With the holidays fast approaching, lots of clients are wondering how to navigate the parties, platters and chilly weather. The good news is you don’t have to skip all the good stuff to keep your health goals on track and avoid the typical bloating, low energy and weight gain.
Get Enough Of The Good Stuff
December is rarely anyone’s best month when it comes to food and nutrition, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a total write off – this time of year is exactly when you want to be supporting your immune function, keeping your energy up for all that socializing, and, dare I say it, looking sharp in your party clothes.
During the week make your focus packing in as much fibre, vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants as possible. Pair that with regular doses of lean protein and balanced meals to keep your blood sugar and energy steady and you’ll have your best December yet.
Do: Plan at least a couple meals a week and keep your running grocery list up to date so you have some healthy meals and leftovers to keep you nourished.
Do: Get at least a daily dose of dark leafy greens. Romaine, spinach, arugula, kale are all packed full of fibre, magnesium, and other nutrients that are key to keeping your body in tip top shape.
Do: Pack in extra veggies wherever you can. A daily fruit and veggie smoothie or committing to big salads for lunches Monday to Friday are both easy ways to keep your healthy habits going during a busy streak.
Do: Make the focus getting lots of colour, fibre and plant foods the day before and after any big indulgences (including the drinking kind). This helps your body repair the damage, lower any inflammation and gets your appetite hormones back on so you’re not battling cravings all week.
Plan Your Indulgences
A big part of success with food over the holidays is being conscious about what goes in your mouth and how often. All of my clients get the talk about how important it is to plan your indulgences to stay successful, and it can be one of the biggest game changers. It is so easy to lose track of how many “treats” are going in without a bit of forethought and this alone often leads to weight gain over the festive season.
Do: Pick a time at the start of your week to think ahead. Grocery shopping or meal planning can be tied in here. If you have a couple of big events where you’ll want to indulge, know that you’ll likely need to have fewer little treats during the week. Got nothing on the radar? Stick to your normal schedule of indulgences, whether that’s a meal out on Saturday night or a little piece of chocolate daily.
Do: Resist the urge to eat anything just because it is festive and in front of you. I’m looking at you random gingerbread lattes, candy cane bowls and snowman shaped sugar cookies. If it isn’t something you’ll get a lot of enjoyment out of, skip it and wait for the good stuff.
Do: Follow through when you plan to indulge. It’s an important part of not feeling deprived or “on a diet” for the rest of the week.
Do: Be reeeeeally mindful of liquid calories – flavoured coffees and teas, pop at work lunches, alcoholic drinks at events. These guys add up quickly and our brain rarely accounts for them when it comes to hunger and fullness or feeling like we’ve had something special. Choose them occasionally, and drink them mindfully.
Don’t Skip Meals
Lots of clients think skipping meals or cutting out all carbs the day of a party will offset the indulgence later on, but this is typically a recipe for disaster. Under-eating during the day only ramps up our appetite hormones and signals, making it more likely you’ll overeat at the party, and have very little control over your food choices. You’re also likely missing out on all the key repair nutrients (vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and fibre) that drive your energy, immune function, and recover from the stresses of the holiday season (germs, less exercise, high carb or other inflammatory type foods).
Do: have at least 1 or 2 well-balanced meals that are heavy on the veggies and lean protein the day of a party.
Do: choose lighter meals. Think scrambled eggs and fruit for breakfast and a big salad topped with tuna or leftover chicken for lunch. You don’t need to double down on an evening of appies by having heavy or processed foods during the day in the name of appetite control.
Eat Mindfully – Even At Parties
Mindful eating has received a lot of buzz, and for good reason. We have natural portion control built right in, but most of us tune it out – especially when we are in party mode. For a full breakdown of cues and strategies (and a timely self challenge) check out this past post on mindful eating.
Do: Feel free to enjoy whichever party foods appeal to you, but stop when you feel satisfied. Satisfied is that tricky spot right before the slightly uncomfortable stretchy feeling that happens when we are full.
Do: Remember that most party foods are designed to trigger your “eat more” reflex. The high salt, carb or fat content all speak to the feast or famine instincts inside.
Do: Practice mindful eating at least a few times before a party to get comfortable with what your “satisfied” and full cues look and feel like.
Do: Notice and savour what you do eat – how does it taste, feel? Someone put some love in to that dish, so spend a moment really appreciating the food.
Do: For the love of all that is good, put down any so-so appies or party food. It won’t turn off your satisfied cues as easily, and is a waste of calories that could be spent on something delicious.
No crazy talk about mixing wine with club soda to make a spritzer or drinking light beer here (seriously, what a waste of good wine!). I’m a big fan of choosing something you really enjoy, doing so mindfully and knowing what your limits are before you hit that cocktail party. No reason not to enjoy a couple glasses here and there, but the calories in alcohol count just as much dessert, and add to inflammation and cancer risk to boot.
What’s in a drink?
- One 5 oz glass (150 mL) of wine – 123 calories
- One can of beer (~355 mL) – 154 calories
- One shot (1 oz) of hard liquor (vodka, whiskey etc) – 65-70 calories + whatever is in your mixer
Do: Balance your intake across the number of events you have coming up each week. Only one event? You can likely get away with a few. Two, three or four parties? Choose whether you want to spread your intake out, or save it for the most fun night.
Do: Drop how much you drink during the week. Most of the year the occasional glass of wine with dinner won’t do much harm, but when intake typically doubles or triples on the weekends it’s wise to cut back during the week.
Do: Drink lots of water (or club soda, mineral water, Perrier etc) at parties to help balance out the dehydrating effects of alcohol so your body can cope and you can function at your normal level the next day. My rule of thumb is at least one glass per drink, and then an extra glass or two before bed.
Do: Offer low sugar mixers like club soda at your own parties, and offer fresh lime, lemon and orange wedges to keep mixed drinks (and even plain water) interesting.
How do you handle the holidays? I’d love to hear from you in the comments or on the Westcoast Nutrition facebook page.