Deck the halls and ring those silver bells: It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
The holidays are almost here meaning family, friends, fats, carbs and an endless array of foods that you wouldn’t dare touch the rest of the year.
DO NOT relocate the scale to the garage. Here’s some good news: A study from the New England Journal of Medicine found that people perceive to gain about 6.7 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year, but the truth is the average gain is under one pound if they plan ahead and eat in a mindful way.
Here are five new rules of eating for fitness and health as you deck the halls:
1. Log In: Documentation is everything during high risk, food-is-everywhere periods like the holiday season. Download a phone app where you can quickly, quietly and easily track everything that goes into your month including calorie-heavy alcoholic drinks. Most of these aps also give you calorie and fat counts. Seeing is believing and the numbers don’t lie. Review each and every day to make sure that you’re not letting your fitness goals really slip. Log in your weight each week, too. This is no time to rely on guessing or jeans that feel snug. Knowing your numbers is the safest way for a two-pound gain not to slip into a ten-pound remorse. Gaining weight? Go back to your food log and make adjustments the following week.
2. Cut the Fat. Don’t fall into a bacon-wrapped fat coma that seems to come with the season. Remember that many of the dishes created for the holidays are crazy heavy in fats. On the avoid list: Bacon/sausage appetizers, regular mayo dips, green beans dripping in cream and fried onions sides, gravy created with pan drippings (i.e. fat), stuffing made with several sticks of butter, eggnog and cheesecake. Opt for leaner options including white meat turkey, steamed or grilled veggies, baked sweet potatoes, shrimp and lean cuts of meat. Yes, claim your spot in front of the veggie tray and hog the non-fat salsa dip. Your abs will thank you later.
3. Rely on sugar substitutes. If you want to indulge in sweet treats than make good use of sugar substitutes like stevia, which is made from a plant and low in calories. You can add it to coffee with some almond milk for a sweet treat instead of that 600-calorie coffee shop creation with real sugar. Many bakers create delicious gluten free, sugar free cookies and cakes using sugar substitutes and home cooks are catching on, too. Experiment with some of your favorite recipes. In addition, you can create delicious sweet potato pie and puddings with the fake sugar. Bring a few packets with you.
4. Fill up on protein. Hunger is your enemy this time of the year because grazing on really good food is ALWAYS an option. Begin your day with a grilled chicken breast, eggs or whatever leftover protein you have from the previous day. Repeat at lunch. It takes longer to digest protein and leads to less of an insulin spike meaning fewer cravings. Protein even requires your body to burn more calories during digestion, which is a plus. Snack on hard-boiled eggs, jerky and tuna or turkey roll-ups to keep yourself full. You’ll be less likely to go hog wild at major dinner or parties.
5. Plan your indulgences. Give yourself three major indulgences during the holiday season and stick with your plan. Sure, you can’t resist mom’s chocolate cream pie or Aunt Betty’s stuffing. There’s two indulgences. Vow to have only one portion, but allow yourself the treat (along with a workout that day), so you enjoy your holiday season. Sticking to a number when it comes to food frenzy moments will limit you from staging an every other day pig-out leading to a two-month binge. This way you have something to look forward to that brings back holiday memories. But you’re still in control. That’s the best holiday gift of all.