My Tips & Tricks for All That Holiday #NOMNOM
With the holidays being right around the corner, one thing seems to be weighing a lot of us down… ALL THAT FOOD & the million dollar question: how to stay on track with healthy eating & not go overboard to the point where it becomes impossible to get back into it post-holidays?
That’s where I come in. Obviously, holidays & celebrations mean family, friends, good vibes, fun, late nights & LOTS of food. It can be really hard to resist temptation & not fall off track when you’re surrounded by all of that & fact of the matter is, you don’t have to resist 100% of the time, just like you don’t have to make a 360 & fall off track entirely. It’s all about finding what you define as the balance between staying on track, but also not letting it get to your head to the point where you fail to enjoy the moment.
And always remember: just like one week at the gym won’t get you a six pack, a few holiday parties & meals with family & friends won’t ruin all the progress you made thus far. We work hard all year to stay as healthy as we can be, to feel our best & there’s nothing wrong with giving ourselves (mind & body) a little break… and what better opportunity to do so than with turkey, stuffing, eggnog, sugar cookies & peppermint-flavoured desserts?
Plus, if you were able to commit to healthy living before the holidays, what’s to say you won’t be able to do it again after the holidays?
Here are some of my tips to find that balance, whatever it means to you! You don’t have to follow every single one of them or be super regimented about it; pick & choose the ones that you think have the most potential to work for you & make it happen!
(1) BE CAREFUL WITH THE BREAD
In my experience, whether you’re at a restaurant or a family dinner, it’s very easy to load up on bread before the main meal is even served. It’s legitimately sitting right in front of you in a very inviting basket & usually served with a side of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, butter or ALL THREE!
Most of that bread is made from white refined flour, a.k.a. simple carbohydrates. This form of carbs is absorbed and digested really quickly by our bodies, processed & contains tons of sugar & very little fibre and won’t keep you full! It’s basically empty calories & acts as temporary fix, providing a momentary burst of energy, a spike in blood sugar & then BAM… the sugar crash & the sugar craving kicks in & you’re hungry all over again.
Moral of the story: Loading up on bread at the beginning of your meal might actually ruin your appetite temporarily so you won’t feel like eating any of the other delicious (& probably more nutritious food) & then by the time dessert hits, you’ll be starving all over again & load up on all the sugar. PSA: Keep in mind that a slice of bakery-style bread or baguette served at most of our holiday tables is the equivalent of about 2-3 slices of thing white sliced bread. Now, I’m not here telling you not to eat it at all… everything in moderation, right?
So what’s the solution?
Limit yourself to 1 piece & save it (or at least half of it) to enjoy with your dinner
Bring some sprouted grains, crackers, crisp breads or rice cakes with you so that you have a healthier option in front of you
Don’t be too hard on yourself if you do end up indulging on the bread at dinner & instead of dwelling on it, wake up the next day with a fresh perspective & try to be a little more mindful for your Christmas lunch
2. CHOOSE ONE OR TWO THINGS YOU WANT TO LET YOURSELF INDULGE IN
Since a variety of side & main dishes will be served, choose one or two things that you really want to let yourself indulge in, for example: a dish that you don’t get to eat often or something your mom, grandma or aunt makes especially for the holidays. Obviously, do this in moderation (a.k.a. don’t eat half the serving plate). BUT, let yourself indulge & don’t let it get to your head. Don’t question how many calories are in it or drive yourself nuts about the macros.
You have to find a balance, but also have the ability not to be too preoccupied with it. If you are, it will actually turn you off from the food (& from eating in general) & you won’t actually get to enjoy what you are eating. keep your goals in mind (whatever it is you’ve been doing, whatever healthy changes you have made) & don’t let yourself fall out of whack because that will help keep you accountable.
BUT, by the same token, don’t deprive & starve yourself. If you do that, ultimately, cravings will hit & you may find yourself in a situation where you end up binging. I am a firm believer in feeding your body’s cravings when they hit, as opposed to suppressing them & reaching a point where they catch up to you & get you into a binge-restrict cycle. Don’t focus on deprivation. Find balance. That one treat & indulgence is NOT going to ruin all your progress, BUT don’t let that open the door to indulging in 5 or 10 things! Be mindful but also enjoy what you love!
3. GO FOR THE HEALTHIER APPETIZERS
If you know you’re going to be at a dinner where a lot of appetizers will be served first and they contain lots of flour, sugar & are very starchy, try to start your eating for the night with healthier choices. Go for the veggie or soup appetizers & the lean protein options. Don’t go for the starchy & fried stuff because those won’t fill you up, contain almost no nutrients & will ultimately lead you to having the cravings for the same unhealthy foods (for the same reasons listed above regarding simple carbohydrates).
This will allow you to keep your appetite for the main dish & not feel sluggish or have energy slumps or sugar cravings when the good stuff comes out! And because you didn’t indulge like crazy with the appetizers, you can allow yourself to indulge a bit more with the main meal.
4. DON’T FOCUS ON THE FOOD
Don’t make your holiday only about the meal or the food. Basically, don’t show up to your holiday dinner with the mentality of “all that matters is the food & how much I eat”. Try to cherish the moments spent with family &/or friends. A lot of us don’t get to spend so much time with our families because we have such busy lives.
