Holiday Eats and Treats
Dreading the holiday eating, treating and feeding? Let me help you feel empowered to stay healthy and balanced instead!
Are you dreading the holiday weight gain, but cannot seem to stay away from those beautifully decorated cookies, eggnog, and festive beverages? Are you already feeling overwhelmed with the amount of commitments and obligations on your schedule? Are you wondering how you will have time to fit it all in, while being healthy in the process? You are not alone! Every year the average American does gain weight, but the good news is that it’s not as much as you might think. A study from the New England Journal of Medicine found that people’s perceived weight gain varied between 0 to 6.7 pounds with an average of 3.5 pounds but their actual weight gain was just under 1 pound.
The bad news is that even if you only gain 1-2 pounds, if you average that over 10 years, it can become a 20lb weight gain over time!
In reality, the “holiday weight” is nothing to panic over, but it’s still important to avoid it. If you stress over holiday eating, you can actually increase your cortisol and gain more weight as a result, especially around the belly, so please try not to stress and yet be proactive so you can stay healthy in your body, mind, and spirit this holiday season.
I hear, from most of my patients, that weight is one of their primary concerns and that it is most challenging to “get it off” once it has come on. In an effort to help you quelch those feelings of being defeated after the holidays, I have come up with a few tips for the holiday season. My hope is that these ideas will help you feel empowered and optimal in your health today, through the holiday and into the New Year!
Why are we all at risk of gaining weight over the holidays anyway?
The holidays are a “social” time where people decide to stop caring about their health and say “I will tackle it in the New Year”. People also feel pressured to eat the “special treat” that someone has baked that might have an emotional tie for us. Special “comfort” foods remind people of their favorite moments they believe keep the “tradition” alive. Unfortunately we attach food to our experiences instead of remembering what the holiday time is about; gratitude, community, love and spirituality. Because we've become "food focused", people will pressure others to indulge if they are indulging, often to feel better about their pwn festive snacking. Please try not to buy into the pressure. Stay empowered and stay strong!
The holidays are stressful for many people with commitments, financial concerns and end of the year responsibilities. When we are stressed, we often gravitate towards comfort food. We also increase cortisol and glucose when stressed so it’s a double whammy for your waist size and scale.
Lack of your routine
Exercise as well as meditation, self-care, and other stress reducing techniques you have built into your daily routine often get pushed to the back burner, which is absolutely the wrong thing to do.
Good news! Here are some tips on what you can do to avoid the pesky pounds.
Eat more fat! Fat will keep you fuller so you avoid the sugary sweets! Fatty foods that are helpful are Nuts, Coconuts, Avocados, Chia Seeds, Ghee, Olive Oil and Fatty (non mercury) fish. Even some polyunsaturated fats like grass fed beef and eggs are great in moderation.
Limit sugary, refined baked goods Keep sugary unhealthy food out of sight. Out of sight, out of mind! Limit liquid calories from sugary drinks and alcohol
Don’t get hungry If you are too hungry when you see food, you will overeat! Do not starve yourself all day in anticipation of your ‘holiday” meal and eat a healthy snack before you arrive at the party. Make sure to get at least some healthy fat, protein and fiber in your pre-party snack: fat will give you sustained energy to make it through the evening, and protein is the most appetite-suppressing of all the macronutrients. Good snack idea: Apple with nut butter, Hard-boiled Eggs, Jerky, a Protein drink, an avocado, Chia Pudding
Bring a healthy dish that you’ve prepared to share With your own deliciously healthy dish on hand, you will know what is in the ingredients and you can feel good knowing you have at least one healthy thing to eat. Plus, with so many resources out there I bet you can share with your friends about your “healthy” dish and they won't even know! 😉 Sabrina (one of my front desk staff) included a link to her fave steamed pear recipe with cinnamon at the bottom with our other recipes for the season. Play with the spices, this season, as many have great benefits to help us stay happy and healthy. Cinnamon is a great spice that helps regulate blood sugar, is anti-inflammatory, and has powerful anti-diabetic effects.
