Tips To Manage Health During The Holidays

November 20, 2023

The holiday season is here, but we don’t want to throw caution to the wind for the whole month of November and December. In this show, we’re focusing on practical ways to navigate the holiday season, so you can look back in January and feel good about your weight and your health. How can you enjoy the social gatherings and the nostalgic traditions while still keeping your energy levels, blood sugars, cholesterol numbers, and your weight in a positive range? We’ll give you some food and lifestyle ideas to help navigate the busy season.

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MELANIE: Welcome to Dishing Up Nutrition. Our show today is brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness. Our company provides science-based nutrition, education, and nutrition counseling. I'm a Licensed and Registered Dietitian. I'm here today with cohost Kara Carper. Good morning.

KARA: Hi everyone. Great to be with you as always, Mel.

KARA: I'm Kara Carper. I'm a Licensed Nutritionist and Certified Nutrition Specialist. In fact, I just noticed on LinkedIn, it's my 10-year anniversary for obtaining both my nutrition license in Minnesota as well as my National Board Certification through the American College of Nutrition.

MELANIE: Well, happy anniversary.

KARA: Well, thank you and thanks to LinkedIn for keeping me in the loop because I totally forgot about that anniversary.

MELANIE: That's the only way I know these things.

KARA: Yeah.

MELANIE: So, another anniversary coming up is that Dishing Up Nutrition has been on the air for nearly 20 years.

KARA: Unreal.

MELANIE: I know. In the world of radio land, this is a big deal because it's kind of an impressive run, I think. It just goes to show that our message has stood the test of time as other fad diets, temporary fads have come and gone. And we really want to thank our listeners for the loyalty over the years that we've experienced.

KARA: Yes, definitely. And I believe it's our real food, whole food philosophy that resonates with so many people. It's a long term, sustainable way to eat. In fact, it's a lifestyle. So people can really plan to eat this way forever. It's definitely not in the short term.

MELANIE: And I think it's simple. If you keep things simple and keep the main thing the main thing, then I think it's something that people can resonate with.

And we don't even like to refer to the word diet, right? But when you hear the word diet, it doesn't it make you think about a short term way of eating? Like as long as I'm on the diet, I'm doing this, but then this will end soon. So we talk about a lifestyle of eating healthy fats, healthy vegetables, protein, and when you're deprived of eating, you just feel hungry and crabby. And so we, we want everyone out there to be happy while they're eating healthy.

KARA: And you know, Melanie, you meet with a lot of clients. You've told me that many of them come to you with a weight loss goal. Maybe they have been on those diets, the ones that were hard to stay on because they ended up feeling crabby, hungry, tired. But after chatting with you for a while, they realize, hey, you want them to eat full fat foods: butter, avocados, nuts, maybe some heavy whipping cream.

MELANIE: You're welcome. And then I also remind them to, to eat at least enough protein to meet their needs, usually a little bit more than that. But the minimum amount of meat that you should be eating in meals: a palm size, the thickness and diameter of your palm. And I suggest that other half of the plate be filled with vegetables covered with a tablespoon of some healthy fat. So it's going to keep them healthy. It's going to give them enough fiber. It's going to give them enough neurotransmitters to not have cravings. It's kind of magic when you feed the body what it needs to eat.

KARA: Absolutely magic. And then they don't have those cravings and feel hungry all the time and crabby. So I'm really eager to share today's topic with everyone because as you know, the holiday season is coming up. Chances are if you're in the United States listening, you are about to go into the Thanksgiving weekend.

As we know, it kind of started with Halloween, right? But it morphs into Thanksgiving, which is just really a one day holiday, but that whole season, it just kind of sneaks into Christmas and a lot of the celebrations are revolved around food and or drink, socializing with friends and family. But we hear about the struggles that our listeners have during this time of year.

MELANIE: And I have clients that will order and pick up candy a month before Halloween. And I'm like, there will be candy in the stores a day before Halloween; don't need to preemptively stock up. But especially when it comes to the Christmas holiday, it tends to be more than just Christmas dinner.

For many people, there are holiday social activities and gatherings and celebrations leading up to the actual holiday. And then we slide into the new year, and then there's the Easter celebration, spring eating; it's an ongoing… July 4th. I mean, let me just circle around the whole year right now.

