Healthier Holiday Hints

Posted on: December 11th 2014

It’s that time of year again – the festive season! A time of feasting and fun with family and friends. A time where maybe sometimes, some of us, overindulge a tiny, little bit. 

It’s the holidays. There will be parties. There will be drinks, hors d’oeuvres and sweets. None of these things are “bad” things; it’s the cycle of over-indulgence, followed by guilt and shame that end up having a negative effect. Late December doesn’t have to be a threat to your health and fitness goals. Rather, it can be an awesome time where you maintain your sanity and your healthy eating habits, and still have a good time with those you love. Since we’ve been talking about carbs lately, and the holiday season tends to be FULL OF CARBS, let’s take a look at some strategies to stay on track nutritionally until the middle of January.

First, to manage your schedule:

Learn to say no (and to say ‘not right now’).

Prioritize your social events. Give yourself permission not to attend every single event you’ve been invited to. If you want to go somewhere, go. If you’re doing it because you feel obligated or pressured, evaluate the pros and cons, and let yourself say no. Try to manage your time wisely, and make sure that you carve out chunks of time that are just your own.

Next, to manage your stress:

Make time to train.

In our post about carbs, we talked about how post-training is the ideal time for your carb intake. So, if you know you’ll be attending a holiday party, make it a training day. Even if it’s just a quickie, your body will thank you. A good training session will leave you with more energy to tackle your to-do list. It’ll put you in a better mood, and can serve as the valuable “me-time” that we need at this time of year. Remember that training is treating yourself well, and the holiday season is all about treating those we love. Love yourself – train in December.

Finally, to manage your meal plan:

Pick a habit and stick to it.

Try not to fall into the mindset that December is a free-for-all, and that you’ll start fresh in January. Maintaining healthy habits through the holidays can be easy, just keep it simple: find one strategy that works for you and maintain it.  Here are some popular ways to keep up a meal plan, even when you have a busy social schedule.

  • 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
  • Keep your glass full of water
  • If you’re going to a dinner party, pick 2 of the 3: appetizer, drink, dessert

Any of these party habits might help you be more mindful when you’re facing a holiday table full of goodies. But what about managing the food-related stress that often comes with this time of year? Here are some behaviours that help me keep my head on straight:

  • Splurge, but don’t substitute.  I LOVE freshly roasted turkey, I LOVE stuffing.  I LOVE pumpkin pie with fresh whipped cream. And when presented with the opportunity to indulge in these things – I will. I like cookies, and brownies, and pastries. But I only like them. If you try to fill a craving with something that isn’t quite what you want, you’ll only end up eating more. Rather, indulge in what you really want, feel satisfied, and move on.  
  • Health-Up Your Holiday Offerings. If you’re hosting, or bringing along a dish, try to think of ways to limit the refined sugar and processed ingredients that you use.  The fewer things that come out of packages, the better.  

Remember how we were talking about limiting our starchy and sugary carbs?

Here’s the world’s easiest dessert with a lower-sugar twist:

Fruit Crumble

Traditionally, you pick a fruit, add sugar to the fruit, mix butter, flour and brown sugar, crumble that on top of the fruit, and then bake it.  However, with some simple substitutions, you can swap out a huge amount of the sugar and still have a super-tasty dessert.  Here’s how:

  • Instead of using flour and sugar for your dry component, substitute for 2 cups of rolled oats or rolled quinoa.
  • Instead of cold butter for your wet component, substitute 3 tbsp honey or maple syrup and 3 tbsp coconut or macadamia oil.
  • Instead of adding sugar to the fruit base – don’t.  If you’re using frozen fruit, just defrosting it should release enough natural juices.  I tend not to add anything to fresh either.
  • Play with flavour – instead of just adding in sweetness, add a few shakes of cinnamon,  a spash of vanilla, some smashed nuts, shredded coconut, or orange zest for flavour.

Preheat your oven to 315F.  Grease a casserole dish with coconut oil.  Combine your 2 cups of rolled oats or rolled quinoa with honey and coconut oil. Add your spices and favours, mix well, and refrigerate. This step is key to getting that crumbly consistency. While your topping is cooling, prep the fresh or frozen fruit, and layer it in the bottom of the dish. Once your topping can be crumbled by hand, spread it over the fruit. Bake at 315 F for 30 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbling.  Enjoy with yogurt instead of ice cream.

 The time between December 1st and January 1st doesn’t have to be a blur of stress and over-indulgence. It’s a month like any other; take it day by day, be mindful, and enjoy yourself.

I wish you all the happiest of holidays and wonderful things in the year to come!

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