Honey-glazed turkey, pecan pie, dark chocolate truffles. Holiday food can inspire anxiety or ecstasy (or both). While an average holiday weight gain of a pound or two might not sound like much, research shows we generally don’t lose it, and that pound or two tends to add up year after year. And this is even worse for people who are already overweight, who generally add about five extra holiday pounds each year.
Fear not – follow my nutrilicious tips so that you can make it through the season without overdoing it so much that you miss out on the festive fun.
Tip 1: Don’t eat something just because it’s a 'holiday food'
Listen to your body; most people eat particular foods like pecan pie on Thanksgiving or down cups of eggnog at a Christmas party because these are must-eat foods during the festive season. Do you really even like pecan pie or eggnog? Or would you choose your favourite scoop of ice cream or just a cup of hot chocolate if you were given a choice? Just because it’s a season-limited food doesn’t mean you have to eat it. Noshing without thinking about what you are really putting into your body adds a lot of unnecessary calories to your diet and plays havoc with your internal cues of hunger and satiety.
Tip 2: One glass of alcohol, one glass of water
Most alcoholic beverages contain roughly 100 calories (or more), and we tend to consume at least a glass or two during the holiday season. Since avoiding alcoholic beverages altogether may be difficult during your (my!) favourite time of the year, alternating between an alcoholic beverage and a zero-calorie glass of water can not only help you to avoid putting on the pounds but also keeps you hydrated (alcohol is a diuretic). In addition, by staying hydrated, you are less prone to entering the hangover zone, a common yet not-so-jolly holiday tradition.
Tip 3: Stick to ONE
The biggest mistake people make during the holidays is turning Thanksgiving into a four-day feast instead of a one-day indulgence – and even longer for Christmas (we are talking about up to 10 days!). Then the holiday parties come, and all of a sudden you are giving yourself an excuse to have treats nearly every day. Rather than letting your holiday feast roll into a slice of pie for breakfast, limit your splurges to one event per week.
Tip 4: Stay neutral
Holiday foods tend to be acidic – meat, sugar and alcohol – so make sure you neutralise all these acidic foods with plenty of alkalinising foods like citrus fruits and greens. Plus, it makes great sense to balance out heavier dishes with plenty of greens (and to bolster the nutritional value of the meal and keep you satiated so that you don’t overeat).
Tip 5: Enjoy the company
Family gatherings, work parties and other social events are special occasions to let you catch up with your friends and loved ones, not simply to eat. Use these precious times to socialise and be present rather than rummaging for holiday treats. A good strategy is to 'pre-eat' protein-rich foods as simple as trail mix, yoghurt or some sliced veggie sticks to stabilise your blood sugar so that you can keep your focus where it belongs: on the company you're with.
Last but not least, more than any other of the year, it's important to maintain a healthy, balanced diet and an exercise regimen, something that becomes more challenging when the cold weather keeps us indoors. There are plenty of temptations during the holidays and throughout the winter, so choose foods and beverages in moderation.