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Conquering the Holidays

It’s that time of year again! Around this time, we hear a lot of “I can cheat a little” and other things justifying peoples’ poor choices. Most of those people don’t actually realize how often they say that though! We hear it at birthdays, during the weekends, at random events….basically everything. Before you know it, your little “it’s just this once” turns into something that happens pretty often. So this holiday season, I propose a goal for all of us: Eat mindful, not mindless. It’s a fact that, by the end of New Years, people will have gained about 10 pounds. Let’s go against that norm this year, keeping our fitness goals alive, and not give in to the temptations.

This may come as a shock, but the average number of calories eaten at a holiday dinner is about 3,000! That doesn’t even count the taste testing, pre-dinner snacking, or dessert. Don’t fret though, there are plenty of ways to cut the calories during the festive days. Why not start with things you can do before you even leave your house:

  • Get a full night’s sleep! With less sleep, you tend to eat more and choose fattier foods.

  • Be prepared by eating a fiber filled breakfast/lunch/snack.

  • Run up and down the stairs every time you need to get something. At the very least, this will just keep you active and keep your heart pumping nicely.

  • Get to the gym the day before and after.

  • Take a nice morning walk with family/friends.

If you’re cooking the meal at your home or even if you’re preparing sides to take with you, give some of these suggestions a try:

  • Skip the heavy stuff (ex: cream and whole milk). It really doesn’t add more flavor, just fat. Almond milk or low fat will work the exact same.

  • Use herbs and spices with as much as you can instead of butter and salt. They give so much flavor without adding calories.

  • Instead of oil, use applesauce, pumpkin/squash/banana puree

  • Instead of butter, use applesauce, avocado, coconut oil/milk, prune puree

  • Use a lower calorie sugar sub like stevia

  • Substitute dairy milk, cheese, or cream for nondairy (ex: cashew, almond, coconut, flax). It tastes the same while offering more nutrition and taking away unnecessary calories and fat.

  • Instead of using white flour, try chickpea or almond flour.

  • Instead of using added chocolate chips, try dried fruit like cranberries or cherries.

  • Use extracts to add flavor instead of sugar or butter.

  • Use whole grain products instead of white (make sure it says 100% whole).

  • Make, grill, or steam instead of frying.

  • Bake your dishes in muffin tins for added portion control (ex: stuffing)

  • Add dark leafy greens to as much as possible (ex: Kale would wilt nicely in mashed potatoes or dressing/stuffing)

  • Compare labels and choose the lower sodium, saturated fat, and sugar option.

Once you’re actually at your destination, there are even more ways you can cut calories/fat/sugar. Try these:

  • Research tells us that you will eat the largest amount of the foods you eat first, so set yourself up for success by starting with something low calorie and healthy! (ex: eat a salad first)

  • Stand AWAY from the munchies while you’re chatting.

  • Drink a glass or two of water before meals so you don’t eat as much.

  • Downsize your plate AND take nibbles so your brain is tricked into thinking you at more! (It works)

  • Get reasonable portions. –OR- Take a small sample of all the things you want. That way, your plate isn’t loaded up with several big servings.

  • SLOW DOWN. Chew each bite completely before shoveling in more.

  • Concentrate on the meal while you’re eating it. Focus on actually chewing the food and enjoying all that it offers (taste, texture). If you don’t, you will mindlessly continue eating after you’re already full.

  • Choose the non-dairy options if they are offered. They will have less calories and fat.

  • PASS on the whipped cream toppings for drinks and desserts.

  • Use the buddy system for desserts. Split them in half or in quarters.

  • Instead of all the alcohol, use club soda.

  • Use freshly squeeze lemon instead of extra sugar in mixed drinks.

Even though they may sound healthy, try to skip:

  • Mixed nuts. While it is a healthy snack on most days, without knowing, you can easily grab one or two cups while talking with people.

  • Veggies with ranch dressing. With this seemingly healthy hors d’oeuvres, you tend to have more dip than vegetable, which packs a ton of unhealthy fat.

  • Keep the veggies, but dip them in hummus instead.

  • Cheese and crackers. These are snacks you can eat a lot of. One cracker with a square of cheese can have almost 10 grams of fat. If you end up having 5, that’s a lot of fat not even included in your actual dinner. Even using the lower fat cheese items can still pack a big punch.

  • Hard cider. Even though it is made from apples, it is still packed with sugar.

Instead of….try:

  • Instead of green bean casserole, try a green bean salad with vinaigrette.

  • Instead of heavy whipped mashed potatoes, try a lighter sweet potato casserole. (if you are continuing with a plant based diet, use maple syrup instead of honey and Earth Balance butter)

  • Instead of corn kernels doused in butter, try a more nutritious green vegetable.

So now that you have a bunch of healthy tips before the holiday dinners are even here, try your hardest to incorporate some of them. Who knows, maybe you’ll even inspire someone! Hopefully this helps you to not pack on the pounds and have to make yet another weight loss New Year’s resolution.

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