Get a lot out of this season without bringing home any extra pounds
The holidays can wreak havoc on any well-intentioned diet. With an abundance of holiday gatherings, family get-togethers, and treats around every corner of the office, it’s increasingly difficult to leave the cookies for Santa and reach for the reindeer’s carrots instead. An awareness of your diet and how you might handle the extra temptation this holiday season can have you coming into the New Year without bringing extra weight with you.
The holidays are synonymous with parties and parties usually mean an abundance of food and beverages outside of your daily norm. While it may seem counterintuitive, don’t go to a party hungry. Fill up on a healthy dinner or satisfying snacks before you find yourself parked next to the dessert table with a big appetite.
“I think the biggest mistake people make is under-eating the day before a big dinner or event, says Jillian Triggs, registered holistic nutritionist and certified nutritional practitioner of North Shore Nutritionist.It may be tempting to skip lunch if you know you’re bound to fill up at a big family gathering later that evening but it’s actually a recipe for weight gain that no one wants to pass down through generations.
“For example, someone might normally eat around 2,100 calories daily, split into three 700 calorie meals, but on the day of an event they will eat only 600 calories during the entire day, and attempt to have the remaining calories at dinner (including drinks and dessert). This never really works out, and we always end up over-eating. It is important to eat normally during the day so that we do not arrive at a function feeling ravenous.”
“I encourage my clients to eat fibrous meals with lots of protein to help keep them full,” Triggs says.
The office party – or perhaps every day at the office during the holidays – can be dangerous to any healthy thinking. With sweets popping up in the lunch room and leftover party treats making their appearance daily, it seems harmless to finish your prepacked salad with a little dessert. Don’t let it be a daily occurrence by sticking to only your favourites or limiting your treats to once a week.
Triggs suggests keeping a food journal as one way to avoid too many poor choices around the holiday season.
“Quite often it is easy to forget all the little snacks and treats we pick at during the day. Keeping track of everything we eat helps to keep us accountable and make wiser choices…because no one wants to write down that they polished off a plate of brownies and a jar of M&Ms.”
It’s a tough lesson to learn no matter the season but controlling your cravings can help improve your health throughout the year. Giving in to any – and every – indulgence is a quick way to pack on the pounds. Instead, give yourself 15-20 minutes before you succumb to a sweet treat. Dive deep into a good conversation, start in on a new project at work or take a walk around the party to distance yourself from what may have been making your mouth water. You may forget about your craving entirely or realize that resisting will be better for you in the end. If you’re still drooling over the dessert table, grab a sweet but cut it into smaller portions.
“I find that most people’s diets contain too many processed foods, most of which are completely void of fibre,” says Triggs, suggesting a high fibre diet as a way to help control cravings. “Increasing the amount of fibre in our diets can help to keep us stay full and keep blood sugar balanced. Quite often we crave sugars when our blood sugar is low. It is much easier to stay on track and eat less sweets when we are not constantly craving sugar.”
Filling your diet with nutrient-rich foodsprovides your body with many benefits, especially come party time. Potassium counterbalances sodium, meaning you’ll retain less water so try eating foods like bananas, strawberries and kiwis to offset the added salt that often comes with meals out or seasonal dinners.
Unnecessary calories are often hidden in alcoholic or sugary drinks. “I think [a] mistake people make is forgetting about liquid calories. Quite often the calories we drink add up to more than the calories we eat,” cautions Triggs. “The biggest culprits: mixed drinks with juice bases, punch, margaritas and other fruity beverages.”
Cut back on the amount of beverages you consume and opt for sparkling water after you’ve indulged in one of your holiday favourites.
And, incidentally, the most important drinking you do during the holiday season should involve water. Our water consumption plays a very valuable role in our weight loss, gain and maintenance.
“When we are thirsty we often think we are hungry,” says Triggs. “We may feel dizzy and lightheaded, both of which are symptoms of hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) and thirst. Sometimes we will reach to food thinking we are experiencing hunger, when really we are dehydrated.”
Getting the suggested amount of water, especially on days when you have an event, will help lessen the temptation to overeat. Includefoods in your diet that are rich in water, like green salads, to help meet your recommended daily dose of H20.
“Being dehydrated also leads to a loss in power output. Even a loss as little as 2 percent can lead to decreased exercise performance. This means that we will not be able to work as hard during our workouts, and therefore will not burn as many calories. It is important to keep hydrated during workouts,” says Triggs.
Just as exercise is important when you’re not as tempted to eat out or eat a lot, it’s essential to staying on track in the seasonal months. By starting your day off with a workout, you are more likely to move more during the day while making better choices. Deep fried foods or creamy drinks won’t seem so appealing once you’ve worked up a sweat for the day. It also helps to burn off the additional calories you’re bound to consume at least once over the holiday hustle.
A long buffet table or a full calendar of events may have you salivating at the thought of filling your plate every chance you get. To avoid regretting too many unhealthy decisions, being choosey when it comes to what your put on your plate will benefit you far past the end of party season.
“When tackling a buffet, always do a walk by first,” suggests Triggs. “See what foods are offered before piling up your plate. Make a choice about which foods you will enjoy most and stick to those.”
Opt out of anything mediocre to your taste buds and enjoy your indulgences in moderation.
Don’t be afraid to say no. Trying a bite of everyone’s dish at the office potluck might seem like the polite thing to do but you’re really only sacrificing your own health. The more you practice saying no, the easier it will become and the happier your waist line will be.
If you’re the one hosting the party, a fridge full of leftovers can be just as tempting as granny’s dessert table. Send guests home with containers so they don’t linger in your fridge leaving you to overindulge long after the party is over.
“In my opinion life is all about finding balance,” says Triggs. “I try to encourage my clients to eat healthy whole foods (unprocessed) most of the time, and have the occasional “not so healthy” meal. I find that being too strict leads to things like binge eating and a lot of guilt. So, yes, eating a healthy diet for the most part and enjoying a seasonal treat every once in a while is totally fine.”
While you should certainly let yourself enjoy your social gatherings, don’t let them become the reason you gain weight this holiday season.