The weeks leading up to Christmas and New Year's are filled with lots of food festivities and socializing. Whether it's dining out, going to a holiday party, or seeing treats everywhere, from the office to the candy jar at your favorite store, the holiday season really puts our willpower to the test. However, with some planning, and simple tips, there is no reason why you can't come out healthier -- and maybe even a few pounds thinner -- than you were before.
Here are some tips that I've successfully used with clients in my nutrition counseling practice. Even if you just incorporate a few of them into your daily routine, you are taking a step in the right direction, and by the new year, these small steps may develop into full-fledged habits.
1. Eat structured meals.
Skipping meals often leads to overeating. I've had many clients rationalize that they can nibble on treats because they skipped lunch. I guarantee that you will probably end up eating far more calories in these so called "treats." Skipping meals also leaves you hungry, so you are often inclined to eat just about anything you can get your hands on when you arrive at a holiday party. I suggest eating well-balanced meals with some protein and fiber to help keep your blood sugar steady. Yogurt with fruit in the morning and a salad with grilled chicken or beans for lunch can certainly sustain you and also leave some room in your tummy for your favorite treat here or there.
2. Pack a healthy snack.
This is the season for running around, shopping, and going all morning or afternoon without much of a break. You may be hungry before your evening festivities. To avoid making the wrong choices when you get to a holiday event, pack a healthy snack before you head out for the afternoon. A piece of fruit and string cheese, a yogurt with an apple, or a single-serving of nuts make great choices to keep your hunger at bay.
3. Indulge in favorite treats sparingly and watch your portions.
This is not the time to totally ban your favorite holiday treats. In fact, I have never been a fan of entirely omitting your favorite foods, unless you have no idea how to portion control them. The important message is to choose a treat you love and savor it. For example, if you are at a holiday dessert buffet, do a lap around to check out the selections, and pick a reasonable portion of the one dessert you enjoy most. No need to skip starches entirely either; a cup of brown rice, quinoa, or butternut squash can certainly fit into a well-planned diet.
4. Stay hydrated.
Drinking enough water will keep you hydrated. So often, we think we are hungry, when we really are just thirsty. When I say stay hydrated, I recommend water or seltzer or herb tea. Fruits and veggies with high water content also count toward fluid. However, skip the soda, and go easy on alcohol, which will just dehydrate you even more. As I previously blogged on HuffPost, develop the healthy habit of limiting liquid calories.
5. Include plenty of fruits and veggies.
Incorporating my two favorite food groups into your eating routine will enable you to get nutrients to keep you healthy (vitamin C, beta carotene, and potassium) and fiber which will help you to feel full. Plus, fruits and veggies do not have too many calories. And what I like best is: If you eat more fruits and veggies, you may just end up eating less of the more fattening treats.
6. Stick to your exercise routine.
I know you are busy at this time of year. Keeping to your exercise regimen, however, will help you keep your weight in check, and may even prompt you to make healthier food choices. Center yourself with a yoga class to help you be more mindful or grab in a morning run which doesn't take too much time out of your day.
7. Don't fret.
If you overate today, don't fret about it. Tomorrow is a new day, and get back on track without calling yourself "bad." After all, food should never define us as people. Also, no one gained 20 pounds overnight. Weight gain occurs from a steady accumulation of overeating. So if you ate too much today, eat a little less tomorrow, and get back on track.
We would love to hear your healthy holiday tips. Happy holidays!