Halloween has come and gone, the neighborhood kids cleaned out your candy bowl and the last of the spooky treats at the office have finally disappeared. Just when you think you’re out of the danger zone, your most festive colleague brings in her first batch of home-baked gingerbread cookies and before you know it you’re dipping one in your morning coffee. Sound familiar?
The holiday season seems to come around earlier each year, bringing with it Christmas decorations, commercials, holiday music and well-meaning friends and colleagues with lots and lots of delicious treats. That means added sugar, butter and fat with your season's greetings. While holiday meals last for only a couple of hours, and each celebration is just one day long, it’s easy to start eating candy in October and continue loosening your belt until you make your new year’s resolutions in January. Many studies suggest that willpower is a limited resource (1) and if you’re doing your best to stick to a healthy diet, this means that being confronted by your favorite high-calorie foods all season long can wear down your self-control making it harder and harder to make healthy choices as the weeks go by.
However, it’s important not to lose heart. Believe it or not, it is possible to get through the end of the year without gaining weight and you can stick to your health and fitness goals all winter long.
1 - Plan Ahead
If you’ve been invited to a holiday shindig, don’t arrive without a plan. If possible, ask your host what’s on the menu before you arrive. It’s much easier to think clearly in the comfort of your own home when you’re focused on your health goals, than after a glass of bubbly when you’re hungry and surrounded by food and conversation. Avoid the decision fatigue and meal envy by deciding what you’ll eat before you arrive. This way, you won’t be guessing your calorie count on the fly, and you can also plan a treat or two that fit into your calorie budget, so you don’t feel deprived. Another tip is to place your food on a small plate (this will help you with portion control) and be sure to move away from the food table once you’ve selected your items. This is a great tactic to avoid mindless grazing.
2 - Conversation
Just as it may be helpful to plan your meals ahead of time, plan for the inevitable conversations you are likely to have around food as well. Does your aunt Amy always bring her famous mac’n’cheese to the family gathering? Will your BFF be topping up your wine glass all night long?
Holiday’s are full of well-meaning friends and relatives who might not be aware of your personal health and lifestyle goals. They don’t mean to sabotage your meal plans, but they just can’t help but ask why you won’t try their home-baked cookies. Decide how you’ll respond before you see them and prepare some polite phrases you can use in the moment. Here are some ideas you may want to try: “Your cookies are just so delicious, I can’t ever have just one! I’ll end up eating the whole tray, so I’m going to pass on them for now.” “I am so full, may I take one for later?” Then wrap the item in a napkin and take it home for the kids, your partner or bring it into the office for your co-workers. “Thank you so much, but I’ll pass. I’m driving this evening so I have to pace myself on the wine refills!”
3 - Stick to Your Workout Routine
Holidays are very busy for most of us. Social engagements, shopping, family and work may eat up a lot of your “me” time this season. When that happens, it’s all too easy to skip your morning run, or your evening class at the gym in an effort to cram more into your days. Evidence suggests (2) that while skipping workouts may give you a little more time at the mall, it might actually drain your energy. One study showed that as little as 20 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise three times a week could increase your overall energy by as much as 20%! Just think how much you could achieve with that kind of energy boost working in your favor. If you really don’t have the time for your regular fitness routine, don’t just throw up your hands and give up. Instead, find a few 10-minute intervals during your day to fit in some moderate exercise. An example could be parking a couple of streets away from your destination, or jumping off the bus a little early so that you can get some extra steps in. Take a few laps at the mall before you begin your holiday shop or do a few arm curls with your basket while you’re in line at the checkout. You’ll get your 20 minutes of moderate exercise in before you know it, and then some!
4 - Supplements
Eating a healthy diet, along with regular exercise is the most sure-fire way to lose weight and stay healthy. While this isn’t rocket science, it unfortunately isn’t always as simple as calories and exercise alone. Your body needs the right ingredients and fuel to keep your metabolism working at its best. Simply limiting your caloric intake can leave you feeling tired and unmotivated and downright hungry if you aren’t getting all the nutrition you need from your food choices. We recommend a diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, protein, fiber and healthy fat with little to no processed foods and added sugar.
