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10 Tips to Stay Healthy During The Holidays

Let’s face it – many people use the traditional Thanksgiving feast as a kick-off to a holiday eating frenzy that lasts through New Year – tipping the scales more in the direction of overweight and obesity. The good news is that the “holiday 10” is an urban myth.

In reality, most Americans actually gain around a pound. The bad news is that studies show the weight gained over the winter holiday isn’t lost during the rest of the year. Overtime, this yearly pound creep can have a devastating impact on your health, as weight gain can increase your risk of a number of chronic diseases including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

Keep in mind that it’s much easier to prevent weight gain than to get the pounds off after the fact. Here is my best advice for enjoying the holidays without wrecking your waistline and your health.

  1. Stay away from foods that rev up your appetite, also known as “The Great White Hazards”

    These include white flour products, white rice, and white potatoes. Holidays are already a dietary pitfall for most – these foods add insult to injury. Choose whole grains and beans as the alternative to the starchy white stuff. Whole grains and beans are super healthy and provide long-lasting appetite suppression. Try:

    • Bean salad instead of potato salad,
    • Brown rice over white rice,
    • 100% whole grain crackers or breads over the “white” ones,
    • Just say no to the rolls and biscuits.
  2. Minimize your liquid calories!

    Liquid calories (soda, fruit drinks, fruit juices, caloric mixers and other sweet drinks) tend to be very fattening on two fronts. Liquid sugars illicit rapid surges of blood glucose and insulin that perpetuate appetite and put the body in fat storage mode. Liquid calories provide no bulk in the GI tract. Physical bulk in the GI tract is a powerful appetite suppressant.

    • Make water or unsweetened tea your beverage of choice.
    • When you choose to have “a drink,” make wine, light or low-carb beer, or spirits with a non-caloric mixer your first choice.
  3. Be sure to have some protein at each feeding/meal.

    Protein is nature’s diet pill. The digestion of protein gives rise to a steady and more prolonged blood glucose level, which translates to less hunger and more energy! The healthiest proteins are fish, shellfish, poultry, beans, wild game, soy, omega 3 eggs, nuts/seeds and low-fat dairy products. Try:

    • White turkey meat over prime rib,
    • Lean cold cuts over Swedish meatballs,
    • Bean dip or hummus over onion or artichoke dip.
  4. Fill up first on foods that have lots of bulk but minimal calories

    I.e. the “big, yet skinny” fruits and veggies. Physical bulk (stuff) in the GI tract provides great appetite suppression.

    • At a holiday cocktail party, go straight to the fruit and veggie platter first and really indulge; use high fat dips sparingly. If available, make bean dips (hummus) your first choice.
    • At holiday dinners, eat a big tossed salad or a couple of servings of a veggie side dish before the rest of the meal.
  5. Don’t let yourself get hungry!

    It takes less calories to prevent hunger than it does to deal with it once it occurs. Always consume three meals a day with between meal snacks as necessary to keep your hunger at bay. Withholding food for several hours or more leads to low blood sugar (excessive hunger), slows down your metabolism and primes the pancreas to release extra fat-storing insulin when you finally eat. Additionally, true hunger elicits a primal fear and anxiety response that sets you up for dietary indiscretions.

    • Have a snack an hour before you arrive at a holiday gathering. My top pick would be a small handful of nuts along with a piece of fruit (apple) or fresh raw veggies (handful of carrots) dipped in hummus.
  6. Make exercise a priority!

    It’s a fantastic safeguard against weight gain and helps compensate for holiday indulgences. It’s also the perfect tonic for the stress and anxiety we all experience during the holiday season, where many people binge eat when stressed.

    • Take a “family walk” after your holiday feast.
    • Sign up for a holiday road race.
    • Schedule in advance a regular work-out with a trainer.
    • Recruit a holiday walking buddy.
    • Incorporate walking into your holiday shopping. Wear comfortable shoes, and do as much of it as you can on foot.
    • Don’t forget house-cleaning and yard work count as exercise too!
  7. Be prudent in satisfying your sweet tooth.

    • Fresh fruit salad, a piece of high quality dark chocolate, or a cup of “real” hot cocoa are delicious and nutritious.
    • If you prefer other goodies, be mindful of your portions.
  8. Indulge in alcohol in moderation.

    Over indulgence loosens inhibitions and increases the risk of dietary indiscretion (and a number of other health risks). To add insult to injury, too much alcohol in the evening triggers excessive morning hunger and cravings for starchy junk foods for many. And of course the calories in alcohol can really add up!

    • Make yourself drink a full glass of water between each alcoholic beverage at parties.
    • Always make sure there is some food in your stomach before you have a drink.
    • Don’t feel obligated to attend every party either – choose your holiday parties wisely.
  9. Get your beauty rest!

    Provocative new science reveals that sleep deprivation enhances appetite, and increases cravings for diet-sabotaging foods like sweets, chips, breads and pasta. Late-night partying is a risk for expanding waistlines along multiple fronts! Additionally, sleep deprivation zaps energy and enthusiasm for exercise.

  10. Avoid mindless eating.

    Approach every meal, every snack and every party mindfully.

    • Don’t linger over the buffet table or hover over the hors d’oeuvres nibbling as you engage in conversation.
    • Pre-plate everything (meals, hors d’oeuvres, dessert etc.) We tend to eat less if we can view it all before we start.

    Until next time – Enjoy the holidays and your health!



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