The holidays are a smorgasbord of tantalizing foods and drink. It is possible to indulge in the festivities and still feel good afterwards. There are ways to stay healthy and maintain your weight without feeling deprived. As a health and wellness nurse coach, I hear many of my clients’ anxiety and fear over holiday eating. Some are afraid of gaining weight or putting the weight they lost back on. Here are 7 of my popular tips I share with my clients not only at holiday time but throughout the year to keep their health in check while eliminating the guilt factor surrounding food.
1. Love food.
Food is not the enemy. Food is medicine. Food is knowledge. It’s good to have a strong appetite and want more energy and information that is contained within food for the body’s use. Your appetite is your best friend. It lets you know you are healthy. One of the first signs of illness is a decrease in appetite. Be mindful to not confuse having a great appetite for reasons to engage in emotional eating. To help avoid emotional eating, relax with deep breathing and being aware of what you are feeling in the moment. It’s important to be quiet and tune-in and listen to the body. Know when you are truly hungry. Also, hunger can be mistaken for thirst, so make sure you drink water throughout the day.
2. Engage the Senses.
When you eat, engage all your senses and savor your food. Look at the colors and eat the colors of the rainbow. Smell the aromas and stimulate your digestive juices. Be aware of the sensations of touching or chewing your food. Listen to the crunching and the sound of chewing. Chew your food slowly and relish in the variety of tastes. Eating can be a sensual experience.
3. Lighter foods.
Choose appetizers like shrimp cocktail, salsa, goat cheese or vegetable and hummus dip. During the meal, if you are not a vegan, fill up on veggies first. Fiber enriched veggies are satisfying and let you feel somewhat full before diving into the heavier type foods.
4. Lighter alcohol.
If you are going to drink alcohol, drink a glass of water first, so you are not quenching your thirst downing a glass of wine or a beer. It’s essential to stay well hydrated. Keep it light with wine (125 calories), champagne (95 calories) or light beer (95 calories). Compare this to the holiday eggnog at 325 calories. Be mindful to limit your intake to not impair your judgment when it comes to monitoring your food intake. Too much alcohol can cause you to lose your inhibitions resulting in you eating more than you want. If you choose to drink an alcoholic beverage, sip it slowly and enjoy.
5. Bring it.
If you are going to someone’s house for a holiday gathering and you are not sure if they will have foods you can eat, consider bringing a dish or dessert as a gift for all to share. If you are gluten or sugar free, you can still partake without feeling denied.
During your holiday meal, choose to listen to light, relaxing and happy music at an appropriate volume. Music can help decrease stress hormone levels while releasing the “happy” hormone, oxytocin. Listening to calming music will also enhance everyone’s digestion to better absorb the food’s nutrients.
7. Yummy desserts.
After a scrumptious meal, you may feel that dessert is the finishing touch. I suggest an assortment of fresh berries with a dab of whipped cream or tropical fruit salad garnished with shredded coconut. A baked organic apple with cinnamon and walnuts is delicious and festive. If pie is in your sights, pumpkin chiffon, lemon chiffon or lemon meringue pie are lighter choices.
As you participate in holiday gatherings, staying healthy and feeling good about yourself is a great way to enter the New Year. Be mindful and keep your stress levels low. Happy Holidays!