The holidays are upon us, and I am beyond excited to stuff my face with comfort food, dessert, and cocktails galore. Now, I realize that just because family gatherings mean more opportunities to misbehave (I generally eat a grain-free, sugar free diet), I do allow myself to relish in bites of naughtiness. I don’t gastronomically misbehave often, but when I’m bad, I’m really bad. And it tastes so good. Does this mean I can’t be healthy, though?
If you’re anything like me – you’re disciplined most of the time, but you enjoy yourself when it feels right; food is nothing to feel guilty about. There are ways to have a good time with your friends and family without restricting yourself and without going overboard.
Coming soon are Halloween parties, Thanksgiving, and the winter holidays (Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa), whichever you celebrate; that bring families together and celebrate love in the most tangible ways. We spend time with one another, we eat, we drink, nap, eat, drink, and repeat.
Here are seven of my favorite tips for enjoying guiltlessly, staying healthy, and preventing the return of the holiday bloat. This is my take on how to stay healthy during the holidays.
When you know you’re going to have dessert, go easy on the main course.
This is a no-brainer. There’s something about pumpkin pie, cupcakes, and pavlova that I can NOT say no to. When I know such sweetness is going to be on the menu, I keep a reasonable handle on the rest of the meal. I go easy on the mac ‘n cheese and opt for salad. Then, I stuff the sweets in my face.
Load your plate with vegetable sides so you don’t feel deprived.
There’s a trick I learned to not feeling like I’m on a strict diet. I savor a few bites of what I want, and with the rest of my plate full of vegetables in many forms, I eat leisurely and feel fuller more quickly. Be creative with vegetable sides. Most taste better than their high-carb counterparts. I also drink water, a healthy alternative to wine and soda, constantly throughout the meal.
When you have a sweet tooth, satisfy it.
I think of this as my reward for flexing my willpower for most of the year. I have a raging sweet tooth. Fewer things make me happier than indulging in a sugar rush. I normally avoid sugar, so when I allow myself a little luxury, I enjoy it so much more. You know how things are generally more awesome when you know you shouldn’t be doing them? I believe the same goes for food.
Don’t go to sleep after you eat a huge meal.
Especially post turkey-consumption, it’s so easy to fall asleep on the sofa while watching the movie marathons on cable. Fight the urge to do this. Instead, it’s much more healthy to take grandma for a leisurely stroll around the block, or play with the little ones. Get your blood flowing so you won’t feel so sluggish.
Go for skinny cocktails.
I’m a huge fan of Skinny Girl Cocktails, more specifically their line of flavored vodka. Also, remember that light liquors are not generally metabolized as carbohydrate in the body. The sugary additives are what make certain drinks so high in calories. Find lower-calorie mixers. I usually do a top-shelf vodka soda with a squeeze of lime. There are so many options for non-sugar based mixers. Explore them. I do, however, suggest avoiding wines, beer, and hard ciders – those are loaded with carbohydrates.
Exercise in the morning before festivities.
Go for a brisk walk, practice power yoga, or go hard, first thing in the morning before a big lunch or dinner. There is a method of exercise called HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) that will jump-start your metabolism and keep the momentum during the day. Give yourself thirty minutes of this power-workout and feel your energy level go up. Your body will continue to burn through the calories you consume.
Choose one meal this season to allow yourself to go buck-wild on.
Personally, I’m leaning toward Thanksgiving dinner this year. Because I am usually so meticulous about what I consume during the rest of the year, I give myself one all-out cheat meal during the holidays. I pile on whatever I want, however much I want, and I brace myself for how sluggish I will feel afterward but I’ll still enjoy every bite.
I don’t want the emphasis to be focused in on weight, but rather moderation and finding a way to incorporate pleasure in a simple process. I happen to love food like most of you do, and I’ve found that throughout the years, I’ve used this time of the year to go overboard with overindulgence. There is a happy medium. This was the route I took last year, and I felt better. I also noticed that whenever there was a party amongst friends, I was able to use these tricks and was able to enjoy myself without feeling deprived.
Be naughty and indulge every once in a while. You deserve it.