The holidays are here!
This time of year means more family time, thankfulness, and joy. But it also brings colder weather and lots of delicious food everywhere you look, which can make staying healthy quite the challenge.
Did you know the average American gains 5-10lbs during the holiday season? And it’s no coincidence that one of the most common New Year’s resolutions is to eat healthier and lose weight.
But what if you could avoid the weight gain and enjoy all that the holiday season has to offer at the same time? What if you could make it to January without feeling the need to start a diet or do a 7-day detox?
Yes, it is possible!
It starts by giving up the “all or nothing” mindset. Most of us are either trying to eat healthy 100% of the time or not even trying to focus on our health at all. I know you’re thinking that there’s no point to try now because of the holidays, so let’s see why that theory really makes no sense.
There are 50 days left of this year. If you eat 3 meals a day that means you’re going to eat 150 meals over the next 50 days. The holidays only account for about 5 days out of those 50, and even if you eat 2 meals for each holiday, that’s only 10 holiday meals. When you look at it that way, it’s silly to let those 10 meals stop you from making your health a priority when you have 140 other opportunities to make a difference.
Please know that you do not have to eat perfectly to see results. What you do the majority of the time is what matters. Just like eating a salad one day does not make you healthy, having a few high calorie meals or treats will not ruin all of your progress.
So now that we’ve got our minds in the right place, let’s focus on the fun stuff (aka the food and drinks!)
One of the easiest ways to cut down on calories during the holidays is with our beverages. The holiday season brings lots of yummy drinks like pumpkin spice lattes, hot chocolate, apple cider, eggnog, and of course, alcohol. These drinks don’t provide nutrients like fiber, protein, or vitamins & minerals, but do have lots of added sugar. Trying to not drink your calories is one of the first things I work on with my clients and a few easy swaps can allow you to still enjoy these drinks for less:
- Ask for fewer pumps of flavored syrup in your specialty coffees to cut down on added sugar but still get flavor.
- Use skim milk or an unsweetened milk alternative (like almond milk) to lower the calories.
- Skip the whip cream on top.
- Order a small drink instead of a large.
- Ask for no simple syrup in mixed drinks.
- Choose light beers.
- Mix alcohol with flavored sparkling waters and use lemon or limes for flavor.
And when you’re drinking alcohol, always aim to have a big glass of water between every drink to prevent dehydration and avoid a hangover!
When it comes to the food, building a balanced plate is key. I like to use the plate method with my clients because it’s so simple and can be used anywhere. Aim to have half your plate full of non-starchy vegetables, like a salad, to help fill you up for little calories. Next, make a quarter of your plate full of protein, like turkey or ham. Protein with meals helps keep your blood sugar levels controlled, which allows you to avoid the energy crash after the meal. Then the last quarter of your plate is your carbohydrate foods, like a roll or mashed potatoes. Whenever you can, choose high fiber carbohydrates, like whole grains, for more nutrients. Building your plate this way will leave you feeling satisfied and keep you from feeling bloated or uncomfortably full.
Now what about all the desserts!? My biggest tip is trying not to avoid the treats all together. Trying to do so is just setting yourself up for failure. Restricting yourself will only make you crave the chocolate and cookies even more, which will lead you to go overboard when you do finally give in to your cravings. Instead, pick your favorite holiday treats and allow yourself to have 2-3. Eat them slowly to really savor each bite, and then move on with your day having zero guilt.
One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is “saving up” calories for their holiday parties. Doing this only causes you to be extra hungry, and once you get to the party you will want to eat everything in sight with little self-control. Do not skip meals throughout the day and do not show up to the party starving. Instead, aim to eat every 3-5 hours throughout the day. Then prioritize lean proteins and vegetables with your meals because we don’t eat enough of those at parties, and there is no shortage of carbs or fats to choose from. Once you’re at the party, make yourself a plate then get out of the kitchen to avoid mindless snacking.
Lastly, make it a goal to stay active. I know this can be hard when it’s cold and dark outside, but our bodies need to move to feel good! Plus when we exercise, it makes us want to make better food choices. You don’t need to run 3 miles or do CrossFit every day for it to count. Any movement helps! Think outside the box and get creative. Do a quick circuit style workout in your living room, bundle up and go for a 10 minute walk, park further away, walk around the mall, or take the stairs whenever possible.
Remember that the holiday season is a special time that only occurs once a year. Allow yourself to enjoy it, but don’t use it as an excuse to put your health and fitness goals on the back burner. Keep taking action now. Trust me, you won’t regret it!
About Caitlyn: Caitlyn Hunter is a Registered Dietitian with a passion for helping people ditch the diets and learn how to eat for the rest of their lives to get results that actually last. Caitlyn's goal is to make nutrition simple and provide the tools you need to become the most confident and healthy version of you. To hear more of Caitlyn's message be sure to follow her on Instagram @caitlynhunter_nutrition, join her Facebook group Caitlyn's Nutrition Crew, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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