When was the last time you sat down at a beautifully set table with delicious homemade food with the people you love most without a care in the world & without work or school on your mind? You probably can’t pinpoint that moment! All this to say, use the holidays as an opportunity to do that. Lose the preoccupation with the food & enjoy it!
5. GO FOR THE HEALTHIER SIDE DISHES
Let’s say you decide that you will be letting yourself indulge on lamb, brisket or roast, try to stick to the healthier side dish options. If there’s white rice & you know your grandma loves to cook it with tons of butter but there’s also baked, cooked, sautéed or roasted veggies, go for the veggies OR, serve yourself half a portion of rice & complement the portion with MORE VEGGIES. This will still allow you to indulge a bit in the rice & not feel deprived, but you will also prevent yourself from being in a situation where you feel like you overdid it, not to mention you’ll prevent bloating & spikes in blood sugar.
6. PUT THINGS INTO PERSPECTIVE, ENJOY, FIND BALANCE & DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP
Put things into perspective. Yes, you should aim to make healthier choices, but also aim to find about balance and enjoyment. Don’t let yourself be down & don’t beat yourself up, if you do happen to really indulge, BIG DEAL. Don’t let guilt eat at you or consume you. Guilt is toxic and can be very damaging to the mind. So, if you did indulge, savour it, look at it positively & instead of beating yourself up, ask yourself the following questions.
Did you enjoy the food? Did you enjoy & cherish your time with your family & friends while eating the food?
If you can answer yes to those questions, then it was worth it. It’s about getting back into your routine after & not letting yourself think you are less worthy because you slipped up ONCE OR TWICE! Getting back into your routine will happen naturally if you’ve been consistent and in a routine for a long time. Basically, if it has become part of your life, it will happen naturally. But, you can’t let yourself feel guilty, ashamed or beat yourself up. Get back into your routine & everything else will fall into place.
7. EAT SLOWLY
This applies in everyday life & not only on the holidays. Eat slow. enjoy, savour the food & savour the moment. Don’t just scarf everything down. Doing that will allow your body to recognize when it’s full. This ties into the concept of intuitive eating. Sometimes we eat so quickly that we don’t give our bodies or minds the chance to recognize or realize that we’re not hungry or in the mood for those foods anymore & we just eat them because they are in front of us & it’s easy!
The holidays are actually a great opportunity to develop the ability to eat intuitively. You’re surrounded by people, opportunities to have conversation & to enjoy the moment. This is why it’s important & almost easier not to just focus on the food. Food should be the secondary aspect & shouldn’t be the main”event”. If you let yourself enjoy the moment, you will end up eating the optimal amount that your body needs for fuel. You will not overeat or under-eat because you won’t be so focalized on the food!
8. BE CAREFUL WITH THE ALCOHOL
Alcohol fills you up, is packed with sugar & is not very nutritious! Be careful with what you decide to drink & if you are going to drink, try to go for the lower sugar alternatives & do it in moderation!
9. DRINK A LOT OF WATER BEFORE & AFTER YOUR MEALS
Don’t sip on Diet Coke, or fruit juice. These drinks will leave you bloated & are filled with artificial sweeteners & sugar. Staying hydrated is crucial in all walks of life but more so, when you are eating foods that you don’t usually eat as this will help flush out the toxins, boost liver function & circulation & keep things flowing smoothly in your gastrointestinal tract.
10. EAT A LEAN PROTEIN/HEALTHY FAT SNACK BEFORE GOING TO YOUR DINNER & TRY TO GET IN A WORKOUT OR A WALK ON THE DAY OF YOUR DINNER
Don’t starve yourself all day because you know you have a big dinner at night. Keep in line with your routine & your eating habits. Eat a good, nutritious, wholesome breakfast & lunch & have a snack before dinner.
Since holiday dinners are later than usual, what I suggest is eating a protein-packed/healthy-fat snack to help hold you off until dinner is served, prevent yourself from feeling starving & HANGRY, be able to pace yourself when you’re at the dinner table & food is served & to prevent overeating.
If you are STARVING when you get to your dinner, you won’t be able to eat intuitively.
Some suggestions: nut butter with fruit, healthy raw protein ball or bar (some of my faves are Mid Day Squares, Go Macro, Roo Bar, Simply Protein & Raw Rev Glo Bars), rice cakes with hummus, veggies with hummus, a mini protein shake with some greens & berries, raw nuts &/or seeds with some dried fruit, etc.
If you have the time, try to get in a workout or a little walk before dinner so that you feel great & full of energy when you get to dinner.
LASTLY, IF YOU DO SLIP UP & INDULGE EVEN A BIT TOO MUCH, STOP FEELING SORRY FOR YOURSELF.
DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP.
DON’T LET THE GUILT EAT AT YOU.
JUMP RIGHT BACK INTO YOUR ROUTINE THE NEXT DAY AND EVERYTHING WILL FALL INTO PLACE.
A few nights of eating well & indulging & having fun with family, which is something we don’t often get to do, is not going to kill you. Look at it this way: if anything, it will make you appreciate jumping back into your routine the day after, because you will acknowledge that you enjoyed but that now it’s time to get back into your healthy lifestyle!