It’s such a challenge. At the very time of year when you want to look and feel your best, you are confronted with more food choices than the rest of the year combined.
Depending on where you are in the world, your calorie intake might be a little different, but this is still a pretty good reference point. According to the Calorie Control Council, a typical holiday dinner can include 3,000 calories. If you include appetizers and drinks, it’s very likely around 4,500 calories in one day.
So how do you enjoy the celebrations during the holidays, without feeling like you are depriving yourself of some of your favorite comfort foods? I’m European, where food and family meals are a big part of culture. Those of you who have worked with me know that I understand and accommodate the emotional connection to food, and the social benefit of shared meals. And that means celebrating the holidays and enjoying meals with family and friends. But we also don’t want to have to loosen our belt during the holidays!
So how do we balance the pleasure of food and maintain our health goals? And how do you deal with the social pressure of not disappointing Aunt Mabel or your mother-in-law, when they pressure you to eat more?
The easiest thing to do is to manage your food intake all the rest of the month, AND make sure you do the other things you know will give you energy and help you feel good.
Let’s start with FOOD!
● Every time you eat, make sure you consume both fiber and protein. They fill you up and keep your blood-sugar levels stable.
● Eat an apple every day. It’s full of fiber, which makes you feel full.
● Eat more legumes like lentils and chickpeas. They are full of protein, reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol, and make you feel full.
● If you’re feeling bloated, eat some fruit like kiwi, honeydew melon and papaya. They prevent water retention and encourage your bowels to get moving.
● Drink water. Not only to stay hydrated, but to fill up your belly so you feel fuller. Water also flushes out any excess sodium you may eat, that makes you feel bloated.
● Start each day with a healthy smoothie instead of cereal or pastry.
● If you’re eating out, instead of an appetizer and a dinner, order two appetizers. The portions are smaller, but it’s still usually plenty of food. Or skip the appetizer all together – you never eat a snack before dinner at home.
● Watch how much wine you consume, since there are about 120 calories in a 5 oz. glass.
● When feeling ready for a snack, reach for almonds instead of cookies or candy canes. They are full of fiber and protein, which will make you less hungry for all the other stuff.
● Ask yourself if what you are eating is really worth the calories. I have a favourite dessert – chocolate lava cake. And if it’s on the menu, I will order it every time. (unfortunately, it was a popular ‘90s menu item but I rarely see it anymore). If I scanned the dessert menu and it’s not on it, I don’t order dessert, as I know restaurant desserts top 500 calories and nothing but chocolate lava cake is worth that to me.
● However, I may have some 85% dark chocolate instead. Small amounts of dark chocolate include flavonoids that help regulate metabolism by alleviating stress.
● Drink 2 cups of green tea every day. It includes an antioxidant that triggers the release of fat from cells, and helps your liver turn fat into energy.
When it comes to food, the key ideas to remember are to fill up on foods and drinks that have fiber and protein, and that help relieve bloating.
Activities that help you manage your weight and health
● Work out first thing in the morning. As this is a busy time of year, if you wait until the evening, you may find something else has distracted you.
● Do weight training activities – whether that’s using dumbbells or using your own bodyweight. It adds more muscle to your body, which helps you burn the extra food energy from your holiday meals.
● Get out and walk every day. Try to get to 10,000 steps.
● Instead of meeting friends for dinner or drinks, suggest a walk or skating.
● After dinner – close the kitchen! Try to go 12 hours (ie- 7:30 pm – 7:30 am) without food. This is a type of mini-fast that helps you burn body fat
● Do interval training when you work out. That means periods of intense workouts – say, 30 to 60 seconds – followed by periods of less intense workouts. As you get stronger, increase your periods of intense activity (and that means full out exercise).
● Have a good laugh. A really good laugh. Hearty laughter helps you burn calories!
● Push away your plate when you feel 80% full. Don’t try to overstuff yourself!
These types of activities can easily fit into most daily schedules. A little every day will make a really big difference by the time January 1 rolls around. 😉
And remember, if you know you have a big dinner planned, cut back through the rest of the day. However, don’t not eat all day or you will lower your metabolism, then overeat at dinner. A double whammy that sets you up for weight gain.
I remember when I was 15 visiting my Swiss grandmother, and one night we had a large typically Swiss meal (meaning lots of cheese and potatoes). And after she said “That was a lot, so tomorrow we eat lighter.” How sensible is that?
And if the holiday meals catch up to you, remember I am running my “12 Weeks to a Better You” program beginning January 18. Price is $189 right now, but going up to $249 December 24. You get 2 private nutrition coaching sessions, a personalized meal plan, 11 Weekly webinars, a 72 page cook book, and 12 weeks of constant support to reach your goals. What are you waiting for? Make 2018 your best yet!