Every year it’s the same. Holiday overindulgence inevitably results in weight gain and lethargy. Winter holidays are particularly challenging as cold, dark days are ideal for plotting what, when and where to eat next. Then there the countless parties and festive family meals, when even the healthiest eaters can be tempted to go overboard. No one needs reminding how much easier it is to gain weight than to lose it, especially if we’re feeling miserable and guilty.
Is all the merrymaking really worth a serious case of snug-fitting clothes and the winter blues?
Moderation not deprivation
I don’t believe in dieting or calorie counting – especially when surrounded by the temptations of the holiday season. Feeling deprived and grumpy while everyone else is indulging is no fun and doesn’t work.
Let’s face it, you’re probably going to be overdoing it. The good news is that there’s plenty you can do to help push harmful, fattening substances out of your system – starting with your snacks. The trick is to pack in the nutrients and fibre and pull out the sugar and fat so you can enjoy the tasty seasonal treats, without the guilt and gratuitous calories.
Strategic snacking – the golden rule
It’s simple really. To keep your energy levels up and your appetite in check just make sure that all your snacks (and meals) contain a balance of these 3 things: complex carbs, low-fat protein and healthy fats.
Mind your carbs: We need carbohydrates for energy and brain power. But are you choosing the right ones? Fruits, vegetables and whole grains (quinoa, spelt, brown rice, oats) are “good” carbs, packed with nutrients that release their energy slowly and keep you feeling fuller longer. “Bad” carbs are the refined grains in white bread and many crackers, cakes, biscuits and desserts. Stripped of nutrients and fibre, they wreak havoc on your blood sugar levels causing energy slumps and cravings.
Simply put: choose “brown” bread and crackers instead of “white”. Use whole grain flours for baking.
Protein Power: We need it to repair our cells and make antibodies to fight off seasonal bugs, but it has to be the right kind. Opt for easily digestible, low-fat sources of protein like organic eggs, chicken and fish and avoid processed meats (bacon, sausages and ham) which are full of saturated fats and contain no fibre. Increase plant protein from beans and legumes. These fibre-rich foods help rid your body of toxins and keep you feeling fuller longer.
Simply put: Eat nuts, seeds, hummus, pea dip and avoid all processed meat.
Good fats and bad fats: The right fats help keep your metabolism revved up, but which ones to eat and which ones to avoid? Examples of “good” fats are avocado, oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring) olive oil, nuts and seeds. “Bad” fats are the saturated ones in red meat, whole milk and other whole-milk dairy foods and cheese. “Ugly” fats are trans fats typically found in commercially prepared baked goods and fried foods.
Simply put: Eat plenty of guacamole, a handful of nuts each day, put seeds on everything, swap dairy for alternative milks and bypass those churros at the Christmas Village!
Amp up your water intake!
Probably, the most underrated “snack” is water. All our body’s functions depend on it and it helps prevent cravings. Our bodies often have trouble differentiating between dehydration and hunger. When all you need is a glass of water, your body can trick you into thinking you’ll be satisfied with more food. When you feel a craving, drink a glass of water and wait a few minutes. The cravings may subside.
Simply put: Carry water with your everywhere. Always have a glass of water half an hour before you eat. And remember – alcohol is dehydrating. Enough said.
Five strategic snacks
One of the best ways to avoid bingeing during holidays is to eat a balanced snack at home before heading out for a party or a get together. Here are a few to help make your holidays merry and bright.
1. Chia seed pudding
A versatile little seed loaded with protein, iron, calcium, magnesium and antioxidants, chia seeds can be eaten as pudding for breakfast, dessert or an afternoon snack. Simply mix the seeds with coconut or almond milk, add a pinch of cinnamon and vanilla and let it sit for a few hours, until it gets that yummy pudding consistency.
2. Green detox smoothie
Who says that a smoothie has to be consumed first thing in the morning? Instead of gulping down a large glass you can make a smaller smoothie with some apples, ginger, sesame seeds and coconut water.
3. Sesame cabbage slaw
Shred equal parts of purple and green cabbage, carrot and onions, add some sesame seeds, a little lemon juice and tahini sauce. Mix together and keep refrigerated until ready to eat. This simple, flavour-packed dish can be enjoyed as a side dish too.
4. Pea dip
A spin on hummus, pea dip is full of easily digestible protein, making it an ideal snack to help with toxic overload. In a blender, mix the peas, fresh cilantro leaves, lemon juice, garlic, tahini sauce olive oil and a pinch of salt until smooth. Enjoy with celery sticks or gluten-free pita chips.
5. Baked Apple
This makes a surprisingly satisfying dessert if your sweet tooth is playing up. Simply wash an apple (no need to peel), core it and place in the oven in a casserole dish. Drizzle a little maple syrup on top of the apple and bake for half an hour at about 180 degrees. Add a dash of cinnamon and some nuts for added protein and extra sweetness and taste.
Happy Healthy Holidays!