Holiday Eating Survival Guide

Family, friends and co-workers are well meaning when they offer you special treats over the holidays. Unfortunately, the best of intentions can sabotage your efforts to eat well and to choose healthful foods for yourself and your family.

Between Dad’s world famous peanut butter fudge and Aunt Leona’s mouth-watering lemon cream pie, you’ve got your work cut out for you!

Your job is one of choice. I recommend some of the following strategies to help you find an appropriate balance. Here are some steps to limit over-consumption of holiday food and to avoid the unnecessary weight gain that is so common during the holidays.

START IN YOUR OWN HOME

If you make your own home a safe haven of healthy foods, you will be doing yourself a favor. Holidays often offer a buffet of any kind of sweet or savory treat you can think of.

I suggest going through your cupboards and your refrigerator and throwing out the refined and processed foods (white sugar, white salt, white flour) you see and replacing them with whole healthful alternatives (see the article “Great Beginnings Always Start with Leaving Something Behind” for more details on how to get started with your home cupboard and refrigerator cleanout).

By eliminating the amount of processed and refined foods in your own home, you can feel a little better about saying yes to the occasional treat when you are at a holiday function.

If it’s tradition in your home to make a few treats, try and use unrefined ingredients in the recipes. Reach for fruit, 100% maple syrup, molasses or raw honey to sweeten dishes, and remember a little goes a long ways! You can make treats that taste delicious without overloading your body with sugar.

DON’T FORGET THE BASICS

Eat balanced meals and choose foods that support your health. This may sound simple, but it often falls by the wayside during the holidays. You still need to eat fruit, vegetables, healthy fats, whole grains, protein, and calcium-rich foods to be a healthy person.

Get regular exercise to maintain your level of fitness. I don’t recommend trying to lose weight during the holidays, instead I recommend maintaining a stable weight.

INDULGE A LITTLE, NOT A LOT

I encourage you to set some limits on how much sugar and refined food you choose to eat during the holidays to 3X a week or less. It’s a good starting place considering the amount of food that is often offered.

Remember, you don’t need to say “yes” to everything that is placed before you at a dinner party. Instead, decide what you would like to indulge in. Choose one or the other.

When at the buffet table, choose smaller portions. You can always return if you are still hungry, but decide if you are hungry or if you are just trying to clean your plate.

Share what you do decide to indulge in. There is nothing wrong with having a bite or splitting a piece of pie instead of having your own.

ACCESS, ABUNDANCE AND PARTIES

Parties are for socializing, I recommend placing this before the buffet table, by arriving to the party with something in your stomach. You will feel much better when you do reach for a small nibble of something you would like to enjoy.

Avoid being peer-pressured. You know when you are hungry and you know when you are full. It’s ok to say, “No thank you, that was delicious, but I am full”.

If someone gives you some treats as a gift, have a piece of whatever it is, and either freeze the rest or throw it away (I promise you, they will never find out).

TEMPERANCE

Above all, please remember to be kind to yourself over the holidays. Special times spent with family and friends are meant to be enjoyed. If you follow a few simple steps and take some precautions along the way you can indulge a little and enjoy the festivities a lot while feeling happy and guilt-free.

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Out With The Old, In With The New

Clean out the cupboard

Replace corn syrup, white sugar, or any refined sweetener with something real such as maple syrup, raw honey, or molasses.

Replace MSG with something natural.  Look for foods that contain real herbs and spices or Celtic sea salt.

Replace refined white salt with grey, Celtic sea salt.

Replace store bought granola bar, cereal bars, crackers and most boxed cereal with nutritious snacks such as dried fruit, nuts, seeds, and nut butters (to name a few). A few good store bought cracker brands are Ryvita and Mary’s Gone Crackers. A note on store purchased granola bars and cereals: these foods, even if they are presented as healthy snacks, are often loaded with sugar (even if it is fruit juice sweetened).

