Despite our differences, most of us can agree that a key component of the holidays is overindulgence. These are the rare opportunities in our over-worked, over-scheduled culture when we finally take much needed time off and attempt to pack a year’s worth of relaxation and general decadence into parts of November and December. While this makes for a colorful social calendar, it can have a less than stellar impact on our health. Party-pooper statistics show that most people pack on extra pounds during the holidays and do not lose them after the festivities subside, or any time in the year that follows. So I’ve given this some thought and put together my best recommendations to ensure we can have our holiday cake and eat it too, without inviting January regret.
1) Don’t use leftovers to repeat your exact holiday menu day after day. I am all for using leftovers, but revisiting all of the indulgences daily for a week can be a recipe for disaster (no pun intended). Instead of pecan pie for breakfast each day after Thanksgiving, have a balanced breakfast and then half a piece of pie after a lunch of leftover turkey salad, or a dinner of turkey and vegetable soup. Another option, is to fill your Thanksgiving plate with turkey and vegetables, then choose one of the high glycemic foods like mashed potatoes, stuffing, or marshmallow topped sweet potatoes (as opposed to having all of them at the same time again), and pass on the pie.
2) Make family activity a part of the holiday. Before or after dessert, go on a family walk or hike that everyone will enjoy, weather permitting. If you have a large family or can rope in the neighbors, consider flag football or soccer in the front yard. Playing family games is another option, to keep everyone together and focused on things other than beckoning goodies.
3) Eat before attending cocktail parties. Interestingly, alcohol lowers blood sugar, which then leaves us ravenous and perhaps a little lacking in judgement; not the best combination. After a few glasses of wine, destroying the chips and queso or fudge platter may sound like a fabulous idea, but your waist-line will beg to differ. Before you leave home have a small high protein meal, but if that isn’t possible nosh on nuts or shrimp cocktail before refilling that glass. Better yet, bring a platter of cheese and specialty meats as your contribution, ensuring you and others have protein options in your evening menu.
4) When baking and making confections to give away, think twice if the recipients are trying to make healthy dietary changes. A platter of homemade candy or sugar cookies could completely derail these folks’ hard-earned progress and motivation, which invites frustration and defeats the point of the gift. Alternative homemade gifts suitable for all include spice mixes or rubs, spiced nuts, fruit baskets or healthy snack bars. Non-food items that pamper include event tickets, manicure/massage vouchers and gift certificates to coffee shops and retail stores.
5) Most importantly, leave time and space for your own downtime and self-care. Trite as it may sound, what your loved ones want most is the gift of your continued health.