Before you know it, it will be holiday time. With more Americans getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and reuniting with friends and family, it’s a sure bet that along with the fun and parties there will be food… everywhere! But does that mean that all your health and fitness progress for the year needs to be thrown out with last year’s tinsel? Hardly!
Americans gain an average of 7 pounds every holiday season. But what most people don’t realize is that even if holiday weight gain only accounts to 3-4 pounds, most of us never lose that excess weight. This leads to a gradual accumulation year after year, setting us up for health problems.
If you’ve started a journey towards better health, it doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate.
Here are some tips to enjoy the holiday while being smart with your lifestyle choices.
1. Never go to a holiday gathering on an empty stomach.
Doing so sets you up to overeat or make poor choices. Try having a small high protein snack before you go, such as ¼ cup greek yogurt, string cheese, a boiled egg with some cut veggies, or a handful of nuts. The protein content will help you feel full, making you less likely to overindulge.
2. Think “Protein and Green” whenever you eat.
Many of a food binge’s adverse effects come from starch/sugar overload and the subsequent ‘crash’ afterwards. For example, on Thanksgiving for example, go for lean white meat turkey, green beans, cauliflower mash, and salad, and avoid marshmallow-laden sweet potatoes, dinner rolls, and sweets.
3. Stay active.
Holidays can be busy and stressful, but schedule into your calendar a minimum of 15 minutes of some type of physical activity daily. This won’t offset a giant meal, but it will help keep your mood and your motivation in check. A recent published study* suggested that our ability to succeed with health and fitness goals is increased, if we put in the effort to exercise.
4. Minimize alcohol.
Alcohol not only packs in extra calories and sugars, but it lowers our inhibitions to over-indulge. Sparkling seltzer with mint, lemon or lime and a spritz of liquid Stevia makes a good substitute for a holiday beverage. If you choose to indulge, steer clear of cocktails with loads of simple syrup (such as premade mixes) and instead enjoy a vodka cocktail made with stevia-sweetened tonic, or a glass of dry red or white wine. Follow each alcoholic beverage with a glass of sparkling water to keep up hydration.
5. Drink plenty of water.
Try to keep a bottle on you at all times, and keep sipping to curb your appetite and keep energy levels up, so you’ll be less tempted to snack on unhealthy choices.
Most importantly - keep in mind what the holidays are truly about – spending time with loved ones and friends, and reflecting on the year we’ve all had. And envision how much better you will feel if you start January 2022 off with great memories, and few regrets.
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*Segar et al, BMC Public Health, 2017; 17(1) DOI: 19,1186