Replace refined white bread products with whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, oats, spelt, buckwheat, and whole wheat (in moderation).

Replace unhealthy oils with coconut oil, safflower oil, extra virgin olive oil (remember to heat at low temperatures only), and flaxseed oil (not meant to be heated).

Clean out the refridgerator

Replace low-fat dairy products with whole milk dairy products and be sure to include cultured dairy. Include yogurt, cottage cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, real cream (or half n’ half), real butter, and raw cheese. Use whole milk in moderation.

Replace sugary yogurt with plain whole yogurt and add fruit or a small amount of maple syrup or honey if you want to sweeten it (it will cut the amount of sugar in half).

Replace fake butter, margarine and soy spreads with real butter (or even lard, yes, lard).

Replace soymilk, bricks of tofu, fake meats and fake cheeses  (which are heavily processed) with properly prepared, fermented soy condiments such as tamari, miso or raw, naturally fermented soy sauce. Properly prepared soy may be eaten in moderation (1 or 2 times a week). A note to vegetarians: if soy has been used heavily in the diet, I recommend replacing soy products with a substantial protein and a healthy fat at each meal: add more nuts, seeds, legumes, cream cheese, coconut milk, nut butters, real butter, olives, avocado, as well as other vegetables to whole grain crackers, whole grain pita wedges or brown rice.

Replace processed cheese, cheese slices, and “cheese spreads” with raw cheese and cream cheese.

Replace sugary sodas and fruit juices with sparkling mineral water, or a fermented beverage such as kombucha, or “sweeten” drinking water with a squeeze of lemon, lime or orange. Remember that a full glass of orange juice has as much sugar as a can of Coke (when it comes to the chemical processes of the body sugar is sugar, no matter how nutritious the food is or what the sugar is called).

Replace sugary pickles and vinegar based sauerkraut with real, healthful fermented products (Bubbie’s is a good brand). It is generally a good habit to include a fermented food at each meal (this might be a teaspoon of raw apple cider vinegar in water before the beginning of a meal).

 

Great Beginnings Always Start With Leaving Something Behind

A great place to begin is to clean out your cupboard and your refrigerator. I recommend clients greatly reduce (and eventually eliminate) the amount of processed foods they eat. I understand that we live in a busy world, but if you have 20 minutes to make dinner, you can just as easily sear a tuna steak (which takes less than 10 minutes) and assemble a basic salad with a little olive oil and a squeeze of lemon for dressing, instead of making a box of “the San Francisco treat”.

If you are that person that cooks from a box, rest assured that you are not alone. This is a transition that will take time. I recommend that you start by reading labels. Make sure you know what every ingredient is on the box, and if the ingredient is not a whole food, or a word you do not recognize, do not purchase the box (this is trickier than you may think).

A good rule of thumb is to not buy foods that contain high fructose corn syrup or MSG (also known as “natural flavor”, “hydrolyzed protein” and “spices”). This actually eliminates a considerable amount of unhealthful foods right off the bat.

To go a step further, stop purchasing items that are highly processed, such as white sugar, white flour and white salt. These foods are actually void of nutritional value.

It is also wise to get rid of unhealthy oils such as soybean oil, Crisco, Pam cooking spray and Canola.

There are many items that exist in the refrigerated that are considered healthful but need to be replaced with a counter part that is whole and nutrient-dense. First, I recommend phasing out “low-fat” dairy products. This makes sense if you want the food you consume to be nutrient dense.

Store bought salad dressings are often unhealthful because of the type of oil that is used, as well as the amount of sugar that is often added! Also, store bought salad dressings have often been sitting on the shelf for too long and have rancid oils. A simple dressing takes less than 10 minutes to prepare if you have olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a few spices on hand; it’s also a lot tastier and less expensive.

Tofu has been in vogue for some time, but I recommend eliminating bricks of tofu, fake meats and fake cheeses from your refrigerator. These foods are highly processed and hard to digest.