Healthy Byte Holiday Edition: Tips & Strategies to Eating Healthy During the Holiday Season

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Ahhhhh December – I absolutely adore the atmosphere around this time of the year. But it is also one of the most challenging times for those like myself who have lost weight and want to keep it off. Food temptation is all around us but especially fierce around the holiday season. Aside from the endless barrage of office and holiday parties, home made bake goods seem to mysteriously multiply like rabbits in break rooms everywhere. But have no fear, here are some tips, strategies, & resources to help maintain a balance.

Tips on Eating Healthily During the Holiday Season

Being health-conscious doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t enjoy the holiday season and have a little bit of what you fancy. It simply means that you should continue to be vigilant and be prepared for the festivities.

There are many ways in which you can help to strike a balance between maintaining a healthy diet and joining in with the fun and festivities.

1. Exercise: Most people have a little extra time available over the holiday season when they are not at work. Take this opportunity to develop a regular exercise regime. This will help to burn off the excess calories and fat consumed over this period. It will also get you into the habit of exercising, and you can continue the regime after the holiday season is over.

2. Review your cooking methods: These days there is no excuse for not utilizing the many healthy ways in which food can be prepared. Instead of frying, grill your food. If you’re roasting, use one of the many available low-calorie spray oils. Try steaming vegetables to retain nutrients and flavor.

3. Invest in lower fat ingredients for cooking: If you’re preparing a big dinner, why not use half-fat ingredients whenever possible? It is often difficult to tell the difference where taste and flavor are concerned. You can even get low-calorie beers, wines and soft drinks. By simply swapping regular ingredients, foods and drinks for their half-fat alternatives you can make a big cut-back on fat and calorie consumption.

4. Eat regularly: If you are going to a big party or dinner, don’t starve yourself all day in anticipation. You’re in danger of arriving there feeling ravenous and eating everything in sight. Instead, have some low-fat, healthy snacks throughout the day. By doing this, you’ll be less likely to over-indulge whilst you are out.

5. Prepare for outings: If you have some big nights out and meals planned over the holiday season, try and compensate by having some healthy eating days leading up to the event. Many of us are only too keen to think that we may as well forget about healthy eating over the holidays. However, it should not be a case of forgetting about your diet, but simply managing it a little more carefully over the holidays.

6. Balance your meals out: Don’t be tempted to fill up your plate with purely rich, calorie-laden food. Instead, have a little of everything including fruit and vegetables. This way, you’ll still get to indulge as well as receive valuable nutrients and vitamins.

7. Be wary of sugary foods: Always remember that rich, sugary foods have a nasty habit of making us crave yet more rich and sugary foods. We’ve all been there…over-indulging in sweet or rich food…feeling bloated, sick, and making rash promises to never eat again…and, a couple of hours later, finding ourselves back in the kitchen, picking at leftovers. By ensuring that you practice healthy eating over the holidays, and throw in some form of regular exercise, you can expect to have more energy and fewer cravings.

8. Stock up on healthy snacks: When you go shopping, be sure to throw some healthy snacking items in to your trolley. Fill up on raw vegetables, such as carrots or celery, which can make a simple snack in times of temptation.

9. Be aware of food allergies: It is quite possible that you may have an allergy or intolerance to a food, which you may not even be aware of. Because there is a mountain of food waiting around every corner during the holiday season, we sometimes find ourselves gorging on food that we don’t even know the ingredients of. Then we wonder why we’re feeling so ill the next morning! By having a food allergy test, you can identify any foods that you need to avoid during the holiday season in order to maintain your health and enjoy the festivities without suffering.

10. Moderate alcohol intake: Don’t forget that alcohol is fattening too. That innocent-looking glass of sparkly wine or that small bottle of beer may look as though it will do no harm. However, alcohol contains calories and lots of them. Try and control the amount of alcohol you consume over the holiday period and, in the same way as food, try not to over-indulge regularly. There are plenty of lower-calorie beers and wines available that can help, so opt for the healthier version whenever possible.

11. Be assertive: Don’t feel as though you have to say yes to everyone that offers you food and drink. If you are not hungry, then simply say so. Do not let yourself be bullied into eating something that you really don’t want.

12. Leave what you don’t want: Despite what your parents may have drummed into you as a child, don’t feel obliged to clear your plate. When you feel full, stop eating. Simple.

Defenses Against Food Pushers

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Chances are there has been a situation where you have felt pressured into eating something that you didn’t want to because either a friend or loved one convinced you that you should have just one, or 20. This is what we like to refer to as a food pusher. Someone who encourages or pressures you to eat something even if you had no intention of eating in the first place.

Food pushers range from well-intentioned loved ones to total diet saboteurs. Regardless of their motivation, it’s important to stick to your guns. You can always be honest and say that you’re simply trying to eat healthier, but if that response gets ignored (or doesn’t come easily), the following retorts to their food-forcing ways will keep you in control of what goes on your plate and in your mouth!

