The Holidays can be a challenging time to maintain health. There are many parties and lots of food choices, especially treats and higher calorie options. Here are some ideas for how you can navigate through the holidays by making some healthier choices and still enjoy some of the treats.
Make treats a little healthier: We enjoying making treats, however, we look for ways to improve the nutrition quality of those treats. For example, many cookie recipes call for more sugar than needed, so simply reducing the sugar can be beneficial (we prefer to reduce the sugar versus using a sugar substitute). Instead of white flour – try using whole grain flour, ground oats or a combination of whole grain and white flour. In brownies or any chocolate recipe – we always use whole grain or multi-grain flours as you don’t notice the difference due to the rich flavor of the cocoa or dark chocolate. But this whole grain substitution can also work in regular cookies. I have adapted a s’more cookie recipe by using ground grapenuts and multi-grain flour vs. the ground graham crackers and white flour the original recipe calls for and no one notices the difference.
Bring healthy treats: Skip the cookies and sugar sweetened treats and bring vegetable and/or fruit trays or salads to your holiday parties and then fill your plate with the fruit and vegetables and you are less likely to reach for the cookies, cakes and sweetened treats.
Eat a healthy balanced meal first: If you know you are going to an event that is not likely to have many healthy choices, eat a nice balanced meal before hand so you are less likely to eat at the event. If you know you would like to enjoy some of the treats at the event, eat something nutrient dense but low calorie before going to the event so you are satisfied. For example a spinach salad (or any dark greens) with a mix of vegetables, maybe some fruit and then some type of fat/protein (olive oil, some cheese, nuts, egg or pieces of meat like chicken or salmon).
Prioritize: Multiple events and added stresses may cause you to adjust your typical workout schedule. Be sure to evaluate your time and schedule and ensure you are still getting in your regular workouts, even if it means shortening your workouts. By staying consistent with your exercise, you will be less likely to be tempted by all those holiday treats.
Moderation: If there is that special cookie, treat or bread that your co-worker, neighbor or family member makes that you look forward to all year, then plan in that treat. A couple of treats over the holidays will not result in any major change or set back in your pathway to health. In fact, studies show that individuals who do plan in treats in moderation have greater health and satisfaction.
Enjoy the holidays in moderation so you stay on your path of good health. That way when January 1 rolls around, you can continue to focus on your progress forward versus how to make up for your choices over the holidays.
Great article with additional strategies from ACE: How to throw a Fit and Healthy Holiday Party