KARA: There's always a reason to celebrate. And we've all experienced the dreaded, let's just call it the dreaded holiday weight gain. And although this weight gain is usually unwanted for most people, it's the few pounds that are gained in between the Thanksgiving holiday to the New Year holiday. It doesn't usually affect people too negatively aside from their pants being too tight. But according to the research from the National Institute of Health and Human Development, most of that weight gained over the holidays is kept on. It's not lost in the New Year.

MELANIE: Yeah, we try to make those New Year's resolutions. But again, it ends up being a deprivation diet that's not sustainable. And with the rising rates of obesity, gaining even just a few pounds each year leads to a higher risk of many chronic health issues. And that's the primary goal. We want people to be healthy.

KARA: Yes, that is definitely our goal. we don't ever want to encourage weight loss at the expense of health; health first.

MELANIE: Health first.

KARA: Yeah. Absolutely. Okay. So I feel like that was kind of a long lead in to tell you that title of our show today, which is Tips to Manage Health During the Holidays. The word health is pretty general. So Melanie is going to break that down for us, so you can understand what our focus will be today.

MELANIE: Yep. Two of the biggest concerns from my clients are how to keep their blood sugar in a healthy range, either to prevent diabetes or to reverse prediabetes. Some of them come to me, they already have diabetes. So we need to manage that and get those blood sugars down. And the other one is, since heart disease is still the number one cause of death in our country, how can I keep all of my cardiovascular markers in range is the question. And that's what we want to do. We want to do it naturally.

Health markers to keep in check

KARA: And we know that all the holiday food and the treats and the events, they do make it more challenging to stay in a healthy eating routine. So it's that time of year if you're not making conscious decisions when it comes to food and drink, your blood sugar levels could easily spike too high. When our blood sugar is elevated, our bodies naturally make more insulin. Of course, our bodies are intelligent. The insulin is produced to bring the blood sugar back down.

But over time this type of a scenario can lead to high triglycerides and you might have heard triglycerides as a familiar term. It's something that you get checked when you have your cholesterol labs done. We definitely don't want our triglycerides too high because that can increase risk of heart disease.

MELANIE: I like to see them under 100: triglycerides and I've had someone come in to me who had triglycerides of 800.

KARA: Oh, wow.

MELANIE: That they had to get down. And we did. And we got it down. But it's one of the largest markers of risk factor for cardiovascular disease. And circling back to blood sugar, also when the blood sugar spikes over those holidays, eating those holiday treats, so does your anxiety.

KARA: Oh, yeah.

MELANIE: So the last thing you need over the holidays is that darn anxiety creeping in. You want to be able to celebrate and enjoy it. So another important marker for your cholesterol is your HDL, high density lipoprotein. And in college, I always remembered we wanted it high and it started with an H.

KARA: Yes.

MELANIE: So that's the good guys that helps to package up the damaging plaque. And get rid of it. So we want that HDL to be high.

KARA: Right. And with the HDL, that high density lipoprotein, we like to see that at least 50. So when it comes to HDL, really higher is better, like you had said, H, higher is good. And renowned cardiologist, Dr. Steven Sinatra, he used to say, he authored several books and he was in medical practice and he used to say that he liked his patients to have a ratio of triglycerides over HDL of 2 over 1. So basically a ratio of 2 to 1. You know, even lower ratio is better. So I'm just going to give a quick example of what that looks like.

MELANIE: Good, good.

KARA: If your triglycerides are at a healthy range of 100 and your HDL is at a healthy range of 50, your ratio would be 2 to 1.

MELANIE: So you just took and divided it.

KARA: Yeah, exactly. That's fantastic. 2 to 1 is fantastic. Or even lower. So another example is, I'm not bragging, I'm just giving this as an example.

MELANIE: Oh, brag girl.  

KARA: Brag away. But the last time I had mine checked, it was a couple of years ago. My ratio was fairly close to one over one. So, my triglycerides were about 80, my HDL was about 75, so you can do the math there. But it looks like it's time for our first break.

