It’s hard to be perfect when it comes to eating over the holidays.
Thanksgiving and Christmas are traditionally times of excess — too much food, too many deserts , far too much alcohol, and all at the same time.
I’m not perfect. The last few holiday feasts I felt overwhelmed by all the food in front of me, and yet I went back for more. And then I had desert, which sadly wasn’t the icing on the cake. Instead it was exactly what I didn’t need or want and as a result I felt so uncomfortable and unwell the next day.
Strategies for Healthy Eating During the Holidays
Here are a number of healthy holiday eating strategies that might help you make it through to the other side a bit more easily, with minimal discomfort and weight gain.
Eat a handful of nuts 30-minutes before the big meal. Eating 10 almonds will provide you with about 70 calories primarily from healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats. This snack may help you to moderate your food intake at the big meal, since you won’t be as hungry.
Work it Out, Work it Off!
Work out hard: go for a run, do some high-intensity, sweaty cardio, use the Sprint 8 protocol, try my Tabata Workout, or do an early morning fasted training session.
Whatever exercise you choose to do, do it as early as you can in the day to make sure you get it done before the big meal.
Eat Healthy Before the Feast
Eat only vegetables and lean sources of protein before the big meal.
Eliminate all starches (rice, bread, pasta, potatoes, cereals) and sugars because you know you’re going to eat lots of that for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.
Think of the day of the feast as a ‘mini-detox’ before the evening-gorging begins. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s better than eating poorly all day long. In other words, eat healthy and well during the day as a reward, not a punishment, for the coming feast.
Learn more about Detox Tips for Health and Weight-Loss from Paula Owens.
Shake it Up
Have a healthy greens-based protein shake or Greens+ smoothie as part of your healthy eating day.
Drink Water with Lemon
Drink a large glass of filtered ice water with the juice of half a lemon before dinner. The lemon aids in digestion and helps to alkalize your system, which is important since overeating, consuming a lot of saturated fats, eating desert, and drinking alcohol all create an acidic stomach.
Drink Water Cold
Drinking ice-cold water raises your metabolism — your stomach needs to warm the water before absorption and this burns calories (about 25 calories per 8 oz./250 ml.). Some studies suggest the calories burned come from abdominal fat. Sipping four glass of ice-water over the course of your day will burn approximately 100 calories.
Drink Water With Your Wine
Drink a glass of water with every glass of wine or whatever your poison.
Yes, alcohol is poison for the body but we drink it anyway, so do your liver a favour and sip ice water with lemon, or mineral water with lemon or lime, at a 1:1 ratio with alcohol. The hydration will reduce you total alcohol consumption as well as the potential side effects the next day. Opting for mineral water will provide you with additional minerals that are good for your health.
Instead of soda or tonic water (which is high in sugar) opt for mineral water as your mixer. I recently switched from soda to mineral water with vodka and fresh lemon and I always feel better for it the next day.
Paula Owens has a fantastic list of 20 Solutions to Optimize Digestion. Read her article and pick a few suggestions to implement and notice at the end of the night how you feel.
Portion Your Plate
This could be the most difficult suggestion of all. If your Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner looks like a buffet, this is what you can put on your plate for your first serving:
- Any salads and vegetables
- Turkey breast
- A couple spoons of gravy
Keep your food on the plate, not spilling over the edges or rim. Enjoy that plate of food and then sit at the table and make conversation for 10 to 15 minutes. You can privately set a timer on your watch.
At the end of that time ask yourself, am I still hungry? If you are then go get some more food and enjoy.
This act of delaying before the second plate allows your body to let your brain know if you’ve had enough food to eat. All of these tips work for holiday feasts as well as eating out at restaurants.
Meditate on Eating
Make sure you do your usual form of meditation. If you do incantations, visualize outcomes, or use a mantra, anything with a focus on health and feeling good and physically comfortable would be ‘mindful’ for the coming dinner.
Think About It…
Why do we over-eat? Thanksgiving and Christmas are times of excess on so many levels. Do you want to partake in over-eating? Does it make you feel good? Will you chose to manage how much you eat and drink? Create your own awareness and choose your own outcome
Make your own tradition — don’t feel like over-eating, or do you feel guilt for the holiday excess?
There are more people in need than ever. You could give back by donating money to a charity that feeds people at Thanksgiving and/or Christmas. You can volunteer at a soup-kitchen. You can donate quality, healthy food items (not Kraft dinner…) to the needy. I wager if you volunteered your time and witnessed the conditions of those less fortunate, you might take a very different approach to your next holiday feast.
Tony Robbins offers a fantastic example of this with his Basket Brigade Program to help feed needy families.
If not borrow some. Kids make for great physical exercise so go play with them. If it’s nice enough weather go outside and run around in the park, play soccer, football, or play on the monkey bars and swings.
Got a Dog?
Take your dog out for a long walk before dinner. We both know that after dinner you’re going to be too full. Your dog is going to be looking at you sitting in the chair, pushed way back from the table, with that sad face wondering why you’re not getting up.
Hey, you could even take the dog out for a walk after dinner before desert. Stretch your legs and increase your metabolism.
One of the reasons we feel so uncomfortable at holiday feasts is because, on top of the over-eating, we eat mountains of desert right after the big meal. It’s just too much and the consumption of sugar after dinner creates a toxic, acidic stomach that causes bloating and discomfort. Not to mention the nasty gas later in the evening or the next day!
The Last Bite
Without being rhetorical, all things in moderation. Don’t drink and drive and if you are hosting a party and know that one of your guests is leaving and is too drunk to drive, take their keys away and call a taxi.
All the best to you and yours this season!
Eat well to be well.
© 2013 Darren Stehle. All Rights Reserved.