I hope you don’t mind me butting in here, but I know that many of you (and me) are going to festive parties, and I thought I would share my 15 healthy holiday eating tips with you. These are probably common sense, and you know them already, but if you are like me it is always good to have them written down and reiterated. At this time of year my healthy weight management workshops always drift onto how we can merrily eat and drink all of the holiday goodies but keep a handle (not lovehandle) on the old kilograms. These little tips may help. Some are for the cook, some are for partyers, some are for dining out; a whole paragraph is devoted to negotiating that desk that always seems to have a plate of Christmas sugar cookies on it. Something for everyone, in other words.And, as I never can resist including a recipe, down a bit further is a quick and easy one that might be good to include on Boxing Day, on a party buffet table, or just with a family lunch, with other bits and bobs. Add some crumbles of best blue cheese (I love Roquefort) or toasted pecans to gild, but it is lovely as is.
I’ll make this quick as I am between nutrition classes (where I served this, along with this) and need to get a move on. I’ll see you on Friday with a special centrepiece vegetarian main dish. Until then, keep well and enjoy your Wednesday x
HEALTHY HOLIDAY EATING CRIB SHEET – 15 TIPS
Holidays are different. Only those with an unusually strong will (or a wired jaw) can keep holiday eating from infiltrating a healthy eating plan. Unless you avoid parties, gatherings and the grocery store altogether, it is reasonable to expect that a mince pie or two will slip into your mouth. And that’s fine. It’s better to have that mince pie than be miserable – or worse, sanctimonious –while everyone else ploughs through the cheese straws, sausage rolls and pfeffernusse. You CAN enjoy festive food and still be in control.
I’ve compiled a few suggestions- for parties, restaurants and at home – that might suit you as you continue with your quest for good health and good eating throughout the festive period. Let these spark your own ideas for staying in control. But don’t go too wild – the holidays are for enjoying food, family, friends and festivities.
1) Eat breakfast! And lunch too for that matter. Some people think it’s a good idea to ‘save’ their calories for the main event later in the day. What often happens though is that our crashed blood sugar levels all but guarantee that we overeat, overdrink, and end up consuming more calories than if we had paced ourselves. You know it makes sense. ;D
2) Be prepared. Decide ahead of time what you will and will not eat, and stick to it. For example, regarding the more festive (calorific) foods on offer: “ I will have a mince pie, 1 sausage roll and a glass of egg nog.” It will be easier to do this if you have a wee bowl of vegetable soup, or a small handful of nuts and a piece of fruit beforehand. If you are attending a drinks party, eating a meal with protein and fibre before you go will help mop up the alcohol, stabilise your blood sugar and may keep you from grazing on too many nibbles.
3) Try and use a small plate, keep to one portion and say no to second helpings – unless it’s actually a healthy option such as olive oil and lemon-dressed broccoli (it may happen!). If a smaller plate is not an option, be mindful of the plate size and keep a reasonable border of plate visible.
4) At a dinner or restaurant, eat your protein first, followed by vegetables. Save the starchy carbs like stuffing and roast potatoes for last. Don’t deny what you love, but do take a smaller portion. And take the time to chew and enjoy every mouthful. Also, before you head out, have a look at the menu online. Often when dining with a group we are so busy chatting that we make snap decisions, or order what everyone else is having. Sound familiar?
5) At a buffet party, check out the selections first (reconnaissance) and then be one of the last to go up and choose. It is easier to make better choices if you aren’t immediately following someone who is merrily loading up their own plate (women following men at buffets usually take more than they intend). But don’t be obvious about this!
6) If you don’t have room for dessert, don’t feel pressured into eating one. People sometimes put pressure on us if they want a dessert, or a big glass of wine. It makes them feel better about what they are doing. YOU are in control. If you fancy a dessert though, have it. Perhaps split it with someone else, or just know that the next day you will skip dessert.
7) Don’t get completely full. Stop when you feel about 80% full (satisfied, not stuffed). Feeling full and sluggish is one of the most complained about results of holiday eating.
8) If you are doing the cooking during the holidays, don’t go wild with the number of courses and amount of dishes. It’s easy to feel like you need to make nibbles, starters, several mains with loads of sides, plus several types of desserts (to accommodate everyone’s likes), but no one needs all that choice, or food. Less is more. And less is less stressful.