You're listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. Our topic today is tips to manage health during the holidays. Melanie and I are focusing on practical ways to navigate the holiday season. So you can look back in January and feel good about your weight, feel good about your health. Our approach at Nutritional Weight and Wellness focuses mostly on food, but you can positively impact your health and your weight by also including some basic healthy lifestyle tips. So we'll be right back with more about this.


What does being insulin sensitive mean?

MELANIE: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. I'm Melanie Beasley, a Licensed Dietitian. I'm here with Kara Carper, a Licensed Nutritionist, and the holiday season is upon us, but we don't want to throw caution to the wind for the whole month of December. We've shared on past podcasts that research shows getting seven to eight hours of sleep and moving your body for at least 30 minutes a day can really help your cells to become more insulin sensitive.

So, what does insulin sensitive mean? It means that after eating a meal, insulin is able to do a better job of carrying that glucose or that sugar into your cells to be used as energy, and that's what we want.

KARA: So, being insulin sensitive, it's essentially, it's the opposite of insulin resistance. Someone who has insulin resistance will be more likely to gain weight. They're already in that fat storing mode instead of fat burning. And they usually have higher blood sugar levels. Maybe they're kind of creeping up. Maybe their triglycerides are creeping up. So we're going to talk about all of that today.

Make sleep a priority to become more insulin sensitive

MELANIE: I think that's great. And we also want to make sleep a priority. Getting seven to eight hours of sleep means your cells will be more insulin sensitive. It's all tied in.

Activity helps increase insulin sensitivity

KARA: And walking 30 minutes per day, ideally getting out even for a short walk after some of those larger holiday meals has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity, which is what we want, that insulin sensitivity. So before break, we started talking about triglycerides and HDL and what the ideal ranges are for those.

Ideal range for glucose

So I want to talk a little bit about glucose. And ideally, we would be fasting 12 hours for glucose. We like to see those numbers 70 to 90. Once it starts creeping towards 100, it's getting a little too high for our comfort. Fasting glucose from 100 to 125 is considered prediabetic, and anything, a fasting glucose over 125, that is a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.

How to eat for overall health

MELANIE: Yes, I think, Kara, circling back, what I want to do is make sure that we are talking about the best way to eat to keep those triglyceride numbers and other cholesterol numbers in that healthy range. So let's talk more about that; practical application.

KARA: So that's a great point, Mel. It's not like getting your triglycerides in check has one way of eating and getting your glucose in check has another way of eating. The great news for everybody is there's one simple way to eat that's going to improve our cholesterol, our blood sugar; guess what? It's going to improve our energy, our focus, and our moods as well.

MELANIE: I'm really glad that you brought that up. It's just one way of eating.

KARA: Yeah. And if weight loss is a goal, people can accomplish that as well with this one way of eating.

MELANIE: Yeah. That's a really great way to put it.

KARA: We'll talk more about what that looks like, like you said, practical terms, but getting our triglycerides in a healthy range and our fasting glucose in a healthy range, that, both of those things are going to reduce risk of heart disease, cancer, even Alzheimer's.

MELANIE: Oh, definitely Alzheimer's.

KARA: Those are all diseases that stem from inflammation. And so, anytime somebody has blood sugar levels that are high or triglycerides that are high for a long time, that creates more inflammation in the body and in the blood vessels.

MELANIE: Yeah. Which starts causing damage to the body. That inflammation, it sounds like just this innocuous term, but really it's creating damage.

KARA: Yeah. I'm glad you said that because we throw that term around a lot, inflammation, but inflammation in our blood vessels and our brain, we don't want to go there.

MELANIE: We don't want to be damaged.

KARA: Right.

Lifestyle habits that can increase health risks

MELANIE: And I have clients that are very intuitive. I think most people know their bodies and they'll come in and they say, I just feel inflamed. They know it. So if you drank more alcohol during the holidays than normal, or maybe you had this stuffing and mashed potatoes, piece of pie for dessert. These are all really high carbohydrate, high sugar foods. Well, that one day of overeating or drinking is not the cause of extra weight gain or the increased risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. It's really, it's that lifestyle.

