The holiday season is upon us and I’m certain you’re just like me: already indulging in the rich foods abundant this time of year. No need to feel guilty but it’s never too late to start making healthier choices, so I consider this guest post by Tara Alley the perfect holiday gift!
As a culture, our focus surrounding the holidays tends to be centered on food almost more than anything else. While of course we make an effort to spend time with loved ones, the time that we spend with those nearest and dearest to us will be centered around food nearly 99% of the time.
As we near the holiday season of Christmas and New Year’s, there tends to be what I deem the start of the holiday “eat-a-thon.” From the parties to the meals to the extra treats and cookies that we suddenly consider normal simply because it’s the holidays, the dedication it takes to stick to our normal, healthy eating patterns suddenly becomes more difficult and to others, crazy.
But, wouldn’t it be nice if you could simply skate through the holiday seasons with the same nutrition to power you through your day, the good health you’ve been enjoying all year round and the ability to still fit into those skinny jeans come January 1st and be able to dedicate your resolutions to something other than another “diet” or a new gym membership? I, for one, say absolutely yes!
Embracing a healthy lifestyle when it comes to eating, at its core, is for our health. The perks extend far beyond this, as we know, but bottom line: eating is for nutrition to love and care for our bodies. Throwing that to the wind just for the holiday season, in that light, seems foolish. So, if you’re in need of inspiration to beat the desperation of the oncoming onslaught of chocolate cookies and candies and heavy meals that call you out in the name of cozy, comfort food, here are some tips to stay strong!
First things first, the easiest and the hardest: Remembering why you want to eat well this holiday season will power you through and give you more inspiration than anything else I can tell you. Remind yourself however you need to, as much as you need to. Going to a holiday party? Set reminder alarms on your phone with inspirational messages that go off every ½ hour. Do you have a table at home filled with goodies for the rest of the family? Post sticky notes for you where you’ll see them any time you’re tempted to grab that second piece of fudge.
Know Your Trigger Foods
There are treats that all of us love that we can crave, eat one of, and be done. And then there are the trigger foods which we crave, eat one of, and then can’t simply stop until the entire supply is finished. For me, it’s graham crackers. You can give me a gingerbread cookie for a holiday party and I would love it, eat half, and be done. Or, you could give me ½ of a graham cracker and I would scout your house till I found the box and proceeded to eat them all. You have to know your trigger foods and avoid them 100%. It’s that plain and simple. If you’re going to splurge on a treat, then make it something you will enjoy and that will satisfy your craving but that will not make you lose control. It’s just not worth it.
Be the Bearer of Vegetables
Invited to a holiday party or a luncheon or a potluck? You should simply embrace the title of the Bearer of Vegetables right now, and then wear that title proudly, knowing you’re helping yourself and your friends. Spice up veggie trays with a side of your favorite hummus or make a dip using Greek yogurt and some refreshing dill. The yogurt will give you the same consistency as sour cream but without any of the fat and a high dose of protein for some extra filling power. Having veggies on hand at parties gives you something crunchy when you feel the munchies coming on and it also allows you to join the crowd when you’re feeling like the only one in the room not eating. Plus, many vegetables are heavily water-laden and can help fill you up. Think broccoli (91% water) celery and carrots.
Have a Plan
Walk into every party or social event with a plan. Make sure you eat well throughout the day, keeping well filled with water and fiber, and drink a large cup of green tea before you go out. Plan in advance what foods you will eat, how much, and what your limit is for a splurge. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed all month long, come up with a list of safe foods and just eat those for the week, nothing else. It might seem boring, but it’s actually more comforting to have a plan in place. If foods are an “option,” the temptation will always be there to have some or one more helping. If a certain food simply isn’t an option, the temptation is removed completely and you don’t have to think about it, worry about it, or stress about it. It just makes life easier, and I do it all the time. I give myself a list of foods for a week at a time and that’s what I eat.
Learn to Substitute & Get Creative
Sticking to a healthy eating plan doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy holiday foods or treats whatsoever. In fact, take the opportunity of the season as a challenge to get creative with your cooking and baking. Learn the secrets to lightening up traditional favorites. Make healthy swaps where you can like the yogurt for the sour cream. Switch out oil for applesauce. Mashed potatoes for Christmas dinner? Use cauliflower “mashed potatoes” instead. Need your cookies? Swap white flour for ½ wheat, sweeten naturally with fruit like figs and dates. Add nuts for fiber, healthy fat and protein. Instead of cheesy scrambled eeggs for Christmas morning, make a protein packed quiche with egg whites and spinach. You can easily get creative and still enjoy all the flavors that you love about this time of year!
The Christmas season is my favorite of the entire year, and I love the foods, the treats, the smells, all of it! Finding the balance that leaves me feeling comfortable, confident and proud of caring for my body is what motivates me to skip the graham crackers and the candy coated pretzels and indulge in the healthier treats that still feel like the holiday to me. Find what works for you, grab hold of it, and remember, always, why you’re doing what you’re doing!
About the Author
Tara Alley is a full time writer for air-n-water.com and reaches out to write health, food related articles at every opportunity. She has recently embraced the Paleo meal plan and has become an avid fan.
All of these tips are amazing but I really love the last one… healthy living is all about replacing habits with ones that result in more positive outcomes. Screw feeling deprived, so thank you for the reminder, Tara! Dear Readers, will you share your favourite healthy substitutions with us?