Checklist for surviving holiday temptations
By: Caroline Shannon-Karasik’s
Like a college student who is exploring the school cafeteria for the first time, the holidays are ripe with sugary desserts and calorie-laden dishes that are often enjoyed with reckless abandon. But in the same way that college freedom can bring on the so-called “freshman 15,” the season of giving can sometimes become the season of gaining for those who overindulge.
Want to enjoy the holiday season and keep your waistline in check? Here are five tips for keeping your holiday noshes in check while still enjoying the flavors of the season.
- Work with the two-thirds rule. One of the things that helps me make better food decisions is when I look at my plate as if it is divided into thirds. When I’m loading it up during the holidays, I aim to fill two-thirds of it with healthy options, like baked sweet potatoes, roasted veggies, baked turkey breast, salad or fruit. The other one-third of my plate is saved for the indulgences, like casseroles and buttery mashed potatoes. That way, I get a bit of the things I crave during the holiday season without overdoing it.
- Limit the sauces and toppings. I’m talking green bean casserole laden with cream, mashed potatoes slathered in gravy and pie slices with triple scoops of whipped cream. Little bits of everything are OK here and there, but pile too many toppings on your dishes and you’ll be packing on the calories, too.
- Bring your own dishes. Just like people who brown bag their lunch, it’s easier to make healthier food decisions when you know what’s in the dishes. One of my favorite questions to ask people when I get an invite to a holiday event is: “What can I bring?” Not only is it helpful to the hostess, but this allows you to bring along a few healthy dishes you can rely on in the event selection is limited. Favorites of mine include shredded Brussels sprouts sautéed with a bit of olive oil and pine nuts, roasted rosemary and brown sugar carrots, and flourless peanut butter cookies.
- Skip the booze. OK, so maybe that can’t always happen. (Long conversation with your third cousin, Ned? Pass the vodka.) But, seriously, the overconsumption of alcohol is a major source of weight gain during the holidays. Sure, it’s the season for toasting to celebrations of all sorts, but there are a few tricks for making sure your imbibing doesn’t lead to excess pounds. Keep in mind if you are opting for liquor like vodka or gin, then it’s the mixers and syrups that often add calories to a drink. Choose light mixers, like diet soda, tonic or orange juice or skip the mixer and ask for your drink on the rocks. On the other hand, you can choose a glass of wine, like cabernet sauvignon, which clocks in at about 120 calories per 5-ounce glass. If you do decide to have a drink, then be sure to balance it with a glass of water or sparkling water with lime.
- Don’t forget to sweat it out. A busy holiday schedule means many people tend to first nix exercise in lieu of time spent with family, shopping for gifts or attending numerous get-togethers. All of these things are, of course, what makes the season so special, but it’s not an excuse to avoid exercising. So, your sister is visiting from out of town? Ask her to go for a brisk walk and the two of you can chat it up while squeezing in some calorie-torching cardio. It’s also important to remind yourself you don’t have to devote an hour or even 30 minutes to exercise. One of my favorite ways to squeeze in a quick workout – no equipment required – is with this quick routine: Start with jumping jacks for 1 minute, then do 10-12 repetitions each of pushups (modified or regular) and triceps dips (use a chair or edge of a step). Follow with 30 seconds of high knees or running in place, then 20 squats. Finish with 15 repetitions of sit-ups. Repeat the circuit 3-4 times.
The number one thing to remember during the holidays? Don’t take anything too seriously. Stress, including that related to every morsel of food and drink that is going into your body, raises cortisol levels and will, essentially, lead to weight gain in the long run. So, yes, while you should definitely be conscious of what’s on your holiday plate (and in your glass), don’t be afraid to allow a few exceptions to the rule. A cookie every now and then or a few bites of grandma’s famous sweet potato casserole is not going to have you buying a bigger pants size.
After all, what’s a balanced life without a steamed broccoli and chocolate chip cookies? Everything in moderation, my friends.
Caroline Shannon-Karasik is the upcoming author of a gluten-free healthy lifestyle book, set to be released in January 2014. She is the author of the popular gluten-free blog, sincerelycaroline.com and is currently training to become a certified health coach. Her writing and recipe development has been featured in several publications, including, VegNews, Kiwi and REDBOOK magazines. Caroline lives with her husband Dan and four adopted cats in Pittsburgh, Penn. Caroline can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.