15 Healthy Eating Tips for the Holidays

November 27, 2019

15 Healthy Eating Tips for the Holidays

Happy Thanksgiving beautiful friends!

 

Preparing Thanksgiving dinner and getting ready for the holidays reminds me of a story that makes me laugh every time. Do you remember when the “Spiralized Honey Baked Ham” first came out and was available through mail order?  You’re probably not old enough, but if you happen to be around my age, you’ll probably remember. It was the eighties and my husband Wes and I were newlyweds. We had invited my sister and her boyfriend to spend Thanksgiving weekend with us in our studio apartment in St. Louis. I was so excited to be serving this amazing delicacy and to not have to do anything besides buy a pie and make some side dishes to go with it. As the weekend approached and Wednesday afternoon turned into Wednesday evening, I had faith that the UPS guy was just busy and that our special delivery would come late, perhaps before grocery store closing hours.

 

Our visitors arrived on Thursday morning and all grocery stores were now closed! I can laugh now, but it was not funny then, especially when the ham showed up a month later on a sunny Friday afternoon, bloated and menacing, in that supposedly vacuum-sealed pack, which now resembled an oversized basketball!

 

The holidays are a funny time of year. We go to extremes to please our guests and family who visit from out of town. Some of us look forward to the hustle and bustle and others dread everything the holidays represent, but one question that always comes up is: How can I eat healthy during the holidays? More specifically, how can I eat healthy and not gain weight during a time when all roads seem to lead to a two to five-pound weight gain?  We’re all familiar with that holiday eating that leaves us foggy-brained, fatigued, bloated, and feeling like we need to hibernate until Spring.

 

But it doesn’t have to be that way! You can have your turkey and enjoy it, too. Here are 15 ways to help you stay on track and stay slim and trim during this jolly time of year:

 

