Oh, the holidays. ‘Tis the season for merriment, cheer, goodwill… not to mention baked Brie, sugar cookies, creamy eggnog, cheese balls, peppermint bark…and the list goes on…
Let’s be real, staying on track with healthy eating during the holidays can be a challenge. The end of the year can be totally overwhelming, and between office parties, holiday dinners, gift exchanges, cocktail hours, neighbour’s open houses and other events that always pop up between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, the opportunities to fall off clean eating can become plentiful. I’m here to tell you though that you can navigate this time of year and do so without remorse or busting buttons! The first step is to decide not to be derailed. Just know that you can make it through all the festivities—and even enjoy yourself along with the way—without tossing all your hard-earned healthy-eating habits out the window. When I was in the middle of my 50 pound weight loss journey 17 years ago, it was over the holidays! Below are some tips that worked for me:
Basically, holiday parties + holiday stress + increasingly easy opportunities to grab a treat at all hours of the day can = myriad ways to get off track. Often, we eat emotionally to calm ourselves, reward ourselves, or simply because there are extra holiday cookies in the staff room or fridge at home. If you’re going to a party for example, decide in advance what you’re going to eat. For example, I would look forward to shrimp and cocktail sauce and load up on loads of veggies and Greek yogurt dip or hummus. I’d bring along the recipe, maybe even put it in a local artisan’s little dip size bowl and put a bow on it and then literally just take the liberty to put it beside the tray if there was store bought dip with the veggies. Or, if it was a party where I brought an appetizer and I bought a tray, I’d just replace the dip from the store with mine. I still do the same and usually cut up the veggies if I have time and again include my own dip.
One key to avoiding massive work party and holiday dinner indulgences? Eating a solid breakfast. Since most holiday functions are in the afternoon and evenings, a good breakfast is a great way to start the day. Breakfast will help keep your blood sugar balanced, give you energy to tackle your morning to-do lists, and can help prevent overeating later in the day.
Shoot for a breakfast with a healthy balance of protein and carbs: It’ll boost your energy all day and keep you from diving face-first into the cookie tray come 2 p.m. I like to start with a protein, like an egg, peanut butter, or a new discovery half a cup of whipped cottage cheese or even better, ricotta (which is lower in sodium and smooth), with a quarter-third of an avocado, on a high-fiber carb like sprouted grain toast or a whole-wheat English muffin. I’m a sweet tooth so I finish almost every meal with dessert! For breakfast, I’ll finish with a homemade muffin or a few berries and half cup plain Greek yogurt.
I’d like to add a foot note here…sprouted grains and sprouted seeds are amazing for us. They have more nutrients because the seeds have Sprouting grains and seeds before baking produces living, nutrient-rich food. The flour made from these grains provides more protein, vitamins and minerals than refined flours. Sprouting also neutralizes phytic acid, a substance present in grains, which inhibits absorption of nutrients, vitamins and minerals. So sprouted grains have more available nutrients than mature grains.
No matter how committed you are to a healthy diet (remember at NRG 4 Life, we use “diet” as a noun not a verb ie. a lifestyle changed), you don’t want to go through the entire season without enjoying at least some of your favorite holiday foods. Luckily, there’s a way to get your fill of holiday faves without derailing your diet.
The key is balance! Have a small portion of your favorite dish, instead of having indulgences you don’t really love, that you could easily end up eating out of boredom or politeness, like your co-worker’s crumbly, dry sugar cookies. Personally, I always go for a treat with dark chocolate. Or, I bring a dark chocolate and peanut butter energy balls that I conveniently contribute to the cookie tray then I know I’ve got something healthy to have as a dessert!
Another easy way to find balance is to fill half your plate with veggies or a salad; the fiber will keep you full and make you less likely to experience a sugar crash.
So have a slice of gooey pecan pie or a side of your Aunt Sally’s absolutely-to-die-for mashed potato casserole that you wait all year for. Just make sure you make it a small portion and balance it out with good-for-you greens and veggies, which will keep you satisfied.
With a seemingly never-ending list of things that need to get done during the holidays (shopping, cooking, cleaning, hosting out-of-town guests), it can be easy for your daily workout to slip to the bottom of your to-do list.
But making time to get your sweat on is key to beating holiday stress and sticking to your diet. Stress affects your cortisol levels and can lead to emotional eating and impact insulin sensitivity. An easy way to beat stress and have some ‘me time’ each day is to be active. Take a 20-minute jog or walk in the crisp air, book yourself in for a fitness class; practice yoga; or go for a hike. Exercise increases those feel-good endorphins and can be that extra confidence boost you need to walk past the box of holiday donuts sitting on your desk in the morning.
If you slip and find yourself snuggled up next to the fire with a box of holiday chocolates, don’t worry about it! No one’s perfect—holidays or no holidays. The perfect diet doesn’t mean following a strict regimen 100-percent of the time. If you ‘slip up,’ know that it’s not a big deal and don’t let it upset your day. That #healthyish lifestyle isn’t about beating yourself up when you give in to a holiday indulgence; it’s about finding balance and feeling good. An easy way to get back on track is to start the next day with a healthy habit, whether that means going out for an early morning walk, workout, having a balanced breakfast, or making sure to drink enough water.