I have been having SEVERAL conversations with people who want to start getting their nutrition and fitness in check, but are already feeling defeated. Why? The holidays are coming! The turkey is coming. The ham is coming. The pork is coming. The sides are coming. Oh, and let’s not even get started on the desserts…. I personally love anything with pumpkin. And I love dark chocolate. Put them together and I need a moment of silence….
However, the holidays, while joyful and indulgent, do not give us a free pass on our health for the final quarter of the year. Here are five nutrition pointers to enjoy the holidays while minimizing the guilt, weight gain, and poor health habits. I hope they will help you not only survive the weeks leading to these special times with friends and family, but THRIVE.
- Hydrate: consume ½ of your body weight in ounces per day. For example, if you weigh 140 pounds, drink at least 70 ounces of water. Understand that you will be making frequent trips to the bathroom, but the benefits far outweigh this inconvenience. Increased water consumption helps in digestion, reducing constipation, and flushing toxins from the body. It further aids in weight loss by suppressing appetite and increasing the rate of fat-burning.
- Rest: As we age, proper rest takes a back bruner in our lives…. The benefits of rest cannot be stressed enough. Getting at least 7 hours of sleep regularly has been shown to improve memory and attention, increase longevity, and curb inflammation linked to heart disease, arthritis. Further benetis include (but are not limited to) Improved fitness performance, lower stress levels and reduced depression.
- Control for fat and salt (when possible): Do not add butter, sour cream, or ricotta cheese to dishes which already have these ingredients as a base (such as mashed potatoes and lasagna). Avoid passing the salt. If you are bringing a dish, be the change…. Use avocado oil instead of butter. Use whole grain or gluten free elbow pasta in the macaroni and cheese.
- Do not arrive hungry: Drink a protein shake before arriving to your crazy aunt’s house. That way you are not snacking on cheeseballs while the mashed potatoes are staying warm. If YOU are hosting, drink water all day, have that protein shake, and make sure you stop and eat while cooking, rather than casually “tasting” as you are cooking all day long.
- Eat the damn food: On game day (meaning Thanksgiving for non-football fans), enjoy and partake within reason. Load up your first helping with protein and veggies. Take a 5 minute breather so your stomach has time to tell your brain that it is getting full. Have a glass of water. Only go for the carbs once that plate is finished. You will naturally consume less. Enjoy the food. Understand that it’s over when it’s over. Do NOT take home leftovers and eat them for breakfast.
This is only a start. But we have to begin at the beginning. Did you know that the average American gains between 7 to 10 pounds during the holiday season? Not this year. Not on my watch…. And I hope, not on yours.