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Tips for Staying Healthy During the Holidays

Updated: Aug 22, 2022

Whether it’s the colder temperature, less physical activity, the festive seasonal spirit or simply the craving for warm, comfort (often unhealthy) food, some of us still pack a few extra pounds during this cherished time of year. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Read below for some helpful ideas on how to minimize holiday weight gain and feel healthier and happier when the New Year arrives!

Just Say No to “White Food”

Most holiday gatherings and quite honestly many gatherings all year round are composed of “white foods.” These include white bread, white potatoes, white rice, white chips (potato and corn), white sugar, mayonnaise, white flours, cheese, ice cream, etc. Though these decadent morsels are tasty, they are generally unhealthy as they substantially raise blood sugar compared to complex carbohydrates (vegetables and fruits and some whole grains). In excess, they can cause excess pounds and unwanted stored body fat. They are traditionally part of the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.) which is definitely a sad way to eat all of the time. Many years ago in my 20’s and for most of my childhood, I was addicted to sugar, candy, baked goods, sourdough bread – and couldn’t get enough of them. Every holiday season, I’d overindulge. I’d justify it saying that I ate healthy most of the time and regularly exercised. I always felt terrible, bloated, lethargic and even a bit depressed. I couldn’t understand why I felt so down when I should have been happy and relaxed around family during the holidays. Years later, I would understand that it was from refined carbohydrate overload. Moderate or avoid these “white food” offenders and you will feel better on so many levels!

Dismiss the Desserts

If you reduce must indulge and you likely will (it’s the Holiday of course!), take a small piece of that sugary treat, have a couple of bites, then quickly pass it on to someone who isn’t reading this article (and should be) or simply toss it. Better to waste in the trash than “waste” on your body in the form of body fat, right? Even better if you can make your own dessert with healthier forms of sweeteners like pure maple syrup, honey, molasses, coconut sugar, agave nectar, stevia and more. Cut out the flours and make it flourless using coconut and almond flours. There are literally thousands of reduced sugar and flourless desserts floating around on the internet just waiting to be created, shared and savored by you and your family, friends and colleagues. Recently, I went to a Friends-Giving dinner with some girlfriends and made this healthy dessert recipe (slightly modified as I do with most recipes) – It was a hit! They loved it and asked for the recipe. Simple, tasty, flourless, no white sugar, no baking involved and pleasantly satisfied everyone’s sweet tooth.

Go Green (& Red, Yellow, Orange, Purple)

What rainbow colored foods are low in calories, abundant in phyto-nutrients, vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants and water? Nope, it’s not M&M’s or Christmas cookies. Vegetables and fruits of course! These nutrient dense, power packed, healthy carbohydrates should make up a large percentage of your diet and the holidays are no exception. Fill your belly with dark leafy greens, broccoli, green beans, beets, carrots, apples, berries, purple cabbage and a cornucopia of other colorful produce. Higher in fiber, they are naturally filling and yet slow to metabolize due to the complex carbohydrates. This is much better for your blood glucose levels and avoids hypoglycemia (blood sugar crashes) brought on by refined carbohydrates like white flour, white rice, sugar, potatoes. Most of my close friends and family members know that when I join them at a potluck dinner party (holiday season or not), I typically bring a healthy salad that includes a variety of tasty fresh vegetables and sometimes includes berries. It’s usually one of the healthier options at these parties and the majority of people really enjoy it. Your body will appreciate you for choosing these nutritious carbohydrates instead!

Intermittent Fasting

Quite the trending dietary weight loss and maintenance practice these days! Intermittent fasting is known as cyclic periods of fasting or caloric restriction alternating with non-fasting or eating meals and snacks often in the same day or week. Different than more temporary or food restrictive programs like the Paleo Diet, the Ketogenic Diet or the Whole 30 diet (though all of those are excellent too), intermittent fasting is more of a consistent, long term lifestyle habit that can easily be incorporated into most people’s lives each day, week, month and all year long. There are three main types of intermittent fasting: alternate day fasting, periodic fasting and time restricted feeding. Alternate day fasting involves eating 25% less calories one full waking day and the normal amount of calories (or slightly more) the next day. Periodic Fasting (most commonly 5:2) involves eating 500-600 calories or 25% less calories 2 days a week and the other 5 days you are eating as you normally do. Time Restricted Feeding (most commonly 16:8) involves eating during certain hours of the day like 16 hours of fasting and eating during the 8 hours that you are awake. Time Restricted Feeding seems to be the most common with many of my patients and other people I’ve spoken with. First meal is around 11am or 12pm and you stop eating at 7 or 8pm. Health advantages include weight loss or maintenance, improved insulin resistance (better blood glucose regulation), lowered triglycerides and cholesterol, improved energy, digestion, mood, sleep and many other benefits. During the busy holidays, this is a convenient and fairly straight forward method to keep that scale from rising!

Moderate the Booze

If you knew or remembered how many calories in a glass(es) of wine, cocktails, beer, you might think twice about overindulging. But most people don’t consider that. Why would you when you’re in the company of good, fun people at a holiday gathering? It’s liquid – how heavy and caloric can it be? It is deceiving how truly caloric it is. Alcohol gets converted into sugar and if in excess, gets transformed into triglycerides or fat. Add in dining out at restaurants, holiday parties, potluck gatherings, and now you’ve got a little (or a lotta) belly come January that wasn’t there Pre-Holidays. For every alcoholic beverage, always be sure to drink 1-2 glasses of water and get a good workout in the next day