1. Admirers – This person is almost always innocent and simply wants to share a delicious recipe, sweet treat, or restaurant experience. In certain cultures, like my Spanish heritage, eating food is a primary way family and friends show love for each other. Admirers may also seek acceptance through their food.
2. Enablers – This person knows you need to lose weight, but they see the challenges you face and wants to ease the “pain” by allowing you to eat whatever you want. Another type of enabler may not want to be seen as the “bad guy” or person who keeps you from eating what you want.
3. Sabotagers – In either subset of sabotagers, this type of food pusher wants you to eat more with a root intent of making themselves feel better for a) not being the only one who gives into temptation or struggles and/or b) that you won’t reach your goals and change as fast, out of a fear of what that means for them.

The Push: “It’s my specialty, you have to try it!”

Your Response: “I will in a bit!”

Why It Works: Stalling is a great tactic with food pushers. Odds are the offender won’t follow you around making sure you actually try the dish. If they catch up with you by the end of the party to ask what you thought, tell them that it slipped your mind but you’ll be sure to try it next time.

The Push: “This [insert name of high-calorie dish] is my favorite. You’ll love it!”

Your Response: “I had some already—so delicious!”
Why It Works: A white lie in this situation isn’t going to hurt anybody. You’ll get out of eating food you don’t want or need, and the food pusher will have gotten a compliment on what probably is a delicious dish.

The Push: “It’s just once a year!”

Your Response: “But I’ll probably live to celebrate more holidays if I stick with my diet plan!”

Why It Works: People can sometimes see healthy eating as vain—a means to the end result of losing weight and looking better. It’s harder for a food pusher to argue with you if you bring attention to the fact that you eat right and exercise for better health and a longer life. Looking good just happens to be a side effect!

The Push: “Looks like someone is obsessed with dieting…”

Your Response: “I wouldn’t say obsessed, but I am conscious of what I eat.”

Why It Works: Words like “food snob” or obsessed” are pretty harsh when they’re thrown around by food pushers. But don’t let passive-aggressive comments like this bring you down or make you veer away from your good eating intentions. Acknowledging your willpower and healthy food choices might influence others to be more conscious of what they eat. Sometimes you just have to combat food pushers with a little straightforward kindness.

The Push: “If you don’t try my dish, I’m just going to have to force you to eat it!”

Your Response: “Sorry, but I don’t like (or can’t eat) [insert ingredient here].”

Why It Works: It’s hard to argue with someone’s personal food preferences. If someone doesn’t like an ingredient whether its sweet potatoes, pumpkin, or butter, odds are that he or she hasn’t liked it for a very long time. If you’d like to get creative with this one, go into detail about how you got sick on the ingredient as a kid or how your mom says you always threw it across the room as a baby. Who can argue with that?

The Push: “You need some meat on your bones.”

Your Response: “Trust me, I’m in no danger of wasting away!”

Why It Works: This food push is definitely on the passive-aggressive side. Using humor to fight back will defuse any tension while making it clear where you stand.

The Push: “One bite isn’t going to kill you.”

Your Response: “I know, but once you pop you can’t stop! And I’m sure it’s so delicious I wouldn’t be able to stop!”

Why It Works: This is another situation where humor will serve to distract the food pusher from his or her mission. It’s a way to say “thanks, but no thanks” while making it clear that you’re not interested in overindulging.

The Push: “But it’s your favorite!”

Your Response: “I think I’ve overdosed on it; I just can’t eat it anymore!”

Why It Works: If you have a favorite holiday dish that everyone knows you love, it can be especially tough to escape this push. If a loved one made the dish specifically for you, the guilt can be enough to push you over the edge. But people understand that food preferences change, and most have been in that situation of enjoying a dish so much that they can’t touch it for awhile.

The Push: [Someone puts an extra helping on your plate without asking.]

Your Response: Push it around with your fork like you did as a kid to make it look like you tried it.

Why It Works: While putting food on some- one else’s plate can be viewed as passive- aggressive, it was probably done with love. (Let’s hope!) Making it look like you ate a bite or two can be an easy way out of the situation, but you can also just leave it alone and claim that you’ve already had your fill. (After all, you didn’t add that extra helping!)

The Push: “Have another drink!”

Your Response: “I have to drive.”

Why It Works: No one will argue with the fact that you want to drive home sober. If they do, you should have no qualms walk- ing away from the conversation, period. If they offer a place for you to stay, you can always get out of the situation by blaming an early morning commitment or the fact that you need to get home to let the dog out. Kids will also get you out of everything.

Sources:

12 Healthy Ways to Survive the Holiday Eating Frenzy

Coping Strategies for Food Pushers

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