KARA: Exactly. It's what we do day in and day out. So if you're wondering, well, if it's not just the one meal with all the mashed potatoes and the pie that's leading to a concern for weight gain or risk of disease, it's the things we do on a daily basis. Maybe it's the two glasses of wine that kind of start sneaking in several times a week at some of these social gatherings.

MELANIE: Or at home.

KARA: Or at home. Yeah, it doesn't have to be a social gathering. We've learned that with the pandemic.

MELANIE: We did. It was a routine. It felt like we were all at home celebrating vacation.

KARA: Absolutely.

MELANIE: Kind of.

KARA: We couldn't go anywhere.

MELANIE: In a weird way. Yes. And so people started drinking more alcohol.

KARA: Yeah. So it's the alcohol consumption on a regular basis. Maybe it's the pumpkin spice latte that has 15 teaspoons of sugar. Maybe you kind of get in the habit of doing that several mornings a week. Maybe you pair that with your favorite scone or muffin at the coffee shop. It could be as simple as the baked goods in your office, or that your neighbor drops off. So it's the stuff that we do day in and day out that leads to the risk of chronic disease, weight gain, high blood sugars, high triglycerides, things like that.

MELANIE: Yes. All good news this morning.

KARA: Let's get to the good news.

MELANIE: You know, interesting enough is I have a lot of clients that say, well, I just get a latte, but I called around to every popular coffee house and asked about their alternative milks. There was not one that didn't have sugar added. So even if you're thinking, oh, I just get an oat milk latte or I just get a coconut latte, those milks actually have sugar added already.

So let's be honest with ourselves. Not everyone is able to eat one Christmas cookie or they're having a latte every day on the way to work. So, I really don't know anyone who has that take it or leave it attitude with one cookie. If you're that person listening, you're, you're an amazing person because I'm not that way. So, have you ever told yourself that you can bake cookies for your grandchildren and just eat one or two, but you end up eating five or six; not to mention the cookie dough and feeling sick and you knew you were doing it.

KARA: Yeah. It's not a matter of willpower. We're going to talk more about that. It's biochemical, these cravings that people have. But it sounds like what you're explaining, Mel, is that it's very easy to kind of get on the holiday sugar and the holiday carbohydrate train, but it can be hard to get off the sugar and carb train.

MELANIE: Once you get started, and I love that the same holiday nutrition tips to prevent weight gain are the same tips that help you with your blood sugar levels and to keep those balanced. It's going to help, like we mentioned already, it's going to help with the overall health when you start eating. So there's a lot of other benefits that you're going to have in eating this way as well.

KARA: We had mentioned this, but it's worth repeating: more energy, more focus. Do you want more stable moods throughout this holiday season? I certainly do. I know personally when my blood sugar level goes up too high and then inevitably it's going to crash back down, I just feel more fatigued. That's when I start kind of having those cravings, hunger, brain fog, and get a little irritable. So, eating, for me, eating to support my blood sugar, that's the most important thing I can do, not only to manage weight, but just overall well being and health.

MELANIE: So, what do you do?

KARA: I mean, so the thing we’re going to talk about, which the practical things: starting out with breakfast, not skipping meals, always including that protein. I like to have three eggs for breakfast with a little bit of nitrate free, I just made some bacon up this week. So three eggs, maybe a couple slices of chemical free bacon, sauté some spinach and some cream cheese, and a sweet potato on the side.

MELANIE: And that gets you going, that starts you off in a really good way.

KARA: Oh, absolutely. And that, that really sets the stage for balanced blood sugars throughout the day. It's time for our second break. You're listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. Today, we're talking about tips to manage your health during the holidays. And we had mentioned earlier in the show how moving your body every day helps our cells to be more insulin sensitive. Insulin sensitivity means you're not going to be as likely to gain weight or to let your glucose get too high.

Tips for keeping accountable to move the body

But what if you're already stressed about being busy and how full your holiday schedule is getting? You might be thinking to yourself, how am I going to fit in moving my body along with everything else I have to do this holiday season? Well, the 50 percent rule will keep you accountable. I'm excited for Mel to tell you what that is right after break.


MELANIE: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. I'm Melanie Beasley, and I'm here with Kara Carper today. Before break, Kara mentioned something called the 50 percent rule. Stephanie Mansour, a certified personal trainer, found that this rule works so well for herself during December that she shared it with her personal training clients.