  1. Focus on making progress; not on being perfect. Perfect will keep your stuck and frustrated every time. The key is to focus on one thing you will do this holiday season to get healthy and stick with it! You will see what a difference changing one habit can make for your health! Read on; all you need to do is choose ONE habit to change.
  2. Set a movement goal for yourself. Exercise sounds exhausting. On a gloomy, grey and rainy day, the last thing on your mind is exercise! Instead tell yourself you’re going to move for 5-10 minutes per day. Set a timer and march in place while you watch TV or talk on the phone. Play two favorite songs and start dancing! Start doing lunges and squats and don’t stop until your timer goes off. Then assess the feeling and write it down! Stay with the feeling and be mindful of how you feel. This is key: Remembering why you’re doing the activity in the first place. Pretty soon you will be going outside, seeking that feeling of renewed energy.
  3. Eat a breakfast that includes whole foods. These will leave you satisfied and not looking for the next sugar-laden donut that crosses in front of you at the office. If you include protein (eggs, nuts, meat, beans, fish, poultry), fiber (fruits, vegetables, nuts) and wholesome fats (avocado, ghee, olive oil, nut butters) you will notice sweets are not a huge temptation anymore. We tend to crave sugar when we’ve had a big intake of refined flour and/or sugar for breakfast. The typical American breakfast is full of sugar in the form of processed flours and refined sugar.
  4. Follow the same guidelines for lunch and dinner. Protein, fiber and fat are your mantra. Spend a little time thinking of what you will eat next and continue to focus on eating whole foods for each meal.
  5. Eat before you go to the next festivity. This way, when you walk through the door and someone places a glass of wine in your hand, your body will be ready to receive it. No matter how long it takes for the host to serve dinner, you’re ready and able to make good food choices.
  6. Choose to eat one serving of dessert, only after you’ve had a good meal. Feeling satisfied, you will eat less sugar than if you were to eat dessert on an empty stomach. We’re going for blood sugar regulation here. If your blood sugar is stable, you will make better food choices and your weight will stabilize.
  7. Prioritize sleep. Sleep and blood sugar regulation are key for regulating your body weight and health. One way to regulate your sleep is to start the night before. The goal is to get 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Pay attention to that moment when you first start to feel drowsy and start to fight sleep. That’s your clue to start getting ready for bed. Instead of fighting sleep this time, “Catch the wave!” and head to bed as soon as that wave of sleepiness hits you. Be sure your room is very dark and there are no lights distracting you from deep sleep.
  8. Practice mindful eating. Focus on eating slowly, chewing carefully and appreciating the food that your get to enjoy. We are not what we eat; we are what we can eat, digest, and absorb. Mindful eating will help you assimilate the food you eat so your body can utilize the nutrients better.
  9. Increase vegetable intake. Most people don’t eat enough vegetables. The latest nutrition research shows that our gut bacteria hold the key to our overall health. They need to be fed and they thrive when we provide them with a variety of vegetables, including roots and tubers, leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, and mushrooms. If you can look at your plate and see that at least half of it is covered with colorful vegetables, you’re on your way to improved health.
  10. Track food portion sizes. It’s important to eat enough to feel 5/6 full and to leave some room to feel satisfied after you move away from the table. Ask yourself if you might be eating more than usual because it’s the holidays. Be honest with yourself and focus on nourishing your body, not eating until you’re uncomfortable. This goes back to mindful eating; if you are present in the moment while eating, you will notice when you are at a content level of fullness versus stuffing yourself.
  11. Control your stress level. When we feel stressed and start eating to comfort our internal feelings, we embark on a cycle that’s very difficult to break. If you find yourself eating to soothe your stress, remember that exercise will change your brain chemicals instead. Start moving and allow yourself a gap of time between the time you experience a craving and the time you actually reach for the food you’re craving. Use exercise or meditation to help you gain control. Eat whole foods and stay away from processed foods. If this is something you’re struggling with, and this is not working for you, remember it’s ok to seek coaching from a trained professional who can guide and support you on this path.
  12. Bring food to parties. When you get invited to a celebration or a party, bring food you can eat and share with others. This will help you ensure you can have wholesome food with the people you love.
  13. Limit alcohol. Excessive alcohol intake will always sabotage your best eating efforts because it stimulates digestive secretions and makes you hungry.  If you want to make a difference in your health and turn toward a whole foods diet, limiting alcohol intake to no more than 3 drinks per week is crucial. Alcohol has been linked to every chronic disease we see today, including Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. If you’re struggling to decrease alcohol intake, start by decreasing the number of drinks you have each day and do it slowly.
  14. Seek accountability. Reach out to a friend to help you stay accountable to reach your goals. There are also a number of apps available to help with your accountability. I like the Habit app, which allows you to add one habit at a time and it calculates how you’re doing with your goal. Other apps will involve friends and family; it all depends on what your goals are and how serious you are about changing your habits. Tony Robbins said: “You cannot manage something you don’t track,” and I agree wholeheartedly. Once the behavior you are working on becomes habitual, you can stop tracking.
  15. Focus on gratitude. Suffering is part of life. We all suffer from time to time to various degrees. It is our nature as human beings to suffer and to try to avoid suffering. However, it is in the suffering that the greatest growth happens. Gratitude in the suffering is a great antidote to the pain. When you turn to gratitude and focus on what you’re experiencing, you will see the window open up a bit and then the door will swing wide open. Don’t give up! Get addicted to gratitude and find yourself in a beautiful place of growth!

 

These strategies are all designed to help you avoid weight gain during the holidays, but they also apply to any other time of year. They are timeless principles that we can apply anytime, however, if this is difficult for you and you would like to seek coaching around improving your health, please reach out to me at monica@nourishedfn.com. I’d love to help your reach your goals.

 

 Guilt Free Baked Apple Dessert

 

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Serves: 8

Ingredients:

5 Granny Smith apples, thinly sliced

1-2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Lemon zest from one lemon

1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon

1 pinch nutmeg

1 Tbsp. coconut sugar or locally sourced honey

½ cup chopped walnuts

¼ cup fresh cranberries

2 Tbsp. grass-fed ghee

 

Coconut ice cream or coconut whipped topping (optional)

 Preparation:

  1. Set oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix apple slices with lemon and lemon zest.
  3. Add ground cinnamon, nutmeg and coconut sugar or honey. Mix well.
  4. Place apples in a pie pan and bake for 15 minutes.
  5. Take dessert out of the oven and spread nuts, cranberries and ghee on top.
  6. Place back in the oven for 5 minutes.
  7. Serve warm with coconut ice cream or coconut whipped topping.

If you found this blog helpful, please share it with a friend. You can find me on Instagram @monica.paz.nourished or on my website at www.nourishedfunctionalnutrition.com

Know someone who could benefit from this information?  Use the Social links below to share with friends and family. To receive my blog posts and immediate FREE access to my downloadable resources collection packed with wellness and nutrition insights, subscribe to my newsletter "The Nourished News" by clicking the button below.  

Yours in wellness,

- Monica

Monica Paz, MS, CN, FNLP




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