sometimes we mistake hunger for thirst. Stay hydrated especially before heading to a party. Avoid sugary beverages (soda, juice, etc) that actually cause additional sugar cravings, making those holiday cookies even harder to turn away.
6) Don’t arrive at a holiday party overly hungry. Fill up on protein or healthy fats before heading out. You’ll be less likely to overindulge when you arrive. For example, enjoy an apple with peanut butter or almond butter, a protein shake, a hard-boiled egg, or a slice of whole grain toast with avocado or hummus.
7) Eat mindfully. This one is key. It’s so easy to hang around the buffet table and scarf one appetizer after another until you don’t even realize how much you’ve eaten. Instead, grab a small plate, add a few items and then leave the food area so you aren’t tempted to keep digging in. Savor each bite and enjoy the taste of the foods. Chew slowly. Put down your fork and converse with the people around you. Enjoy the atmosphere, the company. You’ll likely end up more satisfied and less likely to go for seconds, thirds, fourths….
The holiday season is not the time to go on a diet! Consider what your top favorite holiday foods are and enjoy them (in moderation or with some modifications from the suggestions below). This will help you feel satisfied physically and emotionally this holiday season. And you’ll be less likely to overeat, overindulge and overstress on less important things.
Healthy holidays recipe modifications
Here are some healthy recipe modifications you can try to minimize the caloric intake of some typically heavy, hyper palatable foods, while still enjoying your holiday favs. Any major recipe modifications should be trial-run beforehand, verifying that the change will be acceptable to you and your holiday clan.
- Gravy – Make gravy from a low-fat broth rather than the drippings from poultry or a roast. Refrigerate the gravy so the fat will harden and skim it off the top.
- Stuffing – Use less bread and add more onions, garlic, celery and vegetables. If your recipe calls for meat, replace half the meat with dried cranberries, raisins, or chopped dried apricots. Moisten with a low-fat broth.
- Poultry and Meat – Remove skin and any visible fat before serving. Bake instead of fry.
- Green Bean Casserole – Cook fresh green beans with chunks of potatoes instead of cream soup. Top with almonds instead of fried onion rings.
- Mashed Potatoes – Use skim milk, chicken broth, garlic or garlic powder and Parmesan cheese instead of whole milk and butter.
- Healthy Holiday Nog – Four bananas, 1-1/2 cups skim milk or nut milk, 1-1/2 cups plain nonfat yogurt, 1/4 teaspoon rum extract, and ground nutmeg. Blend all ingredients except nutmeg. Puree until smooth. Top with nutmeg. Or, skip the nog completely and go with cider.
- Desserts – Substitute two egg whites for each whole egg in baked recipes. Replace heavy cream with evaporated skim milk in cheesecakes and cream pies. Top cakes with fresh fruit or a sprinkle of powdered sugar instead of frosting.
- Veggies – Add more veggies to your side dishes. Salads and dark green leafy greens can be super delish, filling and nutritious.
We will be back next week with part two where Jessica will discuss holiday cheer, wellness, and happiness.
Jessica Kishpaugh is a Holistic Nutritionist and Workplace Wellness Educator. With an intuitive eating and self-care approach, Jessica counsels clients to let go of dieting and emotional eating so they can create happier, wholesome, balanced lives, and to empower them with confidence to live a life of health, body positivity, and freedom. Jessica received her integrative nutrition health coaching certification from one of the top health coaching schools, The Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Jessica also has a certification in exercise nutrition from Precision Nutrition. Jessica is a former trial attorney who transitioned her career to follow her passion in health and wellness. Jessica is a mom of three young children and she helps similar busy moms implement family wellness practices and healthy living strategies into their lives. Jessica is a runner and a triathlete, a Disney fan, enjoys the outdoors and loves to travel.