People often cringe when they strike up a conversation with me this time of year and I tell them what I do. Simply uttering the word “nutrition” triggers thoughts of hunger, deprivation and the certain ruin of all holiday fun. I laugh a little inside because I remember feeling like that too and thinking that eating healthy meant chewing on celery and carrots all day. No thanks!
But the truth is, you DO NOT have to deprive yourself or miss out on the holiday fun to make good choices and feel your best! By practicing what I call “Strategic Indulgence”, you can enjoy the holidays, guilt-free and avoid waking up on January 1st thinking “What have I done?!”
As a classically trained chef and former pastry chef, I love delicious food and am adamantly against eating anything bland or boring. I also struggled with weight and eating disorders for over a decade so I’m all too familiar with the pitfalls of calorie restriction and deprivation. Extremes are neither healthy nor sustainable so if we’re going to achieve a sustain-ably healthy lifestyle, we need to find a happy balance between eating clean most of the time and enjoying the occasional indulgence.
Enjoying decadent holiday meals on Thanksgiving and Christmas day isn’t to blame for that extra 10 pounds come January. It’s the accumulation of all the sweets, snacks and extra alcohol we consume before and after the big holidays that end up sabotaging us, so below I’m sharing my top 5 tips for “Strategic Indulgence” to help you navigate and emerge from the holidays unscathed.
- Don’t skip meals or let yourself get too hungry.
- Eat 3-5 nutrient-dense meals each day and keep healthy snacks on hand. If you let yourself get too hungry it will be extra tough to say no to junk food.
- Plan your day. If your holiday meal is in the early afternoon, eat a satisfying breakfast and have a small midday snack that includes protein, lots of veggies and some healthy fats. This will help you feel satisfied and avoid overeating later in the day.
- Eat Mindfully & Strategically
- Eat slowly, chew well, and take time to experience your food. Pay close attention to your food – the taste, smell and texture – and savor every bite. Often when we overeat it’s because we’re not actually enjoying our food, we’re just mindlessly shoveling it in and then we’re left unsatisfied.
- By chewing well you’ll digest your food better and be less likely to feel gassy and bloated afterwards.
- Eat your veggies first, then protein, then have any starches (including starchy vegetables like potatoes and winter squash) and/or sweets. Vegetables are loaded with skin-loving antioxidants and minerals. They are also high in fiber which helps you feel fuller faster and less likely to overdo it with the empty calorie foods.
- Don’t deprive yourself, but don’t bother with foods that you don’t really love.
- Don’t deprive yourself, but don’t waste your time and calories with foods that you don’t really, really love. Junky sweets are nothing special, so hold out for that amazing pie or crumble that you would only eat this time of year.
- Drink Smart – This is a big one!
- Drinking enough water is crucial for plump, glowing skin so shoot for drinking half your weight in ounces of water daily. Sipping H2O also curbs sugar cravings, prevents headaches, and will help you stay alert and energized all day.
- Just like I recommended with coffee in my last post, don’t drink alcohol on an empty stomach. Your blood sugar will spike and you’ll end up fatigued and craving junk food.
- Limit yourself to one drink per day and make it a good one. Choose a really special, expensive glass of wine or scotch, or whatever you prefer and savor every sip. If you do have more than one drink, have a full cup of water in between each one and make sure you’ve eaten something nutritious.
- We all enjoy a cocktail now and then, especially during the holidays when we are celebrating or want to relax and wind down. But drinking more than 1 serving of alcohol actually increases stress hormone production, disrupting your sleep patterns and leaving you more tired and stressed the next day. Excess alcohol also increases fat storage, accelerates aging and dehydrates the skin L.
- Opt for lower sugar drinks. Dry red wine, or vodka or gin with soda are your best bets. If like me you love a delicious craft cocktail now and then, stick to one and limit or eliminate other sources of sugar.
- If you want a drink in your hand but don’t want the alcohol, order a “mocktail”. Sparkling water garnished with lemon, lime or a twist is a great way to go, but beware of fruit juice since it’s basically pure sugar.
- Get right back on track
- Don’t allow one holiday meal or party to turn into a whole weekend or month of binge eating or overindulgence. Give away any tempting leftover foods that don’t serve you well and jump right back into eating clean the next day.
Give these simple tricks a try and share with us what you found most helpful. Stay tuned for upcoming tips on minimizing stress and maximizing your workouts in minimal time.
Jeannie Oliver is a certified Holistic Nutrition and Wellness Coach, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Personal Trainer and classically trained chef. She develops individualized strategies for her clients, empowering them to reshape their relationship with food, feel great about their bodies and transform their lives – deliciously!