Maybe you’ve made some health-conscious decisions this past year, such as eating better or maintaining an active lifestyle. Even if you feel like you didn’t, here’s the thing: it’s perfectly okay. Life, much like yoga, should be considered a work-in-progress, with every day serving as practice or a new opportunity.
That being said, with the changing season comes a whole new set of challenges that beg the question: is it possible to enjoy the holidays without completely tossing nutrition to the wind? Holiday parties, family gatherings and the baked goods that accompany the turning leaves are obstacles that could easily derail your health-conscious efforts. But no worries! Just follow these ten fool-proof strategies that will help you stay on track!
1. Wake Up with Lemon Water
Starting your day with half of an organic lemon squeezed into a glass of water can do wonders for your waistline and metabolism. Lemon has a natural effect of improving digestion and elimination, which is not only important for overall health, but also makes a difference in whether your stomach appears bloated or not. Also, this is a great way to flush toxins from your system and stay hydrated during the holidays.
2. Use the “Crowding Out” Method
I absolutely love incorporating the crowding out method into my holiday strategies because it allows me to enjoy food that I typically don’t eat without the guilt. All you have to do is fill up on as much nutritious food as possible and then go ahead and give yourself permission to have some not-so-clean foods. For example, at a restaurant you could start with a big salad or load up your plate with veggies and hummus at a party. This a great way to avoid labeling food as good or bad and still find a nice balance between nourishment and enjoyment.
3. Eat Before
Just like it’s not a good idea to hit the grocery store when you’re famished, this same rule applies to attending any holiday parties involving food. Before you head out, fill up on a fiber-rich snack that will help curb your cravings and help you feel full. According to a study conducted by Pennsylvania State University, people who eat an apple about 15 minutes before lunch consumed an average of 187 fewer calories at the meal and that’s including the apple!
4. Bring a Dish or Pick the Restaurant
Even if the hostess says she’ll have all the food covered, I still encourage clients to insist on bringing a dish to the party. Have you ever arrived at an event only to find there wasn’t one “clean” option for you? My signature dish is a huge green salad, and it is always a big hit. Most often your other health-conscious buddies will be grateful for your contribution.
In addition, picking the restaurant is a good idea in general, but especially important this time of year. I always like to hop on the restaurant’s website in advance to pick what I’m going to order to avoid any impulsive decisions. Don’t feel bad for being picky – feel free to ask your waiter to hold the cream, cheese or whatever else you do not want to arrive with your meal.
5. Enjoy Little Bites
Deprivation of life’s little pleasures is not what I think sticking to a clean diet is all about. In fact, completely restricting certain foods can lead to a Ben & Jerry’s binge a week later. On the other hand, treating food options as a free-for- all is also not a great idea either. What I like to do is follow one of Bethenny Frankel’s tips in her book, “The Skinnygirl Rules.” She suggests eating what you want but just put bite-sized amounts on your plate. By doing this, not only will you get to enjoy your favorite foods, you’ll also get to leave the guilt trip at the party.
6. Choose This or That
When there are so many temptations thrown at us all at once during the holidays, it can be helpful to a make the decision in advance that you’re going to choose among the various options and not just give in to all the indulgences. If I’m going to eat a piece of bread or have a glass of wine for instance, I’ll skip the dessert. What’s so great about this strategy is it helps you eat and drink with intention, similar to how yoga teaches you to be more mindful. You will be amazed at how different the experience is for you if you really stay present and focus on enjoying the meal instead of just eating everything in sight and feeling bad about it later.
7. Don’t Ditch the Dessert
If you really enjoy baking or dessert is just your thing, find a handful of go-to recipes that will satisfy your sweet tooth and your waistline too. Some of my favorite secret swaps are using ground oats instead of flour, using applesauce or bananas instead of sugar, or even adding in some coconut oil to reduce the amount of butter in the recipe. If you do want to ditch the dessert, just take all the leftovers to work and get it out of your house if you know you’ll overdo it!
8. Damage Control with Green Smoothies
Now let’s just say you don’t incorporate these strategies and find yourself with a food hangover the next morning. What’d I recommend is to recharge with a green smoothie or something similar. Not only does this refuel your body and give it some needed nutrients, it’s a powerful way to get right back on track and move on with your healthy lifestyle.
9. Skip a Workout
Yes, you read that right, this tip is to skip a workout occasionally. I find my clients’ stress levels are at an all-time high during the holidays, so sometimes it makes more sense to skip a workout once in a while to avoid stressing yourself out even more. A lot of active people fear this idea because they’re afraid they’ll fall off track completely or lose all their progress. Not to worry, as how consistent you are overall is more impactful. If you do decide to skip a workout, make sure you eat a little lighter on those days to compensate for your normal activity levels.
Stress leads to overeating so it’s a great idea to intentionally add in stress reduction practices such as Yoga or taking a relaxing bath. I love to add about 2 cups Epsom salts, 1 cup baking soda, and 10 drops of lavender oil to a hot bath. Even though our schedules are super tight during this time of year, it’s super critical that we take time to take care of ourselves.
Instead of dreading all the festivities quickly filling up on your social calendar, embrace them. This is a time of joy and celebration, and you deserve to take part along with everyone else. Having these 10 strategies in place is all you’ll need to eat, drink, be merry and stay fit this holiday season!
Nutrition and fitness expert Kimberly Olson, PhD, CNC, CPT is the creator of FitKim, a nutrition and fitness blog that teaches people how easy it is to be healthy.
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