As the holidays are fast approaching we are all caught up in the excitement and joy of the season. Suddenly there are so many gatherings; office parties, family dinners and friends getting together to celebrate the season. This is a very challenging time of year to maintain your weight and to not put any weight on at all. Most people will gain weight over the holidays.
There is simply such an emphasis on food that it is nearly impossible not to do so. And more than weight gain is the often very unhealthy food choices that also occur which can ultimately affect our good health. Most of the foods revolve around high levels of sugar, salt and fat. There are several strategies that you can incorporate to help you stay not only healthy but fit during the holiday season.
Yes, you will be overwhelmed by the amount of cakes, cookies and assorted sweets that seem to be everywhere. You should definitely enjoy yourself and indulge in the pleasures of these delicacies. However you need to learn to exercise portion control. There are many ways to enjoy these foods without going overboard. If you are preparing some of these foods you can substitute some of the traditional ingredients for more healthy lower sugar choices. For example, you can cut the amount of sugar you use in a recipe by more than half by adding the additional ingredients of cinnamon or vanilla. This will add the extra sweetness factor that the recipe needs to taste just as good. Traditional toppings such as frostings can easily be replaced with fresh fruit.
This same principle can be applied to the amount of salt you consume. Many condiments are loaded with high salt content. You can easily substitute some of these condiments with various herbs and flavored vinegar. Also look for lower sodium versions of these favorite condiments.
There are numerous ways to lower the amount of fat in holiday dishes. When making gravies you can use low fat milk instead of cream. Look for lighter versions of various oils such as extra light virgin olive oil.
Some More Easy Substitutions:
For stuffing you can reduce the amount of bread used by using more chopped vegetables such as celery and onions as well as cranberries and apples for an extra burst of flavor. Add chicken broth to dressing for extra moisture. Chill gravy after preparing it and then scoop the fat content off the top before reheating and serving. You can prepare a delicious skinless turkey breast and cut out 11 grams of fat per serving by doing so. The traditional green bean casserole can be topped with almonds instead of the usual fried onion rings. When preparing mashed potatoes do not use cream and butter. Instead use low fat milk and chicken broth. The heavy cream used in egg nog can be substituted with soy-milk and yogurt and be just as delicious.
It is not realistic to expect to go on a diet during the holidays. You goal should be to maintain your weight and not over indulge and put on extra pounds. You should not try to skip meals in an effort to be able to eat more later. This is not an effective technique for weight stability. Always make sure you have eaten adequately before an evening holiday gathering. Nibbling on some fresh fruit before leaving will help keep your appetite in check. When you arrive take a good look at the food choices available to you, particularly if it is being served buffet style. Try to focus on what you like best and eat only those choices along with a healthy side serving of vegetables to also fill you up more quickly. Sit down and enjoy your meal. Don’t try to eat too quickly. Make it more of a social experience as you savor your favorite holiday treats. Listen to your body’s cues that it is feeling satisfied and do not push it to the point of feeling stuffed.
Don’t Forget Exercise:
With the business of the holidays many of us simply fail to continue to exercise. We have so many excuses for doing so such as being too busy or feeling like it is okay to take a break from your routine. Although this is fine, you want to be careful not to extend the break for too long and then become complacent towards exercise. In fact, this is the ideal time to recommit to an exercise program in that it will help you to refocus your energies onto healthy habits in your life. Exercise will also increase your metabolism which will help you to avoid putting on those holiday pounds. It is also a stress releaser which is a big problem for many people at this time of year. With New Year’s resolutions around the corner why not get a jump start and put those resolutions into reality by beginning a healthy and consistent exercise routine.
Limit Alcoholic Beverages:
Yes, holiday drinking is a tradition. There are simply likely no gatherings that do not include a festive array of holiday drink choices. Of course it is important to not over drink for the obvious reasons of it being unhealthy and potentially unsafe. However, you may also fail to realize how high in calories these alcoholic beverages can be. One mixed drink can be more calories than an entire meal. So choose your drink choices wisely and limit the portions to a reasonable amount. Additionally drinking too much lends itself naturally to overeating, another reason to be more moderate in your consumption.
Mind over Matter:
The holidays can actually be a good time for you to think about what the true meaning of the season is. We are all so used to be focused on what we can receive at this time of year, whether from delicious foods or expensive presents. However you can choose to reflect on other ways to enjoy the season by thinking about what you can contribute to others. For example, many people use this time of year to give back to the community and to those less fortunate than themselves.
There are so many wonderful organizations and projects that you can get involved with that short term commitments. For example, volunteering at a food bank or shelter to serve holiday meals is a wonderful way to instill a different meaning to your season. This does not mean you shouldn’t enjoy the holidays with family and friends. You should have happy times and build lasting memories. By learning to create more balance in life you can easily control your eating habits during the holidays and perhaps arrive in the New Year a healthier and more fulfilled you.