Break out the elastic-waistband pants…
It’s December! Time for friends, family, fun and festivity! This time of year can be filled with wonderful gatherings, awesome events, and tons of delicious party snacks, requiring the aforementioned sweatpants dress code.
There’s nothing wrong with splurges and enjoying the delicious fare of the season, but December doesn’t need to be a crazy roller-coaster of gluttony and stress. Here are some healthy tips to help you handle the holidays!
Choose your booze
Calories from alcohol add up quickly, especially if you’re having drinks bolstered with soda or fruit juice. A vodka soda or glass of wine (or wine spritzer) will keep the sugar to a minimum. Also, make sure you’re alternating each drink with a big ol’ glass of water.
Sweet stuff doesn’t need sweetening
Sweet potatoes are already sweet – you don’t need to make them into candied yams. Mixed fruit is tasty and full of natural sugars, so you can skip the sugary dips and whipped cream. Sugar cookies are cookies, they don’t need frosting. If something is naturally sweet, let yourself enjoy its great natural flavour instead of layering it with added refined sugar. (To be fair, this also goes for other foods we like to cover with toppings – ie. please stop smothering all your veggies in cheese, NoFair).
Eat like a grown-up
Though this season might fill you with child-like wonder, you’re still an adult, and you can make decisions like one. Here’s a tip: if you wouldn’t let your kids eat it, you probably shouldn’t either. The holidays are not an excuse to eat stuffing for dinner (no matter how much you want to). Pick some key habits and stick to them, for example:
- Eat a healthy meal before you go to parties
- Keep your plate full of veggies
- Don’t hang out beside the food table
- Talk more and eat less
- If you’re going to a dinner party, pick 2 of these 3: appetizer, drink, dessert
Remix your recipes
Holiday cooking and baking is fantastic! There are few things better than busting out your very best dish for a get-together. However, there are also lots of ways to make your holiday baking healthier. You can substitute:
- Mixed nuts/candied nuts for roasted chestnuts or raw almonds
- Bacon-wrapped anything for proscuitto-wrapped anything
- Meatballs for chicken skewers
- Creamy dips for hummus
- Breaded anything for its non-breaded version
- Mashed potatoes for sweet potatoes or cauliflower
- Refined sugar for honey or maple syrup
- 1/3 cup of vegetable oil for 1/4 cup of Greek yogurt
- Ice cream for Greek yogurt
- Sugar and butter for macerated dates
Every year, my mom and I make Holiday Truffles. They are awesome. They are also made of Oreo crumbs, sweetened condensed milk, melted chocolate and butter. We also often add booze and candy to them. This year I made truffles, with a mind to ingredients that don’t come in a box. Results? Pretty darned tasty!
First, I minced some dates, put them in a saucepan on medium heat, and added water gradually to make date mush.
Then, since I’m fussy about texture, I blended them with my immersion blender. Next, I added cocoa powder (enough to make it taste chocolatey) and almond flour (enough to make it hold its shape).
I separated the mixture into three bowls for truffle types: added walnuts, added dried cranberries, and natural. Next, I put them all in the freezer for a day or so to set the insides. Then, I rolled them into tiny balls, and froze them again.
When I was ready for an hour or so of messy hands, I grabbed the innards from the freezer and got dippin’. I dipped these truffles in the darkest chocolate I could get my hands on, and topped them with either walnuts, cranberries, or sea salt.
Do they taste exactly like the old recipe? No. They’re a little less dense (and taste a little more like dates). Are they still awesome? Heck yes!
Keeping on track with nutrition doesn’t need to be all about denying yourself or feeling guilty, two things I struggle with all the time, as I’m sure lots of us do. If you can change your mindset and think of keeping on top of your food game as re-invention and experimentation, it can actually be a lot of fun, rather than a lot of stress.
December is stressful enough, so don’t let your food make you crazy, too. We sometimes focus so narrowly on the trimmings of the season – the perfect gift, the stylish decorations, the expertly executed dinner – that we forget that this time of year is really about spending time with the people you love, and spreading some peace and joy in the world.
It’s not all about food; take time for yourself and your loved ones, make time to train, even if you have a party to attend (this will give you the super added benefit of pumped up guns at said party). Even if it’s just a quick blast, your body will be grateful. Quick training sessions might be exactly the energy bump your body needs to tackle the rest of your to-do list.
Remember, champions are made in the off-season. This year, keep your long term goals in mind, have fun with your food choices, and enjoy every single bite. I wish you all the very best of the holiday season and an excellent New Year!