With the holiday season fast approaching, sticking to your health and nutrition goals can feel next to impossible! From specialty seasonal coffees to extra treats around the office, and of course those holiday parties taking over your calendar, there's just no escaping it! But believe it or not, you can survive this social season without the burden of those extra pounds come January 1. Here are some tips to help you tackle the common culprits and still enjoy your favorite holiday treats!
Don't skip meals to "allow for extra calories later"! While the intention might be good, this will only leave you ravenous and more likely to overindulge. Instead you may want to plan for lighter, healthier meals that day to allow for a little extra indulgence! Think whole grains, lots of fruits and vegetables and lean proteins.
Grab a snack before you head out. This will help keep blood sugars stable and decrease your temptation to gorge. Choose something with some fiber and protein for a bit of sustenance (an apple and 1 oz of cheese, a piece of whole grain bread with nut butter or yogurt with a small piece of fruit.
Bring a healthy option. With all the gatherings, there's never a shortage of rich and decadent treats. Balance it out by making your own chips with baked whole wheat pitas and a homemade salsa or bean dip. Add some spice to traditional veggies and dip with roasted mushrooms, peppers, eggplant and zucchini to accompany a homemade tzatziki (tip: no fat Greek yogurt will give you the creaminess you're after without all that extra fat. No one will know the difference!)
Be a Savvy Sipper
Think before you drink. A single rum and eggnog will set you back a whopping 375 calories and 17 grams of fat (1 oz rum, 8 oz eggnog). A glass of red or white wine might be a wiser choice with only about 120 calories per 5 oz glass. If the holidays aren't the holidays without a little eggnog, limit yourself to one or check out the lightened up version in the recipes below!
Be Master Modifier. Tempted to try the latest seasonal coffee drink? Choose skim milk, skip the whip and try it half sweet! This could save you a whopping 300 calories.
Stay Hydrated. Don't forget about good ol' water or sparkling water (add a splash of lemon or cranberry juice for flavour). Our bodies can mistake thirst for hunger, so staying hydrated may help keep us in check at that buffet table.
Enjoy with Awareness
Be Selective. When you're in a situation with endless choices of goodies, choose a small plate or napkin to help manage portion sizes and then take the time to scan your options before you dive in. Just because it's there doesn't mean you have to eat it! Skip the ones you could live without and choose a couple you'd still be thinking about tomorrow if they were left behind.
Be mindful. Exactly as it sounds, take your time and be aware of the flavours, textures and aromas as you savour these treats. I guarantee this will leave you more satisfied and less likely to go back for more.
Work the Room. Don't stand by the food and graze, take your plate and find a friend across the room. This will prevent you from eating mindlessly and overindulging.
There's no reason why this eventful season has to be all or none. By being mindful and planning ahead, you'll be able to enjoy your favorite treats and leave those extra pounds in the dust along with that fruit cake you never liked anyway!
ALSO ON HUFFPOST:
Eggnog is a traditional holiday treat, but downing a few cups could leave you with a belly rivaling Santa’s. One cup packs about 300 calories — not surprising since the main ingredients are milk, sugar, and eggs. Stir in a little alcohol, and the calorie count goes even higher. If you are going to indulge in eggnog, though, don’t make it yourself, warns Ansel. Buy pasteurized, ready-made eggnog to avoid potential salmonella poisoning.
Try toasting the holiday season with an ounce and a half of cranberry vodka over ice — about 100 calories — instead of a mixed drink. Ansel says to steer clear of cocktails because they have so many calorie-filled ingredients that the calories can really add up. If you are the designated driver or just want to skip the alcohol, opt for sparkling water with a twist of lime.
Warm and gooey baked Brie cheese is hard to pass up on a buffet, but keep walking. Consider this: Just two ounces pack 190 calories and 16 grams of fat. Ansel advises politely declining crackers and cheese as well. “Stick with high-protein, low-fat appetizers,” she says. Consider eating a low-fat snack before a holiday party, so you’re not starving when you get there and can avoid over-indulging in holiday food.
Here’s a lavish splurge you can savour without guilt. “Shrimp are super-low in calories and high in protein," Ansel says, adding that 10 shrimp are just 50 calories and 9 grams of protein. Protein is digested slowly and will keep you full so you’ll eat less overall and take in fewer calories, she explains. Here’s another smart tip for eating during the holidays: Don’t socialize near the buffet table so you won’t be tempted to nibble constantly as you chat.
Turkey is poultry, so it’s low in fat, right? Not if you eat the dark meat. “It’s packed with fat and calories,” says Ansel. Consider this: A turkey thigh has 493 calories and 27 grams of fat. “That’s more than you’d get from a slice of pumpkin pie,” Ansel notes. Another tip to avoid overeating and that uncomfortable stuffed feeling is to wait at least 10 minutes before you go back to the holiday buffet for a second helping — after waiting a few minutes, you might even decide to pass on the seconds.
A holiday ham is a much leaner option. “It has just 140 calories and 7 grams of fat per three- ounce serving,” says Ansel. That’s about the size of a tin of Altoids or a deck of cards. However, keep in mind that choosing ham with a pineapple sauce or a sweet glaze could undo your healthy choice. Suggests Ansel, “I’d skip them — they’re probably laden with sugar.”
Reaching for a spoonful (or two) or a thick slice of cranberry sauce to accompany your turkey? While this traditional favourite may sound like a healthy holiday food choice, you should beware of this dish. “Those tart cranberries need lots of sugar to sweeten them up,” Ansel explains. Just a quarter-cup of traditional cranberry sauce has 104 calories.
If you want some sweet fruit flavour to liven up your holiday plate, there's a healthier way to get it. Try dumping the cranberry sauce and putting some applesauce next to your turkey (just make sure it’s the unsweetened kind). A quarter-cup weighs in at only 25 calories.
“All desserts are not created equal,” says Ansel. What’s the worst offender? Delicious, but often decadent, holiday pie. “The crust is loaded with butter or shortening,” she warns. And the worst choice of all is pecan pie — it contains more than 500 calories and 27 grams of fat per slice. And that’s before you add on any ice cream or whipped cream topping.
“Go with small, bite-sized chocolate desserts,” advises Ansel. A piece of fudge comes in at 70 calories and a two-inch brownie contains 110 calories. That little shot of sugar might be enough to satisfy your sweet tooth at the end of the meal. You don’t have to deprive yourself during the holidays, but remember that just a few smart choices may make the bathroom scale a lot less frightening come New Year’s Day.
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