It is that time of the year again; everywhere we go sugary treats and bottomless casseroles and leftovers tempt us for days. Passing the plate is easy, but most people want to skip the weight gain that follows. Cue the crash diets and gym membership surge. Eating healthy during the holidays does not have to be a difficult feat. There are several things you can do to make sure you stay on track this holiday season.
Do Not Eat with Your Eyes
With so many tempting holiday foods on the table, we tend to load up our plate and even go for seconds or thirds. It takes the body about 20 minutes to realize it is full. So, by the time your brain gives you the memo, you have most likely overeaten. Start out slow with a small portion and you can always go for seconds if you are still hungry. Fill up your plate with vegetables or salad first so you are not too full later to eat your greens. Keep in mind that about 500 calories of plant based foods fill the stomach completely, while oils/fats barely fill the stomach, signaling the body to eat more. This leads to eating more empty calories and promotes weight gain.
Get Up and Move
Do not think running a few kilometers will cancel out half of the pumpkin pie you wolfed down, but nevertheless, it is important to get into a regular workout routine. Gyms see their memberships skyrocket after the New Year, but according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, 80% of New Year’s resolution hopefuls quit by the second week in February. Find a type of exercise you like to do and stick to a regular workout routine. It helps to exercise with friends, family or a group to keep you on track. When there are other people involved, there is a sense of accountability–you do not want to let someone else down for a scheduled workout. If it is too cold to exercise outside, check out a gym or you can even do workouts at home with minimal or no equipment, like squats, lunges, sit-ups, pushups, and yoga. Some video game consoles and smart TVs also have fitness programs, like Xbox Fitness. There is no controller involved, just your hard work and sweat!
Avoid Crash Diets
From diet sodas to gym memberships to crash diets, there is a continuous search for the magic solution to cure all weight gain ills. It is a short-lived enthusiasm that becomes part of the vicious cycle of weight loss and dieting, a $60 Billion industry in the United States alone. Diets are also popular in Russia. According to a survey by aif.ru, 59% of Russians periodically diet. Diets are unsustainable and in most cases result in further weight gain. In 31 long-term diet studies, researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles found that two-thirds of dieters regained more weight than they initially lost within a 4-5 year period. These regimens put the body under incredible shock and are geared towards short-term solutions, often focusing on the elimination of one or more foods to shock the body into losing weight or restrictive calorie limits that starve the body, which can negatively affect the immune system, bone density and the heart. Lifestyle changes are more important for the long run and can help you improve your health for life.
Skip the Sauce
Dressings and sauces accompany just about everything around the holidays. Most dressings and sauces are oil or cream based, packing in hundreds of calories in one sitting. Just one tablespoon of olive oil contains about 14 grams of fat and 120 calories. Most people do not consume just one tablespoon, but rather 5 or 6, especially when cooking with oil. So, a seemingly healthy salad or dish can have an extra 500-600 calories and 70 grams of fat, just from the oil. That amounts to almost three times the fat in a Big Mac and roughly the same calories. Hold the dressing or opt for a lighter option, like lemon juice for a salad or a homemade, oil-free dressing made with common ingredients like tahini, nut butters, soy sauce, citrus juices, and fresh herbs.
Be Kind to Your Body
We only have one body to live in, so take care of it. Too often, we take our health for granted until it is gone. It is possible to enjoy the holidays without eating food that will damage your health. Instead of making a traditional pie, try making a plant based version with a dairy alternative like almond milk, no refined sugar and a crust made from dates, nuts, spices and a whole grain like oats instead of the traditional one with refined flour, butter, shortening, oils, and refined sugars. Just about everything can be made healthier if you put your mind to it. Spice up your creativity and your dishes this holiday season and you will be surprised how many delicious, healthy dishes and treats you can come up with that are not served with a side of guilt.