9) What about one or two lower-fat and lower sugar ingredients or recipes? If you are making the festive meal, why not substitute a few traditional ingredients and cooking methods? Or, perhaps include a couple of unsauced and uncreamed options, such as steamed broccoli or roasted carrots? Even people not minding their waist or concerned about health may welcome a change from heavier foods at some point during the holiday season. Don’t go too crazy and make it all diet-minded though. This is our sanctioned time to enjoy ourselves and indulge a little. Here’s our favourite ‘creamed’ kale recipe, with vegan option.
10) Some people might like to pick one meal a day that is a bit indulgent. For instance, a light breakfast of fruit and yogurt, a supper of salad with a bit of lean protein, and a rather sumptuous meal smack in the middle of the day. But perhaps not every day!
11) Alcohol is the quickest route to undoing good intentions. One or two drinks may be sociable, but beyond that think empty calories and lowered inhibitions (making you more likely to hang around the chips and dips bowls). If you are going to a party, bring one or two bottles of sparkling non-alcoholic drinks or fancy water, as well as a bottle of wine – or whatever you normally bring to parties.
12) Move, walk, stretch. Get a jump on the New Years’ resolutions and make a plan to be physically active during the holidays. Pop on a fitness DVD, crank up some music, or if we are lucky with the weather, get out in the fresh air for a long walk. You will feel much better about any over-indulgences if you are active throughout the festive period.
13) Include some metabolism boosting spices and drinks: three cups of green tea may up your metabolism (potential for calorie burning) by 10%. Cinnamon, chillies, ginger and black pepper are also known for their metabolism boosting properties. Interestingly vanilla, cardamom and nutmeg seem to fool your brain into thinking it is having something sweet. Pop a little into a black coffee.
14) If you are quite serious about keeping a handle on holiday eating, it may be an idea to keep a loose food diary. Not to be restrictive, but really just to objectively track what you are eating, and hopefully encouraging healthier eating when you are at home and fully in control of your eating environment.
15) Keep well hydrated. Sometimes we confuse hunger with thirst, so drinking enough water and non-alcoholic drinks throughout the day can definitely help us make good food choices. It is also a good idea to have non-alcoholic ‘spacer’ drinks when at parties and gatherings where alcohol is freely available. It can be awfully tempting to ‘take advantage’ of free alcohol, but it is a sobering thought to realise that we are also consuming loads of unwanted, empty calories.
BONUS TIP! The office during the festive season can be like a day-long/month-long party. Desks loaded with tins of sweets and plates of homebaking: who can resist? Instead of completely shunning the festive spreads, make a pact with yourself to limit your indulgence. You might have one day a week that you eat what you like, or stick to one treat a day. Whatever works for you. I bet there will be others who would welcome a healthy bake or snack, so you be that sainted person who brings in the popcorn or cherry tomatoes. Eating a filling and healthy breakfast and lunch makes the festive food minefield that much easier to negotiate.
There is absolutely nothing in this not to like. Tastes fab, check. Great for you, check. Easy to prepare, check. Don’t worry about quantities of individual ingredients; use this as a guide only.
200 gm mixed shredded cabbage (red and white), or all red (about 4 cups)
1 small/medium fresh beetroot, peeled and grated
50 g dried cranberries or sour cherries (no added sugar, if possible) (1/4 cup)
Small handful fresh cranberries – optional
2 firm, ripe pears, sliced thinly lengthways and cored – chop or keep as thin slices
Handful of Brussels sprouts, cleaned and leaves peeled off
1 tbsp poppy seeds OR 50 walnuts or sunflower seeds, toasted (or both)
3 tbsp rapeseed oil or 2 tbsp rapeseed and 1 tbsp walnut oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar OR fresh lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard or grain mustard
2 tsp acacia honey or maple syrup
Pour the dressing ingredients into a small screwtop jar and shake until blended. Decant the salad ingredients into a wide shallow bowl and toss through the dressing. Serve immediately.
Variation: for folk who aren’t keen on sprouts, perhaps shred a few sprouts and use as decoration only. Cheese lovers – blue cheese adores pears. Just saying.