Tips to Staying Healthy During the Holidays

Alright, so here we are again. The holiday season is well underway, only a couple more weeks until 2018 closes and a new one begins. A sudden spike in festive holiday cheer has the potential to spike your caloric intake, resulting in unwanted and unwelcome weight gain entering into 2019.
 
 “On average, people’s weight increased about 1.3 pounds during the Christmas-New Year’s season. The new research, led by Cornell’s Food and Brand Lab as well as scientists in Finland and France, looked at year-round weight patterns of nearly 3,000 people in the United States, Germany, and Japan.”1
 
For some, when their normal routine of regular grocery shops and more home-cooked meals are reduced due to more social gatherings it can be easy to say that come January we will press the reset the button. But I’m here to try to ease your holidays anxieties; even if just slightly. Festive times do not need to become a total wash when it comes to maintaining your state of health and wellness. Let’s not get your tinsel in a tangle over such a small portion of the year. You’ve got too much to be excited and grateful for!
 
Trust me, if you follow my short list of healthy holiday habits you won’t be left feeling like you threw in the towel. Plus, I would encourage you to not only use these diet tips and tricks right now but put them in your ‘toolbox’ and utilize them anytime you feel the need to get back on track. These might seem too simple or obvious at first glance, but I once had a teacher say to me “small hinges, swing big doors.” This simple saying is a wonderful metaphor for making baby-step changes whilst working towards the bigger long-term goals. “Food should be about nourishment and feeling like your best self. It’s about so much more than inches, calories, points, and pounds. It’s about stepping into your power and making choices that lift you up and help you shine your brightest.”2
 
I would recommend picking three of these strategies and aim to follow them to the best of your abilities over the holidays

Keep an eye on your bevies. Festive drinks whether they are alcoholic or not can be pretty and fun, but more often than not packed with added sugars.

  • If you wish to indulge, practice moderation to reduce these liquid calories from your diet. “A glass of eggnog can set you back 500 calories; wine, beer, and mixed drinks range from 150 to 225 calories.”3 Too many cocktails can contribute to weight gain, headaches, bloating etc.
  • Adding in extra glasses of H2O throughout the day will help. If you are hosting a party be sure to have bottles of water visibility available for your guests.
  • Also, consider pouring drinks into tall, skinny glasses opposed to the short, wide type. A study at Cornell University found that “people are more likely to pour 30 percent more liquid into squatter vessels.”4​

Plan ahead. Peace of mind is a natural outcome when you are adequately prepared and knowledgeable in your decision making.

  • Fill up on protein and fiber sources in the morning before a holiday party. Never attend on an empty stomach. Eating breakfast in the morning “has been shown to prevent overeating later in the day.4 Excellent pre-party snacks combine complex carbohydrates with protein and unsaturated fat, like apple slices with peanut butter/WOWBUTTER or a slice of turkey and cheese on whole-wheat pita bread.”3
  • Fill your plate with lower calorie items such as leafy greens, vegetable dishes, and lean proteins, then taking smaller portions of the richer ones.
  • Bring your own healthy dish with you to potluck dinner parties. That is a nice way to make sure you know there is a healthy choice for yourself and also silently influencing those around you in a positive manner.
  • Take a moment to research the restaurant menus online ahead of time. This helps to pre-set in your mind a few healthy options to choose from that will align best with your diet goals.

Mindful Eating Practice #1. The Rule of Three’s.

  • Practice this technique by trying to chew each bite of food a minimum of three times.
  • Aim to set your utensils down at least three times throughout a meal.
  • These tactics will naturally slow down your overall meal time which aide’s digestion by breaking down your food more, and also prevents overeating. It takes approximately 20 minutes for the stomach to signal to the brain that you are full. “After finishing your first helping, take a 10-minute break. Make conversation. Drink some water. Then recheck your appetite. You might realize you are full, or want only a small portion of seconds.”3

 Mindful Eating Practice #2. Your Hunger & Fullness Scale.

  • Paying attention to your own personal Hunger & Fullness Scale means become in tune with your physical hunger. 1 is absolutely starving, whereas 10 is absolutely stuffed. Starting to get hungry to eat around a 4/5 out of 10 and stopping when you reach a fullness level of 7/8.
  • This strategy helps to self-regulate intake without having to necessarily count calories.
  • Watch your portions and size of your plates. If a meal is too large you can always ask to pack up your leftovers.

 Skip the extras.

  • Condiments, dipping sauces, dressings are all sneaky ways that extra calories/sugar/sodium/fat find their way into our intake.
  • Try adding fresh herbs and seasonings to your dishes instead of calorie-laden sauces and dressing for that extra flavor.

 Get up and move.

  • Walk the dog around the block.
  • Sign up the family up for a fitness class all together.
  • Shoveling snow and house cleaning also help burn those extra calories.
  • Just two 15 minutes bouts of movement can quickly contribute to hitting your recommended daily physical activity recommendation of 30 minutes per day.

 Choose your indulgences wisely. 

  • While we all love to indulge over the holiday season; even nutrition professionals love their sweets; I know shocking! Ingredient substitutions and swaps help to make your holiday creations more nutritious. Healthy meals and desserts can and do taste really good. You might even be surprised at what a hit your addition is amongst your friends and family.
  • Try adding a chia egg to baking to replace a regular egg. Reduces the overall cholesterol and fat of a particular recipe.
  • Swapping in unsweetened applesauce instead of butter or oil works well.
  • Sneak in vegetables. Avocado, zucchini, and pureed sweet potatoes add moisture.
  • Think about picking items from your family holiday traditions to treat yourself, rather than wasting calories on foods that you are able to have anytime throughout the year. 

Grab a post-it note or open up a blank ‘note’ on your phone right now. Pick three points that you are going to ace this holiday season. You can do it! Be that role model for the loved ones in your life. The healthy path is not always the most popular path to venture down in social gatherings; however, in the long run your bodies will most definitely thank you in more ways than you can count. Wouldn’t it be the best to head into 2019 feeling more guilt-free and body-confident?
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References:
1. Real Simple. Holiday Weight Gain is Real, Study Says – and It Starts in October. https://www.realsimple.com/health/nutrition-diet/weight-loss/holiday-weight-gain
2. Sakara Life. Co-Founder Danielle Duboise. 
3. Harvard Medical School. Harvard Health Publishing. 12 tips for holiday eating. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/12-tips-for-holiday-eating-201212245718
4. Real Simple. 9 Healthy Holiday-Eating Strategies. https://www.realsimple.com/health/nutrition-diet/healthy-eating/eat-healthy-during-holidays

Pharyne Hrywkiw
Nutrition Educator, FoodImpact Inc.
B.Sc. Nutrition and Food Sciences