Whether it’s your grandma’s gingerbread cake (a childhood favorite) or a cup of spiked eggnog, your biggest healthy-diet saboteurs will most likely make a delicious appearance at your holiday spread this season. Don’t fret. Instead, I want you armed with the right mindset to skillfully navigate any holiday function with ease and grace while crushing your cravings. While you can’t always control what will be served at your holiday festivities, these nine strategies can guarantee a few bites of your favorite dessert or other edible predilection doesn’t become an all-out splurge-fest!
You don’t need to miss out on your aunt’s red velvet fudge. Instead, enjoy three polite bites—we’re talking what you would eat on national TV, not an 11 p.m. fridge raid—of your favorite concoction and then step away from the dessert.
Big holiday office party or best friend’s gathering tonight where you know you’ll indulge? Don’t skip meals. Instead, consider replacing your typical breakfast or lunch with a protein shake. One of my favorite things to do is to blend non-dairy, non-soy, animal or plant protein powder with unsweetened coconut or almond milk, freshly ground flaxseed and frozen raspberries. This keeps me full and focused all day so I’m not diving into the petite quiche pastries as I wait for dinner.
You know the nasty aftermath of a crappy night’s sleep. You’re groggy, snappy at your coworkers, coasting on dark roast and far more vulnerable to those peppermint brownies your receptionist brought in. During the holiday frenzy, putting sleep on the back burner becomes far too easy. That’s unfortunate, because studies show that insufficient sleep stalls fat loss. Remedy that problem with seven to nine hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep every night and you’ll find you’re more focused with fewer cravings the next morning.
Anyone who dismisses the holidays as pure merriment forgets how frantic gift buying, familial tension and a zillion other impediments can become. Stress management is a necessity, not a luxury, so make “me time” a priority. Yoga, meditation, deep breathing or walking your terrier: Find something that helps you de-stress and do it.
Be creative and strategize healthier options for your favorite holiday foods. Rather than eggnog, warm coconut milk with chocolate protein powder makes delicious, guilt-free hot chocolate. Instead of whatever gooey concoction your neighbor brought over, have a little dark chocolate with almond butter. Be creative with your side dishes! For example, make faux-tatoes (made of mashed cauliflower) instead of using real potatoes.
Fiber becomes your fabulous holiday friend for fast fat loss. It slows stomach-emptying, lessens your hunger hormone ghrelin, balances blood sugar and reduces cravings so you’re less likely to dive into the red velvet cupcakes. That’s why I want you to work up to 50 grams of fiber daily. High-fiber, low-sugar foods include berries (especially raspberries), avocado and slow-roasted or dehydrated nuts and seeds. Tossing in flaxseed, chia seeds or a professional-quality fiber supplement to a protein shake also provides an easy fiber boost.
You’ve had a brutal workweek, only to arrive home with your kids begging for a fast-food dinner that includes a new holiday-themed dessert. You might succumb if dinner requires hours worth of prepping. That’s why you have to think ahead, particularly around the holidays. For instance, have some precooked chicken and chopped raw veggies in the fridge ready to go. Get your kids involved: Make it fun and promise them something fun (not food-related) as their reward.
Juggling shopping, preparing for your in-laws’ arrival and a multitude of other stressful holiday situations might mean exercise gets neglected. Don’t let that happen. Hire a trainer and ask him or her to charge you double if you bail. If you’d rather work out at home (with traffic and inclement weather, I can’t blame you!), even 15 minutes of vigorous physical activity can make a difference. Yep, 15 minutes: much less time than it takes to find a parking space at the mall on a December Saturday.
A food journal keeps you honest and helps you pinpoint any trouble areas and holiday dietary debacles. While you’re writing down your food, make sure you weigh and measure yourself once weekly and write those numbers down.
Even with these strategies, I know how challenging navigating the holidays healthily can become. What one tip would you add to this list so you don’t end up with New Year’s Day remorse on the scales? Share yours below!