The rule is simple. Take your typical exercise routine, cut it in half. Are you someone who strives to get 10,000 steps? Instead of feeling frustrated with your busy holiday schedule, keep your step goal each day, but cut it in half to 5,000 so you haven't bailed on the entire program and you're still feeling good about the movement.

KARA: If you have an exercise or a movement goal that's really too lofty to keep during the busy holiday season… It's easy to just get frustrated, feel like a failure, and maybe throw in the towel. How many times have we heard, I'll just wait until January and I'll hit the gym then. I'll get back on track then.

MELANIE: The January gym is always packed.

KARA: It really is. Yeah. And that's not a bad thing, but even a 15 to 20 minute walk in the month of December in between your events, that can make a really big difference compared to not moving your body at all.

MELANIE: That's a really great point. I have my clients just do 10 minutes of movement after a meal. So it might even be vacuuming or it might be walking around the office for 10 minutes.

KARA: It all counts.

MELANIE: It might be taking the stairs. It all adds up.

KARA: It doesn't have to be that formal going to the gym process because any movement is going to improve blood sugar levels.

MELANIE: Yeah. And after a meal, it really helps usher that blood sugar into the cell, which is what we want.

KARA: Glad you mentioned that. Yeah.


KARA: So, Melanie, you had asked me, you know, Kara, how do you manage your blood sugar so I can make sure I'm not crabby and hungry and unfocused over the month of December. And I just shared a breakfast.

Eat sufficient healthy protein & fat to balance blood sugar

MELANIE: Yeah. And one of the things I, I always do is I always make sure I have four to six ounces of protein at my meals. That's what keeps me revved and going and I feel like a wilting daffodil, and I know I haven't had enough protein when I get that way and as soon as I eat it, I, it's like someone watered me and I just like come back to life. So I know for me, protein is really key.

KARA: Yeah. And for me, protein is also key, but I just wanted to give a shout out to healthy fats as well.

MELANIE: Oh yeah. Because they make everything delicious.

KARA: Well, they do. They absolutely make it taste good. Of course, fat is where we get the flavor. But another thing is if I forget… this happens to me once in a while believe it or not. I'll be making my smoothie and I have my protein, I have my vegetable in there, I have my fruit, but guess what?

Every once in a while I forget the healthy fat. I forget the half of an avocado or I forget the full fat canned coconut milk or the two tablespoons of nut butter. I can feel it. Within two hours, I'm thinking, why am I so hungry? Why can't, why do I feel my blood sugar dropping? Oh, I forgot the healthy fat.

MELANIE: Fat is magic. It releases leptin in the brain, which is our satiety signal. So many of my clients, if they're not getting enough protein and fat, they’re hungry.

KARA: And you always say it anchors the blood sugar and I really like that statement because I have a visual effect of it actually anchoring the glucose or the blood sugar.

MELANIE: Yep. And we need that healthy fat to make hormones, to make the good cholesterol, HDL. We need that.

KARA: We do.

Plan ahead & stay in control of food prep

MELANIE: So when I'm working with a client, there are always things that are in their control and things that are not in their control. So, we focus on what is in their control during the month of December. And it's generally what you put in your mouth you have control over. The chaos of family may be problematic for you or work may be ramped up, but you can control what you put in your mouth to take care of yourself. And at some point you have to put your oxygen mask on first before you start worrying about all the other things because you can do them better when you feel good and you're well nourished.

KARA: And, you know, maybe you are traveling this holiday season. Maybe you're having guests stay at your home. Those are things that you probably don't have a lot of control over, but do you have control to plan ahead of time when it comes to food? Do you have control to get in some grocery shopping? You know, maybe you do a, a home delivery if you can't get to the store. Do you have control to do a little bit of food prep and just kind of think out your day? What am I going to have for breakfast? What do I have available for snacks? These are the things that you have control over, so let's focus on those this holiday season.

MELANIE: I love that so much because you may want to do the right thing, but if you don't plan, it just never comes to fruition. We have to plan, and if you're usually stressed and busy around the holidays, there are events or obligations where you can say no. Can you make your self care your priority?