5- Portion Control
Holiday food is notoriously full of butter, sugar, fat and carbohydrates. All of these things are okay in moderation, and as a small part of a healthy diet, shouldn’t affect your health goals in any truly significant way. Real problems with weight and health usually happen around our diets when we overindulge. A second helping of dinner, all day grazing on rich holiday food, leftovers for breakfast, and candy at the office for weeks on end can all add up and leave you feeling bloated, tired, and unhealthy. On the other hand, we are human beings, not robots, and saying no to all of the delicious food on offer can leave us feeling deprived and anxious. While you may be able to keep it up for a week or two, the chances are that if you don’t allow yourself any treats this season, eventually your willpower will fail you and you’ll end up rebelling by overeating. This kind of yo-yo dieting isn’t realistic for the long-term and the cycle of deprivation, overeating and guilt is no fun either! A lot of healthy eating has to do with the simple concept of moderation and portion control. Try not to think of pecan pie as “bad”, and vegetable plates as “good.” Instead, be aware of the calories you’re eating and control your portions. This is easier said than done but with some practice, allowing yourself a treat now and then is actually a great way to lose weight and stay healthy in the long run.
6 - Food Substitution
If you have the opportunity to bring a plate to the party, or even better, if you’re cooking at home during the holidays, research some healthful substitutes to your holiday favorites. You might be surprised just how good some lower calorie food swaps can be, and with the right recipe, your friends and family will never even know that the mac’n’cheese their eating is low fat!
We love this recipe for Healthy Moreish Muffins from KuKomos Chef Jacqui Brown. The lowfat milk in this recipe along with the oat bran and apple make this a healthier fiberful choice when compared with a plate of gingerbread cookies, and the cinnamon and sultanas gives them a distinctly holiday flavor. You can experiment with different fruits and spices and use your imagination to make this recipe your own!
- 2 eggs
- 150 g soft brown sugar
- 60 ml canola oil
- 250 ml oat bran
- 375 ml cake flour, sifted
- 500 ml bran
- 2 ml salt
- 15 ml bicarbonate of soda
- 5 ml cinnamon
- 1 large apple, grated
- 250 g sultanas
- 500 ml low-fat milk
- 5 ml vanilla essence
- Preheat the oven to 180 °C.
- Beat the eggs, sugar and oil together.
- Add all the dry ingredients, the grated apple and the sultanas and mix well.
- Add the milk and vanilla and mix thoroughly but guard against overmixing.
- Leave in the fridge overnight.
- Stir before baking, place in a muffin pan and bake for 15 minutes
Or try Jaqui’s Gluten Free Apple Crumble Pots
These are not only gluten-free, but because they are small, individual pots, they make portion control easy as pie. Try these in place of a more traditional apple pie recipe.
- 2x tins pie apples, drained and cubed
- 140ml brown sugar
- juice and zest of 2 oranges
- 250ml dried fruit cake mixture
- 80ml chopped glace' cherries
- 25ml butter
- 80ml rice flour
- Place the apples, sugar, orange juice and zest into a saucepan and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the fruit mix and cherries and cook for a further 2 minutes.
- Spoon into individual ramekins or a large ovenproof dish.
Topping: Rub the butter into the flour, then add the sugar. Spoon over the fruit and bake in a preheated oven for 20-30min, until golden. Serve warm with custard.
Turkey is your friend during the holiday season! One serving of turkey includes almost half of your recommended daily allowance of folic acid and it’s also packed with vitamin B, potassium and zinc. Getting enough of these vitamins could help keep your cholesterol down, protect you from heart disease and boost your overall immune system! Just make sure you’re not adding fat by deep frying, and keep the gravy to a minimum. A regular portion of turkey is somewhere between 3 to 4 ounces and you’ll fare better with white meat. Peel off the skin to shave off extra calories. If you’re not sure what a 3 or 4 oz portion of skinless turkey looks like, weight it out on a kitchen scale so that you can guestimate later, when your guests arrive, or when you’re out at an event.
If the holidays have you feeling stressed about your waistline, keep in mind these simple tips to get you through the season without adding an extra notch to your belt. As much as possible, plan your meals ahead of time at holiday gatherings and move away from the buffet table once you’ve filled your plate and have a few polite phrases in your back pocket for friends and family who may try to overfeed you. Stick to a realistic workout routine and get a few extra steps in as you run your holiday errands, practice sensible portion control instead of depriving yourself of everything on offer and remember, there is no such thing as “bad food.” Play with food substitutions and find a few healthy versions of your holiday favorites.
Pure Vitality a natural supplement company based in an isolated village nestled against the snow-capped Southern Alps of New Zealand. We research health conditions thoroughly to discover the underlying root causes, find the most effective natural remedies, target the root causes rather than use a Band-Aid approach, use a multi-prong approach to fix the root causes from many directions and use high potency ingredients at scientifically supported amounts.