By Alicia Kaluza, MS, RD, LN, and Katie Delaney, RD, Take Control Health Coaches
The holiday season is fast approaching, which may lead to overindulging on holiday treats, and challenge your health-related goals. Instead of veering off course, we challenge you to implement some or all of the 10 tips below to navigate the season a little easier, and stay on track.
Tip #1: Don’t deprive yourself with impossible restrictions around holiday foods. Instead be smart and focus on fueling your body with good foods through the holiday season while still allowing some of your favorites. Swearing off foods usually spells disaster, so instead, make a list of the foods you look forward to every season and plan for them.
Tip #2: Come prepared. While we all have traditional dishes we make, try adding in a few healthier side dishes to bring to a party or at your home. That way you can embrace tradition and your health goals in a great way that all your friends and family can enjoy as well.
Tip #3: Beat temptation by eating a protein-rich snack prior to a party. Focus on filling up your plate with fruits and vegetables, and analyze the rest of the options. This goes back to not depriving yourself, but finding balance. If you find one of the foods on your favorites list, go for it! Then enjoy some healthier options to help you stay on track.
Tip #4: Set realistic weight goals. If you set monthly weight loss goals, consider setting a goal of simply maintaining your current weight during the holiday season. That, in itself, is a huge accomplishment for the majority of us. Or, try reducing your weekly or monthly weight loss goal to help you feel on track without setting yourself up for failure. We all want to meet our goals, but we also want to acknowledge the ebb and flow of life, which helps us create healthy and sustainable change.
Tip #5: Find fun and unique ways to stay active through the winter months. For example, use things in your environment like chairs, soup cans, or other household items to create a home gym for cold, snowy days. Focus on 10 minutes a day to keep your habit going.
Tip #6: Celebrate yourself and what you have accomplished each month, even if it doesn’t feel like it. Holiday season often brings stress, fatigue and “winter blues.” Make sure you hydrate, rest, and practice stress management to keep yourself healthy through the cold season.
Tip #7: Don’t skip meals. If you find yourself saving up for a big holiday meal by skipping all other meals for the day, you will likely overeat in the end. Instead, focus on eating balanced meals every 3-4 hours during the day, like a usual day.
Tip #8: Be cautious with liquid calories. From eggnog, hot chocolate, to your favorite rum toddy, holiday beverage treats should be thought of as just that, a treat. Do not deny yourself, however, be mindful, even though it is liquid, it still has calories. If you are going to fill up on a holiday drink, cut back on holiday desserts.
Tip #9: Take the focus off food. Instead of making cookies and other holiday treats, plan to make or create holiday crafts with family and friends. Or how about volunteering at a local organization to help them prepare holiday gifts for those in need? Some families like to create holiday memories with family skiing or sledding, ice skating, or other active events.
Tip #10: Practice healthy holiday cooking and treats. Prepare your favorite holiday dishes with these healthy suggestions:
- Pumpkin: not only for carving, but a great option to use as a substitute for fat when baking or cooking. Use canned or pie pumpkins, not field pumpkins. Save the pumpkin seeds and roast for a nice snack.
- Baked apples: instead of the usual chocolate treats, try baking some apple slices.
- Gravy redux: refrigerate gravy until hard, and skim off the fat. This could save you up to 56 grams of fat per cup!
- Turkey: remove the skin to save about 11 grams of saturated fat per 3 oz serving.
- Green bean casserole: use fresh beans or frozen (not canned) and add chunks of potato instead of cream soup, top with almonds instead of fried onion rings.
- Mashed potatoes: use skim milk, chicken broth, garlic and garlic powder along with parmesan cheese instead of whole milk and butter.
- Quick Holiday Nog: four bananas, 1 ½ cups skim milk or soymilk, 1 ½ cups plain nonfat yogurt (could use Greek), ¼ teaspoon rum extract, and ground nutmeg. Blend all ingredients except nutmeg. Puree until smooth, top with nutmeg.
- Desserts: Make crustless pies, substitute two egg whites for each whole egg in baked recipes. Replace heavy cream with evaporated skim milk in cheesecakes and cream pies. Top cakes with fresh fruit, fruit sauce, or sprinkle with powdered sugar.