So if you put some things, give some things no, because I tell my clients, schedule your grocery shopping like an appointment. Schedule your meal prep like an appointment in your planner or in your phone calendar so that you treat it like it's a priority, an appointment. You wouldn't miss a doctor's appointment or a hair appointment. Don't miss your appointment to grocery shop or food prep. And that's making yourself a priority. And saying no to the nonstop social activities frees up that schedule.

KARA: Right, and I know I've had the fear of missing out, the FOMO around the holidays.

MELANIE: Don't we all? Yes.

KARA: Oh my gosh. I got to do all these things. I got to attend every single thing that's going on. And then really, how does that, how does that help us? Because we're left kind of frazzled. Probably that's when we're not sleeping as well, not moving our bodies. We tend to have more cravings. It's a vicious cycle.

MELANIE: Yup. It is. Yup. It's such a vicious cycle.

Avoid skipping meals and/or snacks before an upcoming event

KARA: So let's dive into this, this topic of holiday social obligations. Maybe it's a dinner. Maybe you have a happy hour; could be gathering at a home or a restaurant. Melanie and I have noticed there's a tendency to want to eat light during the day. Have you ever done that? You know there's going to be a lot of food and treats at an upcoming event and so you think, I'm just going to eat light all day. We can tell you that is the worst thing you can do is to skip meals or skip snacks earlier in the day to save calories for the event. We're going to tell you why.

MELANIE: Oh, because you're ferocious when you get to that event. And so don't skimp on breakfast. You can balance your blood sugar levels much better the rest of the day. Eat that four to five ounces of protein, which might be a couple sausage patties and two to three eggs. Like we mentioned, a tablespoon of that healthy fat that you cook all of that in, maybe you stir fry some spinach or peppers and onions; delicious and that's going to set your blood sugar on a good path for the rest of the day so you don't have that crazy wild appetite.

KARA: And I had mentioned a protein shake that I like to have that works for me, especially if I have a busy morning and I'm maybe I don't feel like cooking eggs or I don't have time. We have dozens of great protein shake recipes on our website, I've been experimenting. I mentioned that sometimes I forget the fat and I notice a crash in my blood sugar. Another thing I've noticed, because I've been trying to perfect protein shakes for decades now.

Check Out Some of Our Protein Shake Recipes!

MELANIE: I think we already have. They're on our website, Kara.

KARA: I know. This is like for my personal biochemistry though. We've got some great recipes, but we're all a little different when it comes to our biochemistry.

MELANIE: And our flavors.

KARA: And our flavors, exactly. So this is just for me, but if this helps anyone, I'm going to give a little tip. The more fiber and the more, we'll call it a solid fat versus a liquid fat, the more I put that in my protein shake, the longer I feel satiated and satisfied. So, you know, maybe I do put in the half avocado instead of the heavy whipping cream.

MELANIE: And you've got that fiber and the fat together.

KARA: I've got the fiber and the fat. So anyway, that's working for me and I put a big handful of leafy greens. It just kind of mixes right in. I put some riced cauliflower.

MELANIE: My new favorite is I get an organic, I can't do dairy, so I do an organic plant based yogurt, a scoop of my protein powder, half a cup of blueberries, and cover it with walnuts or pumpkin seeds.

KARA: Oh, you just sprinkle those in?

MELANIE: Mm hmm. And that's my new favorite. So I'm getting my protein, I'm getting my healthy fat, and then I get the berries.

KARA: Love it.

MELANIE: Yeah. That's one of my... I got tired of eggs, and then I got tired of smoothies, so this is what I'm rotating in now. And I'll circle back to an egg bake or something like that later.

KARA: And don't feel like you need to recreate the wheel if you're listening, because like Mel said, we have 20 wonderful balanced recipes on our website. We're just kind of giving our flair to a couple.

MELANIE: So a good balanced protein breakfast is important for the day of the event, or every day, really. So eating on schedule the rest of the day. Don't skimp. Leading up to the party, you're going to be able to make sane decisions. You're not going to walk into that party, smell all the delicious food, lose your mind, and head over to the chips and the dips and all of that. And you can be more mindful about what you're going to choose and eat.

