‘Tis the season… for cookies, cocktails and home-cooking delights. The holidays are many things— inherently healthy is not one of them. The average American adult consumes a whopping 22 teaspoons of added sugars each day — pretty far off from the recommended 6 for women and 9 for men. It is the opinion of many healthcare professionals that even the recommended number of teaspoons is too high. If that’s the national average throughout the year, imagine how much it peaks during the holidays!
Instead of demonizing sugars and unhealthy foods, let’s keep them in perspective. It’s OK to have one of grandma’s famous Christmas cookies or toast champagne on the stroke of midnight— but the holidays shouldn’t just be about comfort eating and drinking. Focus on what truly matters to you. Is it being together with family, friends, or pets? Or is it about relaxing and taking a few well deserved days off work?
Remember to find ways to manage your stress around the holidays and follow these five tips to stay healthy.
1. Make greens and proteins a priority.
Between holiday office parties, ugly Christmas sweater parties and family dinners, there’s going to be many holiday foods (I’m looking at you mashed potatoes) that are delicious but have very little nutritional bang for your bite. Do yourself a favor during the day and load up on leafy greens, vegetables and clean proteins. That way, you’ve given your body nourishment, fiber and protein to keep your blood sugar stable and appetite in check. Scared of getting sick? Double up on your greens and ask us about herbs and supplements.
2. Feasting in the evening? Don’t show up starving.
The hungrier you are and the lower your blood sugar, the more disappointing hors d’oeuvres you’re going to eat. Eat normally during the day incorporating healthy fats to improve your satiety. Then, show up to your feast slightly peckish. Instead of overeating, load your plate with a variety of samples from each dish you love, instead of large entrees-sized portions. That way you get the experience of the fun holiday foods, without a massive commitment to them.
3. Carve out time for your workouts.
Fail to plan or plan to fail when it comes to exercise. The holidays are the most stressful and busy time of year so give yourself permission to go easy on yourself. Just showing up is half the battle. Schedule times before work, or on morning weekends to go to a class, do some cardio or weight lifting. Be realistic about how much sleep you need or how tired you are after work. Find three to five times in the week you can go and commit.
4. Get creative about replacements.
Don’t be afraid to start new traditions! Experiment in the kitchen with added sugar-free sweeteners, healthier ingredients and nutritious spins on traditional dishes. There are so many ways to recreate your favorite comfort foods and desserts while slashing their calories in half, drastically reducing sugars or replacing unhealthy ingredients with healthier ones. Start Googling recipes and stocking up on ingredients. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes — it’s the thought that counts.
5. Play the tape forward.
Savor the sweets and rich foods while you eat them. Remember to chew, taste and really be in the moment. So many times we inhale what’s on our plates without really taking time to enjoy the experience. When we savor our food, it lasts longer and so does the enjoyment. But if you find yourself wanting more and more, play the tape forward. After your fifth cookie, how are you going to feel? One minute after eating it? Ten? Twenty? One hour? Tomorrow? You already know how it tastes and you can always have more later. Sometimes thinking ahead to how it will make us feel brings us back to the moment. Get up, take a walk or clear the table and make a hot cup of tea.
Follow these tips and this holiday season and I guarantee that you’ll wake up in the new year relieved you put your health first. Have a happy holiday season and healthy New Year!