Staying On Track During the Holidays

Ok everyone, so the holidays are upon us… rushing to get gifts, dealing with in-laws, planning family meals, sweets, cookies, candies and desserts lurking around every corner can spell disaster for anyone trying to maintain or get to a healthy weight. This does not mean that healthy eating goes out the window. With a little discipline and some simple planning, we can all make it through this holiday season without losing “the battle of the BULGE”. Here are some tips:

Don’t Cut Corners

Don’t skip meals in preparation for the big holiday meal. This is a great way to set yourself up to overeat. When you go long periods of time without eating (3-4 hours) your body goes into a mini-starvation state. Your body believes it is starving and has a number of physiological strategies to keep you going. Your body tries to make itself as efficient as possible by reducing lean muscle mass because muscle burns fat (energy). It also prepares you for the expected fast by storing body fat for later use. So basically, when you skip meals you body begins to catabolize muscle and stores fat: exactly what we don’t want!  On top of these physiological changes, mentally we feel deprived causing us to eat more when it finally is time to eat. As nutrition and performance guru ,Tony Ricci, would say, "under eating always leads to over eating". Eat normally leading up to your event so you not going into the buffet of delicious food feeling like it is necessary to gorge yourself. Don’t show up to the party famished and you will have a much easier time controlling yourself.

Skip the apps

            It is actually easier to skip finger food appetizers entirely than to just partake in a little. Small amounts of calorically rich snacks add up; you could easily eat and drink close to a 1000 calories before you even sit down for dinner! If you need to nibble on something before the meal, stick to vegetables and soups (watch out for creamy dips and cream-based soups).

Easy on the Booze

Alcohol on an empty stomach does three things: first of all, you will become intoxicated faster (don’t be the drunk guy at cocktail hour); secondly, alcohol is a gastric irritant and can damage the sensitive inner lining of your GI tract. Lastly it causes hypoglycmemia, or a dramatic drop in blood sugar. This is bad because hypoglycemia tells your brain your are hungry and primes your fat cells to store fat.

Alternate alcoholic drinks with nonalcoholic drinks like seltzer with lime, unsweetened iced tea or even plain ice water.

OK, so we've made it to dinner, now what?...

Here are some staple holiday foods that are actually healthy:

Turkey

White Meat Turkey is delicious and a lean source of high quality protein. 4 oz of lean white meat turkey provides about 34 grams of protein with less than 4 gram of fat (With skin about 8 grams). Turkey also provides important micronutrients like iron, zinc, potassium and many B-vitamins.

Dark meat turkey is also a great source of high quality protein but has a higher fat content…about 8 grams per 4 oz serving. “Dark” in the nutrition world usually imparts other healthy qualities to a food. Dark meat turkey contains twice as much riboflavin and zinc, as well as more than double the heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acid content

***PITFALL- eating massive amounts of either (or both) white or dark meat turkey. A serving size is 4 oz. about the size of a pack of playing cards. Sure you may want to have 2 servings for thanksgiving dinner as a splurge, just don’t have 5!

Sweet potatoes

This superfood is a nutritional powerhouse loaded with complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins and minerals. A medium sized potato is only 130 calories and contains about 4 grams of fiber. Sweet potatoes are loaded with Vitamin C, Beta-carotene (Vit A) and Potassium.

***PITFALL- the additives like Brown sugar, maple syrup, and butter can all make this healthy side dish a diet disaster. Add cinnamon, nuts and a touch of brown sugar instead of loading on butter and syrups.

Salad Greens

You can’t go wrong loading up on a vegetable salad before digging into the main course of turkey and potatoes. This will help you feel a little more full before you get to the calorically dense portion of the meal. Also, a salad is difficult to eat fast so it may slow down your initial excitement over a special meal. When you are excited to eat you tend to eat faster and thus overeat.

***PITFALL- careful of the fattening dressings, carby/fatty croutons, and fatty cheeses that top a salad. Stick to balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

Ok, so you’ve made it through cocktail hour, appetizers and the main course. You are doing well so far, your clothes don’t feel too tight and you are feeling in control. Then someone says “coffee’s ready, come get some dessert” …and you lose it. You eat plate after plate of cookies, pies, cakes and pastries; you go up for seconds and thirds and then find yourself hovering around the table like a vulture circling a carcass in the desert. When the dust finally settles you feel bloated, exhausted and ultimately defeated…

Dessert can be the bane of your dieting existence during the holidays. Here are some tricks to avoid the pitfall into diabetic disaster:

When it is time for dessert, have a second serving of some of the food from dinner. This will make a base of some nutritious food so you wont eat as much of the empty calories from sweets

If it doesn’t taste great, put it down! We do this all the time: you take a bite of a cookie; you shrug your shoulders as if to say, “eh, it’s ok” then you shove the rest in your mouth. If it doesn’t taste phenomenal it is not worth the calories. Move on to a delicious and satisfying snack.

Have tea or coffee BEFORE dessert. You may not be craving sweets in particular and just some kind of mouth feel. A warm beverage is soothing and delicious. HINT: go easy of creamers and sugar additives

Go to the dessert table, make a plate and sit as far away from the other desserts as possible (preferably out of view). This way the visual temptation is not there and you have your portion of treats in front of you.

Don’t feel like you have to try everything. Sure it is a holiday and it only comes around once a year, but dessert happens all the time! This is not the first chance you have to eat cheesecake and it wont be your last.

OK, so now you have some tips to help you stay on track, without having to hit the track (well maybe you should anyway), to during the holiday season. Happy and Healthy!

-CA