KARA: And it is helpful to start out with the planning and the prep. And so it looks like we need to go to break. We'll talk more about planning and prep when we come back. You're listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. I'm Kara Carper, Licensed Nutritionist. I'm here with Melanie Beasley, Licensed and Registered Dietitian.

Now, if you have not already checked out our Dishing Up Nutrition private Facebook group, I encourage you just go to your Facebook page and type in Dishing Up Nutrition. We have wonderful admins and moderators that will accept your invitation to join. And you can ask personalized questions. You can even weigh in on what you would like to hear for future topics. We'll be right back.

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MELANIE: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. We are talking today about tips to manage health during the holidays and so, we mentioned before we went to break that breakfast, starting with breakfast keeps that blood sugar balanced throughout the day and not skipping meals in hopes to save calories for an event coming in because then when you get to that event, you are in it to win it. So this isn't the plan, right?

More tips on planning & preparing

KARA: Right. Yeah. We had also started talking about planning and preparing. And recently, I was facilitating Ongoing Support and Education, which is specifically for Nutrition for Weight Loss graduates. It allows them to continue having weekly education, community, and support. So I posed the question to the group via Zoom: What are you all doing or what have you done in the past to prepare ahead of time for the holiday craziness, the stress, and being out of your regular routine?

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So I thought one woman had a great example. She said last year, right around Thanksgiving, I made a double batch of wild rice meatballs. And she froze them all. So that way, when December rolled around and she started getting really busy, she would just open the freezer, take out a few meatballs at a time, and there was her meal or her snack.

MELANIE: Yeah, I love that.

KARA: All ready to go.

MELANIE: I love that. It's really fun to have those meatballs and then have different dippings, like your favorite mustard or maybe Primal Kitchen barbecue sauce or wing sauce so that they don't get boring. I had a client, instead of wild rice, she put in chopped mushrooms. And she said they came out really good.

KARA: Oh, that sounds delicious.

MELANIE: You can always make that your palate pleaser, your own personal way of doing it.

KARA: And that recipe is on our website as well.

MELANIE: It is. Yeah. So I think those are some really great ideas that your client had in class for everybody. It's usually the protein that is the hardest to come by in a pinch. That one takes some prep. We can always do raw vegetables, raw fruit, et cetera. So making large batches of your favorite meals or proteins and freezing them in small portions is a great tip.

I will put down a bunch of chicken thighs or chicken breasts or salmon patties, a bunch. Cook them off and freeze them individually so that I can just pull them, defrost them in the microwave and I've got a protein that's ready to go. I had a client who liked to make our beef chili recipe and she would freeze it in one to two cup containers. I love mason jars for that. Then when it's ready to go, she could do one cup would be a snack, two cups would be a complete meal, and of course, she added a little bit of olives or avocado or guacamole on top. She had that healthy fat; perfect; kept her on task through the holidays and she didn't end up feeling guilt ladened and sick about how she'd been eating for the month of the holidays.

Eat a balanced snack before a holiday event

KARA: Another great tip, just making those meals ahead of time and freezing them. Now, this next tip might sound counterintuitive. When you're getting ready to go to a holiday event with lots of food and goodies, because you might be thinking you might have that old mentality of saving the calories or eating light, but I want you to all consider eating something before you walk out the door to go to the party.

I'll tell you, I've never regretted eating a snack that had some protein and healthy fat on my way out the door to go to an event that had food. But I almost always regret it when I don't do that.

MELANIE: That is a really good point. And just having little deli meat roll ups ready to roll, which is just deli meat, cream cheese or guacamole, and then put a pickle or some peppers in the middle, roll them up; couple of those little log babies and you can make a, a really good mindful decision about what you want to eat.

KARA: And that's what it's all about. You're able to take a step back, make a conscious choice instead of feeling like the food is controlling you at the party.

MELANIE: Yeah, because really we're there to be with the people that we love and the people that we like. So food becomes second fiddle instead of first fiddle. When you are starving, food is the primary goal. So what does it look like for you?

