Starting with Thanksgiving, the holiday season gives us reason (or an excuse) to celebrate and indulge. Some of us are great at managing the amount of celebrating we do, and some of us are not so good. The worst, however, is waking up the day after New Year’s, dumbfounded as to how we gained ten pounds in a month and a half. If you are hoping to avoid this scenario, be proactive! Here’s a plan to help you enjoy, while not overdoing it:
- 6:1 Weekly Calendar. Create a holiday event calendar where non-event days are color-coded light blue and event days are color-coded bright red and weeks with multiple events bright yellow. Events include extended family dinners, work and social parties, and happy hours. When possible, aim to have no more than one “event” a week…or a 6:1 ratio of healthy days to indulgent days.
- Plan for the 5:2 or more Weeks: Weeks that are at higher ratios than the 6:1, can cause us to “blend” one celebration into another, and before you know it, we eat as though every day is a holiday…with or without an event to attend. When you have these weeks do the following:
- Exercise: Exercise an extra 20 minutes each day you exercise and add in an extra day of activity. Also, walk as much as possible to get where you are going. This will help burn off extra calories consumed.
- Non-Event Day Nutrition: On non-event days, drink protein shakes for breakfast and lunch (try the apple banana and the berry shake recipes). They are high in fiber and other nutrients, but will help you keep your digestive tract in working order to keep waste moving through your system. Have a sensible dinner of salad and some lean protein. And, when eating snacks between meals, stick with vegetables and fruit.
- Event Day Nutrition: Do the same as on non-event days, but skip snacks. Right before your event, however, drink two glasses of water (16 oz) and eat a snack that is well-balanced with healthy fat, fiber and protein (E.g., an apple and a quarter cup of nuts). This will help you avoid extreme hunger at the event.
- At Events. Indulge with purpose and in the things that are worth it. Decide want you want to indulge in before the party – alcohol…dessert…chips – so that you can keep yourself in check from over-indulging. Meanwhile, fill-up on things you know to be healthy, leaving little room for unhealthier foods. Here is a good order in which to eat:
- Fibrous Vegetables (leafy greens, carrots, cucumber, peppers, celery, onions, etc.): High in fiber and low in calories. The more you eat before consuming other food, the better.
- Lean Protein (turkey, fish, chicken, ham, lean red meat): Protein helps fill you up so that you aren’t left feeling hungry later. Further, lean proteins aren’t as high in fat as those that aren’t lean.
- Starchy Vegetables (potatoes, yams, corn, peas): These are higher in calories than fibrous vegetables. So eat in small amounts. Avoid creamed starches (such as creamed corn) or those that contain butter (such as mashed potatoes). Opt for baked instead.
- Fruit: For dessert, look for those that are made with real-fruit which has tons of vitamins and minerals, and fiber…all good for you!
- Snacks, Sweets and Alcohol: These are highest in empty calories…so aim to eat these last or in the smallest amounts! Try splitting pieces of cake with another person. Stand away from the foods you know are bad. And, aim to drink alcohol in moderation (one to two drinks per event or day).
As you experience the holiday season, enjoy! Don’t obsess about weight gain, just be smart about your habits and choices!