10 Tips for Staying Healthy Over the Holidays
The Holidays are an exciting time of year; lots of joy, get-togethers, and traditions. However, with the Holidays often comes an over-abundance of high calorie foods such as baked goods, sauces, gravies, chips, beverages, etc.
Research shows that the average person will gain 7-10 lbs over the holidays!! Yes, it does add up, which is why it’s important to have some tips and strategies in your pocket to help with not over-eating.
Tip # 1 – Focus on keeping weight stable instead of trying to lose weight (if losing weight isn’t realistic, or a goal for you).
There are those that can weigh themselves as a guide to see where they’re at, and not get too caught up with the number, and the following tip is for you. (For those of you who prefer not to weigh in – that’s okay!). Try to weight yourself at the beginning of the holiday season. Make sure you stay in and around this weight throughout the festive times.
Note: The most accurate time to weigh is in the morning after you use the bathroom, or at least at the same time each day. Our weight can fluctuate 3-5 lbs in any given day due to many reasons (and not actual weight/fat lost or gained), which is why it is important to not get too hung up on the daily number.
If you do see that scale creeping upward, practice some simple weight loss/healthy eating strategies strategies:
No starchy carbs at supper (but okay in small portions the rest of the day). This will help save on calories.
An afternoon snack with protein and fibre to prevent picking before dinner.
No more than 200 calories at night time (men or active people can get away with 300).
Eat something every 3-5 hours to avoid getting too hungry, which is when you tend to make less healthy choices.
Stay hydrated. Being dehydrated can make you feel tired and sluggish, which can again make you make less healthy choices.
Keep active: walk; shovel, play in the snow!
Tip # 2 – Make a Plan.
Enjoy those great tasting special holiday foods and traditions that only come once per year. To compensate, avoid the foods that you can have any time of the year such as chips, chocolate, etc., or at least have less of these. Use the 80/20 rule and plan to eat healthy 80% of the time, and allow for 20% less healthy indulgences.
Tip # 3 – Veggies First!
Our eyes are bigger than our stomach. You will always put more on the plate of the first items you choose.
Load up on veggie and fruit dishes first
Then the protein
Last add your starches, preferably in smaller amounts
Tip # 4 – Choose Your Beverages Wisely
Ahh, Egg Nog, a delicious holiday treat for many. However, it does have 300 calories per glass (or more, depending on how big your glass is). There are also other beverages and drinks that add up, such as rum and coke, or anything where you’re combining many things (unless you choose a no calorie mix of course).
So if you had 5-10 drinks per week that were 300 calories each. That’s gaining 0.5-1 pounds per week just in drinks! Let alone if you’re over-indulging on other things. Just think about these things is all. Can you have a lower calorie drink so that it doesn’t add up to quite as much? Or one of your favourite higher calorie drinks, and then the rest lower calorie. Small decisions add up!
Tip # 5 – Don’t Go to Parties or Events Starving
If you’re starving when you go to a party, you will overeat. It’s a tried and true mechanism.
Plan a snack beforehand, such as veggies and hummus or dip, fruit and yogurt, nuts and cheese, etc.
Tip # 6 – Watch Your Portion Sizes
As always, having larger portions can add up over the week.
Use smaller plates at parties and events (or even at home); your brain will think you’re getting more than you are.
Use the typical ‘healthy plate’ strategy, by filling half your plate with veggies and/or fruit, one quarter with protein, and one quarter with carbs. This can save on calories.
Be careful of having too much sauces, gravies, etc.
Tip # 7 – Make Some of Your Favourite Recipes Healthier
I stress the word some. No one expects all traditional recipes to be overhauled and made healthier. That would just suck…for lack of a better term. However, choose some that could still be delicious but a bit healthier. Some examples:
Use two egg whites instead of one whole egg
Use plain yogurt instead of sour cream
Use cocoa powder instead of chocolate in some recipes
Make a roasted veggie side dish (e.g., sweet potato, cranberries and cinnamon) instead of a more typical dish loaded in sauce and low in nutrients and fibre
Tip # 8 – No Turkey Pants Allowed (some people might think this one is a little out there, but hear me out)
You know how we sometimes wear our ‘turkey pants’ aka stretchy pants, so that we can ‘stuff’ it all in and not feel as uncomfortable? Well, this is the opposite concept, and with some people it does help. Now I’m not saying wear clothes that are too tight, but not wearing our stretchy pants can help us recognize a bit more when we are ‘uncomfortably’ full (aka maybe eating just a bit too much.).
Tip # 9 – Try to be physically active every day to help maintain energy balance.
This could be shovelling, going to the gym, playing outside with the kids, etc. Try to get in at least a few 10 minute sessions of exercise per day.
Tip # 10 – Don’t Give Up!
Just because you gave in and had 5 servings of ALL of the things at the party, doesn’t mean you are somehow flawed. It means that you are human. Getting down on yourself will just make things worse. Instead, let it go and just eat a bit more lightly the next couple of days to balance it out (and by light I mean regular, balanced meals…not starving yourself of course).
An extra tip: if your super busy this time of year, which most people are, find a local healthy meal delivery service in your area. For me I use LunchIn (and am also partnered with them because they're that great), which delivers a healthy lunch right to me during the day at work. Choosing a healthier on-the-go meal option every once in awhile instead of skipping lunch (and getting too hungry so you shovel 10 cookies) or opting for fast food, can help you stay healthy over the holidays!
Felicia Newell is a Nutritionist, Dietitian, Food and Nutrition Expert, Health Coach, and a mom of 4 boys under 6! She is also the owner of Sustain Nutrition. Felicia wears many hats, and knows what it is like to try and live healthy in a busy world, where our environments aren't always supportive of making healthy choices.
Life is busy, confusing at times, and full of contradictions, especially in the world of health and wellness. Felicia is passionate in helping others fight through the misinformation out there, and to navigate life and health, but most importantly, to enjoy the crap out of it while doing it.
She has over 11 years of education and experience in Nutritional Sciences. Between completing her Bachelor and Masters in Nutritional Sciences, working at a research centre, teaching university courses, years of nutrition counselling helping people crush their goals, and being a busy mom of 4 young boys, she has the passion, skills, education, and experience to help others reach health and wellness in a way that works for them.