Believe it or not, Halloween may be the unofficial kickoff to the holiday season. Trick-or-treating with your kids may test your ability to refrain from popping an endless stream of mini Snickers or Milky Ways into your mouth. Even worse is the next day—when the kids head back to school and leave huge bags of unattended candy lying around the house—temptation may seem endless. And before you even have a chance to toss your rotting jack-o-lanterns into the trash, it’s suddenly time to start thinking about turkey dinner and all the sinful accoutrements it entails.
Rather than planning on starting a healthy diet on January 1, why not strategize to keep your weight and overall well-being in check all the way through the carnival that is Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve? Here are some tactics to employ to try to maintain your weight and stay healthy, while at the same time allowing for some indulgences and enjoying all the merriment of the season.
- Go for Protein at Parties
“Sugar and other refined carbs are the number one reason people gain weight over the holidays,” according to Dr. Jim LaValle, nationally recognized clinical pharmacist, author, and board certified nutritionist. He suggests eating high protein dishes at parties, whenever possible. Items like shrimp, meatballs, deviled eggs, or beef are all better for your waistline than cookies, chips and dips, or foods accompanied by heavy cream sauces. Still, feel free to grab a fried dumpling or homemade doughnut to satisfy you cravings, but afterwards try to stick to the healthier options, like crudités.
- Don’t Skip Meals
Starving yourself all day long so you can indulge in high calorie snacks at a party is bound to backfire. You might end up so ravenous when you arrive that it will be even more difficult not to go crazy scarfing down all sorts of fattening and delicious treats. Don’t skip breakfast and lunch—just choose normal, healthy foods that will leave you satisfied, but not stuffed. Nosh on snacks throughout the day like nuts, dried fruits, yogurt, or raw vegetables. And arrive ready to enjoy yourself. Have a cocktail and some yummy food, without going overboard.
- Pace Yourself
This might be the most important item on this list. Everyone knows that a night of over-indulging on alcohol, not to mention, fatty, rich, carb-laden foods is bound to leave you feeling less than chipper in the morning. Not only will you be tired and dehydrated, but that next day can turn into another minefield of eating pitfalls. (Read: you’ll still crave grease and carbs if you’re hungover and bloated.) Alternating an alcoholic beverage with a sparkling water is one strategy. Another is to set the alarm on your iPhone to ring about an hour before you want to turn into a pumpkin and head home. As soon as that alarm rings, switch completely over to water and stop eating. Giving your body an hour or two to digest before bed can help you feel better the next morning. Also, there’s almost nothing like Alka-Seltzer in an ice-cold glass of water the day after to perk you up. Drinking plenty of water the day of the party and the day after will also help you maintain some equilibrium. With all the many occasions to celebrate from November until January, following some of these tips is bound to help you come out on the other end of the holidays feeling good, or at least normal.
- Exercise Each Day
It can be hard to squeeze in your regular workout routine during the holiday season. It may be because you are traveling away from home, or perhaps you are hosting and all the shopping, decorating, and meal preparation is taking up oodles of your free time. Regardless of where you are or what you are doing, try to squeeze in a brisk walk every day. Minimal equipment is needed for a walk (just some sneakers and comfortable clothing) and it can be done almost anywhere. If you’re visiting with friends and family, it can also be a great group activity or a way to reconnect with someone you don’t always have a chance to see during the year. Even if walking isn’t as intense as your normal workouts, you’ll certainly feel better than if you spend the day sitting around.
- Bring Your Own Dish
Whether you attend a friend’s cocktail party or a family holiday dinner, bringing your own side or appetizer will help ensure there is at least one healthy option for you to enjoy throughout the evening. Often, foods that seem uber-fattening in restaurants can be prepared at home in a way that is lower in fat and calories, and still taste quite good. It’s always smart to have a few of these types of recipes up your sleeve, so you can roll them out when needed. Even better, if you make something delicious that is also nutritious, you will impress everyone in attendance.
Now that you have a “good-for-you” strategy planned for eating well over the next few weeks, it’s time to remember that this season is about living the good life. Have fun and be frivolous. Connect with friends and family. Raise a glass to celebrate the year gone by as well as toast a happy and healthy future for all. Cheers.