Holiday Eats and Festival Treats - My Top 5 Healthy Tips to Staying on Track During the Holiday Season
The holiday season is upon us, and that means more holiday parties, more indulgence, more cookies and sweets, candies, hot chocolate, and for some people, more alcohol. Every year I hear how stressful it can be to 'stay on track' and stay on point with nutrition and wellness goals during this time.
With a seemingly endless supply of unhealthy snacks, treats and high-fat, high carb foods and even beverages (yes hot chocolate should not be consumed as much as water) offered to us at every turn, both at the office and at holiday parties....it CAN be tough to stay on track. I get it...trust me!
The next two weeks which I consider the danger zone, is when most of the damage in terms of inflammation and the increase of yeast and candida can be present in our bodies....due to a host of issues (including stress) but mainly because we over indulge. It’s also the time when our health and wellness goals are an after-thought, and we use the holidays as a crutch to eat like s*%t! Am, I right?! People let food consume them and eat to the point of feeling full or over-stuffed, strictly because it's the holiday season. Many times people inhale way too much food and ignore their bodies signals. It’s during this time, when you need a solid game plan or simple reminder, to stay on track and commit to your health, wellness and fitness goals.
While the average person is gaining 5+ pounds during the holiday season, the only thing you will be gaining and should be gaining this year (and after reading this blog post) is more mindfulness and confidence around food and staying healthy!
As a holistic nutritionist, I have many clients ask me some tips and tricks on how to stay the course and STAY ON TRACK during the holiday season...and I don’t blame them. With all the temptations around us, how can we either say no, or indulge once in awhile, instead of pigging out on candy canes and chocolates for 14 days!? But THAT is where I want to help YOU!
Below are my top 5 (no strings attached) tips, to help you stay on track during the holidays:
- Food tracking - Now, I am not expecting everyone to count their macros or calories (I don’t promote strictly counting calories) but it’s still a good idea to track what you eat and what you drink. This is a good indicator as to what you’re consuming and how often you’re consuming something during the holidays. Maybe...just maybe, you’ve had hot chocolate every day for the last week, or too many gingerbread lattes, or boxed chocolates. Let’s hope not! But regardless, a food diary or even a food tracking app helps.
- Be 'mindful' of eating and 'mindful' of your indulgences - See if the practice of 'mindful' eating is something that could work throughout your holidays. This practice aims to allow yourself to eat whatever you want, but still helps you control yourself because you’re hyper-focused on what you’re eating in the moment. Concentrate on your food, how it looks, how it tastes, and chew slowly. By paying attention to what you eat and feeling full, you'll be less inclined to over-eat or have a second or third helping of chocolate cake.When indulging during the holiday season, try to choose something that is home-made over store-bought. I prefer to make homemade gluten-free chocolate chip cookies during the holidays, instead of having six store-bought cookies, that are full of bad fats, empty calories and processed with rancid oils. Homemade is always best. Plus it tastes so much better.
- Don’t save or calorie restrict before holiday parties.-This is a big no-no! I know many people that show up to a holiday party feeling hungry or famished. But why not eat healthy throughout the day before you go out? I am adamant about people eating healthy throughout the day so you are less tempted to eat something that is nutrient void or full of bad fats or greasy fried food (like many hors d'oeuvres). When you calorie restrict, skip meals and then binge at night, you store those calories as fat. Your weight fluctuates, your mood fluctuates and your insulin fluctuates. When you skip meals, your insulin elevates. Insulin is your fat storage hormone. When you skip meals, you may feel cranky or in my case, h-angry (yes, I admit it!) and want to eat or get your hands on crazy, high fat or carbohydrate heavy foods (think pizza). - Do yourself a favour and eat foods that nourish your body year round, don’t wait for New Years to do it.
- Enjoy alcohol in moderation - Like everything, alcohol should be consumed in moderation. Alcohol should be kept to a minimum. I would opt to drink 1-2 drinks for the evening, if I am at a holiday party. But because I rarely drink, I ask for mocktails instead. There are so many empty calories and sugar in alcohol. Many times it turns to yeast and ferments in the body. Aside from the empty calories, alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it dehydrates you. Not only does it increase cortisol (which we don’t want) but it increases the hormone, estrogen in the body and weight gain. It’s empty calories, so why waste it on alcohol?
- Allow yourself to indulge then get back on track - One of the best ways, I find to stay on track is to practice self-control. Ask yourself, do your really need to eat that or do you want to eat that? To me, I also am of the mindset, out of sight, out of mind. Have your indulgence or cheat meal with family and friends and then don’t have any more temptations around or accessible you. Spend your holiday party or dinner with friends and loved ones without the food restrictions or without being consumed with how nutritionally beneficially or nutrient void the foods are. If you see a food or beverage you like and you haven’t had it in awhile, give yourself permission to enjoy it, instead of beating yourself up over it. Have your cheat meal, choose a reasonable portion size, enjoy every bite and enjoy your holiday party without feeling guilty. The holiday season is only once a year, so you might as well enjoy them! Just remember, the next day or for your next meal, to get back on track...no excuses.
To help you stay on track during the holiday season, set boundaries. Set boundaries on the holiday parties you will commit to, and the food you are going to have around your house and the things you want to do. Avoid the “But it’s the holidays” mentality too, as your actions and poor eating patterns (if you fall into them) may cost you, come January. Will your eating patterns produce and lead you to the health and wellness results you are after? Some food for thought.
Enjoy your special holidays, but remember to eat foods and drink beverages that make you feel amazing. Take accountability NOW on your choices. Do not wait until next week or next year. Accountability is KEY to your success and keeping you on track. Support yourself by eating and having healthy food in your home. Stay on track and carry that momentum throughout December and into the new year.
Remember, the holiday season is not the entire month. So plan out what you are going to do, commit and show up in ways that support your goals. Don’t let food or beverages get you distracted from your health and wellness goals. Maybe bring some healthy food to a holiday party, eat a small snack before you go out to a holiday party, or limit yourself to one or two holiday cocktails. There are always workarounds, so you don't sabotage yourself.
Imagine starting off the new year feeling amazing...instead of trying to set 'resolutions' that we know never ever last or work! Let’s be real here, my resolutions never stick...and I’m sure that applies to you, too!!! Let’s create and stick to a healthy balance, instead of taking the guesswork out of restrictive diets and trying to fix or re-balances ourselves, two weeks from now.
So, let's do this!!!
Hope to make this your BEST holiday season ever!
What do you do? What are your tips and tricks to stay healthy and on track during the holiday season? Share with me, your thoughts below.
Wishing you, happy, happy holidays!
Peace, love and healthy holidays,