Eating the Weight & Wellness Way through the Holidays
By JoAnn Ridout, MPH, RD, LD
November 12, 2019
Do you find it hard to stick to your healthy eating habits during the holidays, no matter how much you commit to your wellness goals? Do festive peppermint lattes and holiday cookies pull you in? Not to worry. This year you can set yourself up for a healthy holiday season by following my simple tips and tricks to keep you balanced, motivated, and on track.
What exactly do I mean by “Eating the Weight & Wellness Way”?
At Nutritional Weight & Wellness, we want you to eat real foods in balance. That means eating real protein like beef, chicken, or fish; with plenty of healthy fats like butter, avocados, and olives; and real carbohydrates like fruits and vegetables. By eating protein, fats, and carbohydrates together every three to four hours, your blood sugar stabilizes, keeping you full longer and able to let the cookie tray pass you by at your office holiday party.
It’s scientific, it’s powerful, and I’ve seen the results first-hand with my clients in nutrition counseling. Many clients have lost 20, 50, even 100 pounds following this balanced way of eating. They’re never hungry, they have more energy, their bones are stronger, they have less pain, and their digestion works.
Anastasia came to me for nutrition counseling because of joint pain and digestive troubles. She had tried counting calories and dieting in the past, but they made her gain more weight. We found the answer to alleviating her joint pain and digestive issues was eating real food in balance, avoiding gluten and giving up sugary treats.
But those sugary treats can be hard to resist, especially during this time of the year. So consider for a moment: What gets you off track? Maybe it’s the stress of shopping for gifts and not having a snack to eat when you get hungry, or maybe you visit your in-laws and they serve pizza or macaroni and cheese for dinner? Or it’s at work, with the cookie exchanges and endless treats? There are so many events and goodies around, it’s easy to get off track.
The first step I suggest is to eat in balance every three to four hours. Have you noticed how you feel when you haven’t eaten in a while? You’re probably tired, irritable, and shaky. These are all signs of low blood sugar, and low blood sugar causes us to reach for whatever we can find as quickly as possible. That means we’re tempted to swing through the drive-thru, or grab a pretzel at the shopping mall, or a cookie and a latte at the coffee shop. Eating every three to four hours will keep your blood sugar stable so that you’re not reaching for an emergency treat.
It all starts at breakfast. Do you know what happens when you skip breakfast? You might start to notice that it’s harder to focus, or you’re unable to avoid the donuts and bagels at work, or you’re more irritable and you might snap at the kids or your spouse. Eating a balanced breakfast will kickstart a full day of healthy food choices. I love to make eggs with nitrate-free sausage, paired with a slice of sprouted toast with avocado or almond butter. The combination of protein (eggs and sausage), fat (avocado or almond butter), and carbs (sprouted toast like Ezekiel bread) will keep you satisfied and going throughout the morning.
Eat four ounces of protein at every meal and two ounces at every snack. Sufficient protein can help you feel full longer, boost your metabolism, and reduce your cravings—which is extra helpful during the holiday season. I find many of my clients are not eating enough protein. If you’re struggling to incorporate protein into every meal, don’t worry—you’re not alone. Here’s a great place to start:
- Breakfast: 2 hard-boiled eggs, spinach and carrots cooked in butter
- Morning Snack: ½ cup cottage cheese, blueberries, nuts
- Lunch: 4 oz grilled salmon, sweet potato, avocado oil mayonnaise
- Afternoon Snack: 2 oz nitrate-free deli meat, asparagus, avocado
- Dinner: 4 oz grilled chicken, mixed greens salad, olive oil dressing
Next, make sure to plan ahead. Bring a dish to share for holiday parties, like deviled eggs, shrimp, or veggies and dip. Also, eat a balanced snack at home before going to the party. Your blood sugar will stay stable and you won’t find yourself starving when the appetizers, fudge, and bars are set out. If you’re heading out for an afternoon of gift shopping, prepare a protein shake to bring with you, or stick a baggie of meatballs, carrots, and guacamole in your purse. They’re easy to carry and delicious! If you’re traveling during the holidays, try to pack deli-meat roll-ups or beef sticks or protein bars.
Lastly—and this one’s important—how will you respond to dessert pushers? Do you have them in your family? I know I do. “Oh, you have to try just one—I made it especially for you,” they say. But you know eating that treat might put you on a slippery slope, causing you to fall off your plan for weeks. Then the aches and pains return, along with low moods, and your clothes become tight and uncomfortable. It’s not worth it. We need to stand up for our nutritional needs and feel good about taking care of ourselves. If you find yourself in this situation, a simple “Thank you so much for thinking of me, but those foods don’t make me feel good,” should do the trick.
This season is busy and sometimes stressful, but prioritizing and choosing real foods will help you feel your best, keep your aches and pains away, maintain a healthy digestive system, and keep your moods stable. I hope you’ve found these tips helpful. Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving and a healthy holiday season!