KARA: Well, you know, a quick thing that I would do, I like your deli meat roll up. That's really quick. Another easy one is if I have eggs boiled, which I always have a dozen eggs boiled every Sunday. They're in my fridge in cold water. I would peel two of those and I would take a little avocado, maybe Primal Kitchen Avocado mayonnaise, and it's kind of my shortcut of deviled eggs; get a little lazy, but I just take a dollop of the mayo and I cut the eggs and put it on there. And there's my protein and healthy fat and I'm ready to go to the holiday event and not overeat and not have cravings.

MELANIE: And you have triggered the leptin in your brain to tell you that you are okay. When you walk in the door, you're not starving and essentially you're stabilizing that blood sugar ahead of time and setting the stage for success at the party. Going to a party hungry on an empty stomach, you know, it's just like grocery shopping with an empty stomach. You wonder, how did this end up in my cart or my mouth? It just backfires on us and it's biochemical.

So when you're hungry and you want to start munching on processed foods such as chips or crackers, you never really fill up on chips or crackers. You can plow through a ton of those. Or maybe you grab alcohol and that alcohol goes straight to your blood system and then we make poor decisions of our food choices. So think about a mocktail and not arriving hungry.  

Holiday party tip: bring a healthy, balanced dish

KARA: And that reminds me of a couple other tips for going to holiday parties or holiday events is what if somebody asks you to bring something? Well, think hard. What if somebody asks you to bring something? Ideally, the dish that you're bringing will have some protein and healthy fat. Maybe you bring a side of veggies. Maybe you bring a vegetable tray with a nice full fat dip or some guacamole. That way, you know that you have something to eat that's not sugar, not a white carbohydrate when you get there and you know that's going to be satisfying. And just in case, that might be the only good healthy choice there.

MELANIE: And, you know, I have never had the host or the other people at the party, when I bring a big, beautiful salad, I love to, in the holidays, I love to put pomegranates in there on kale. I've, I've never had anyone not be grateful that there is really healthy servings for them. And I never bring it home. It's gone. It's always eaten. So everyone is a little relieved when there's something healthy to eat.

KARA: Yeah, whether it's a salad or like I said, like maybe it's a charcuterie plate. Those are wonderful. Melanie, you talk about those. You can have a couple different types of cheese, some nitrate free deli meat or nitrate free sausage, olives, pickles, nuts. We prefer raw or dry roasted. Just avoid the nuts that are roasted in oils. They're really processed. They're more inflammatory in our bodies. So a great charcuterie plate. Everybody loves that.

MELANIE: Yeah. And you know, I had my daughter tell me, you know why our generation loves charcuterie plates? She's 30. She said, you know why our generation loves charcuterie plates, mom? And I said, why? She said, we were all raised on Lunchables. They're just adult Lunchables, mom.

KARA: That's perfect.

MELANIE: But then you have control over what you're putting on that board. And I love to just get, I just pick up serving trays, line them with parchment paper. And you can do some really fun and beautiful, delicious items on there, fun meats and cheeses and olives and pickles, and it's really fun to put together.

KARA: And there's something for everyone on one of those trays.

MELANIE: Yep. Throw in some, you know, a few whole grain gluten free crackers. I love to slice vegetables on the diagonal and have those as servings for crackers for people. But there's a lot that you can do to just enjoy that and everybody loves that. So far, we've given tips to eat a protein, healthy fat, and maybe a veggie as well for heading to the party. And if you bring something, bring a dish or a side with protein and include those parameters of healthy fat and veggies that we always talk about.

Holiday party tip: scope out what foods are going to be served

But a third tip is when you arrive, don't be shy about finding out what foods are going to be served. You can even, if you have food intolerances or allergies, you can call your host ahead of time and say, how can I fill in the gaps with what you're serving? What do you need me to bring? And then you've got something that you can bring. If it's a buffet style, just take a little walkthrough and see what you're going to eat before you start at the beginning. So those are some great tips for you.

KARA: That's a wonderful tip. You know, people are gracious. They want their guests to be happy and satisfied.

MELANIE: And the goal when you're going into the holidays is some self care. Start putting your self care, and your body and your health first. Well, our goal at Nutritional Weight and Wellness is to help each and every person experience better health through eating real food. It's a simple yet powerful message. Eating real food is life changing. Thank you for listening and have a wonderful day.

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