Thanksgiving is around the corner and many of us are already writing the dinner menu to include traditional carby and not so healthy dishes like mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. Here are some tips and tricks on how to enjoy your Holiday meals and favorite snacks without derailing your health goals and putting on extra pounds.
1. Hydrate like an athlete
The biggest trick to not over eating all the delicious dishes this season is to drink plenty of clean water. The goal is to drink half of your weight in ounces. If you are 150 pounds then you need to drink 75 ounces of water every day. I recommend alkaline water or electrolyte water to help you feel hydrated. If you have difficulty drinking water then add in a few leaves of fresh mint and some slices of lemon or lime to your water to keep it refreshing. Drinking plenty of water will also keep you perfectly hydrated in which other beverages like eggnog, sugary coffee drinks, and alcohol will not be as tempting. If you do not already have a personal reusable water bottle, I recommend purchasing a glass water bottle by Life Factory. Carry this bottle with you everywhere and hold yourself accountable for how much water you need to drink every day. On the side of each water bottle there are markings for ounces and ml so you can see how much more you need to drink. If seasonal beverages like eggnog are your absolute favorite then allow yourself a small glass of about 8 ounces a day this way you still get the flavors of the holiday without hundreds of extra calories and fat. Try ditching the sugary coffee drinks and hot chocolates for hot mint tea or delicious holiday herbal teas with cinnamon and other spices. These teas will give you that warm holiday feel with added health benefits and no sugar and caffeine let down.
2. Bring your own healthy dish
Many work places are having thanksgiving and holiday luncheons this time of the year so prepare yourself for an overwhelming amount of unhealthy dishes to choose from. My best advice to combat this situation is to volunteer to bring a healthy homemade dish that you love and that is tried and true. If you make an amazing salad with a delicious homemade dressing then bring it to the party! Don’t have a tried and true dish but willing to be adventurous? I recommend this food blog because her recipes are amazing, healthy and easy to follow (http://minimalistbaker.com/). Fill your plate up with your healthy dish and any other healthy finds at the party. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water. If you need to try certain dishes to not be rude than make sure you put enough on your plate to try the dish and give your friend the acknowledgment they need. If you have food sensitivities or strict food preferences, chances are someone else does too so do not be ashamed to politely turn down foods that you know will derailed you. If you are worried there will be no other healthy options for you then make sure to pack some fruit or nuts to snack on so you don’t leave too hungry/ hangry J.
3. Get others moving
Just because you have to set aside time to get your workout in doesn’t mean you can’t spend this time with family or friends. If family is in town for the holiday invite them on your favorite hike so they can see parts of the city they may have never seen. Find a neighborhood that goes all out in decorations and park your car there and go for a walk around to look at the lights. If your family loves to go shopping then take them to a mall that is huge with several levels and stairs and make sure you cover the whole perimeter of the mall at least once. Get the family outside riding bikes, walking the dogs or playing sports. Chances are everyone is bored from sitting around inside too and would love to be outside having fun and laughing.
4. Ditch the meat for alternatives
If you come from a traditional home than holidays for you means turkey, ham, sausage or other traditionally cooked meats. It can be extremely hard on your health and body to consume so much animal protein, fats and sodium in just 2 months. Opt out of the meat at meals and fill your plate up with salads, green beans, and other traditional vegetarian foods. Focusing on eating more vegetables will allow you to get enough fiber in your diet so you don’t get holiday constipation. Remember that there are several delicious root vegetables, squashes and gourds that make perfect dishes for the holidays. Looking from some culinary inspiration to create some meatless dishes? Try this food blog (http://ohsheglows.com/. ) Are you already dairy free or try your best to limit it in your diet? You can make many holiday dishes without diary and use alternatives like unsweetened almond milk to get the same flavor and consistency. I use unsweetened almond milk in my homemade mashed potatoes and no one can tell the difference! Tradition doesn’t always mean eating the same dishes the same way they have been prepared all your life. You can take your mother’s traditional dishes and create substitutes that suit your health needs better while keeping the flavor and the memory alive.
5. Remove yourself from the food source
This one I am guilty of the most. I will eat just because food is in front of me and not because I am hungry. If the holiday dishes are all in the kitchen or formal dining area then don’t hang out there! Spend time in another room away from the smell and sight of the food. When you are hungry allow yourself to go get the food and make a plate and then walk out of the room where the food is. This allows your body to get the right amount of nutrients it needs without your eyes telling you that your are hungry when you are not. If your family has thanksgiving in the dining room and the dishes are all in front on the table then consider changing this arrangement. Put all the large dishes of food in the kitchen out of sight and have everyone have to walk to the kitchen to fill their plate. This leaves more room on the table for décor and to see every ones face while talking. Seeing large trays of food in front of you just tells your mind you have a lot of work to do so you better eat up as much and as fast as you can. When you want seconds, then drink a few sips of water first and wait at least 5 minutes between plates.
6. Knowing when to stop
When is enough food really enough? Holiday food tastes so good and it is only one time a year you can have those special meals and treats your family members make. Just because food is delicious doesn’t mean you need to gorge. Listen to your body’s cues of when enough food is enough and when you are no longer hungry. The best way to train yourself to notice cues of when to stop is to eat slowly, chew thoroughly and fill your plate up the normal amount, not heaping. Once you have enjoyed a whole plate and a whole glass of water allow yourself a moment to check in on how extended your abdomen feels. Ask yourself did you eat as much as your normally do at a meal? Are you physically hungry, like your stomach is growling or you feel the gnawing in your stomach? Are you emotionally hungry because this food or company gives you happiness and joy? Always stop eating just short of another bite or two. If you feel like you could have another half serving than stop eating and let your digestive system catch up. If 30 minutes pass and you would like some more food than go ahead and have another half serving and another glass of water. If you have to unbutton your pants because you over did it, then learn from this and realize that you might be an emotional eater. Remember that you can always put aside a small serving in some Tupperware and eat the same delicious meal tomorrow.
You have worked hard this year to get in shape and stay slim. Don’t ruin all your hard work with too much mashed potatoes or cookies. Simply allow yourself just the right amount to get the flavor and holiday experience. Remember that there is no shortage of holiday snacks and save your left overs and treats for the next day. Stay hydrated and get moving outside! Start new traditions like family hikes and meatless dishes. I hope you enjoy the holidays this year and start 2016 with the goal of staying slim not losing the holiday pounds.
Dr. Lauren Sanchez, ND