Watch your portion size
Plate out smaller portions on smaller plates and eat slowly (your own pace, don’t use the pace others set for you!) If you eat your entire plate and assess after 10 minutes that you are still hungry, by all means go back from more.
Within portion control, also practice mindful eating. If you are distracted, you may tend to overeat, as you aren't paying attention to your body’s “signal” of satiety. So, pay attention, take some deep breaths, express your gratitude you have food on the table and chew your food thoroughly (they say 30x per bite!) If you “blow it” and eat something that you normally wouldn’t, be kind to yourself and don’t give up completely. Tomorrow is a new day and is a new opportunity to get back on track and start over again! If you are trying to be 100% strict, you might set yourself up for more cravings as a result. Instead of going to either extreme, set healthy goals for yourself. If you want to indulge in a gorgeous cookie, then make sure you have a planned exercise that day too!
Modify your recipes
Replace butter with applesauce, mashed banana, or pumpkin puree Instead of sugar, use a lower-calorie substitute such as stevia, erythritol, or xylitol (more on Stevia below) Add dried fruit instead of chocolate chips or candies Flavor dishes with herbs and spices instead of butter Substitute low-fat or skim milk or even nut milks for heavy cream Replace cream cheese, sour cream and mayo with Greek yogurt Use cooking methods like baking, steaming, or grilling instead of frying Flavor your treats with extracts like vanilla, almond, peppermint and cinnamon instead of butter and sugar Use club soda or sparkling water in place of sweetened beverages (or try Zevia as a Stevia drink) Here is an example of a healthier “treat” that you could share with others this holiday season Almond Hemp Chocolate Truffles https://www.today.com/recipes/gluten-free-dessert-almond-hemp-chocolate-truffles-t105150
Keep up with your exercise! Exercise seems to be one of the biggest areas people lose tracking during the holidays. I hear “I am just too busy” far too often, which is really an excuse and only harms yourself and means you are not prioritizing yourself. Therefore, make sure this is a priority #1 during this challenging time so that you feel good the entire holiday season (even if you indulge in bad food). If hitting the gym seems too big of a task, enjoy our beautiful city with a nice brisk walk. There are plenty of ways to stay active, while not hitting the brain block of going to a gym. Choose activities you enjoy.
Be active with family and friends! Unfortunately, sedentary activities are common for many families around the holidays, such as sitting on the couch watching TV, football games etc. These activities, or lack thereof, are often another culprit for weight gain. Instead, suggest a physical “game” or activity with your special people to get everyone moving and more connected in the process. I bet they will all be thankful for you suggesting it! (I am planning on hosting a dance party with my family at the end of our holiday meal! )
Keep the holiday engagements social! Focus on your guests and community with socializing instead of food. Engage people in storytelling, laughter, song, dance and fun!
Goal setting Setting goals for your holidays and where you feel you might indulge ahead of time (i.e. Jennifer is the best cook and her food should never be missed) vs places you don’t need to indulge (a piece of candy being handed out at work).
Having an accountability “buddy” is also key in sticking to your goals. This can be a family member but, it’s often better as a friend or colleague at work. You can certainly be your own “buddy” by putting in phone reminders or sticky notes with encouraging messages.
Get plenty of sleep Sleep deprivation, which is quite common during the holidays, may cause weight gain because people who are not sleeping tend to be hungrier and consume more calories. Alcohol can cause sleep to be worse, which is another reason to limit your consumption to avoid feeling bad the day after. Also, remember elevated cortisol at night can cause more glucose to be released which increases fat stores as well.
Drink a lot of water If you are more full on water, you reduce the temptation to overeat. You should also always follow one alcoholic beverage with one full glass of water. I also recommend NAC (N- acetyl Cysteine at least 600mg to help you detoxify from alcohol before, during and after drinking.
Weigh yourself, Regularly If you weigh yourself daily during the holidays this can help you see if the pounds are creeping on and you won’t’ be surprised at the end of the month. Weighing yourself allows you to act before your clothes become too tight!
Work on your Stress Tolerance and response As mentioned above, holidays are stressful for many people and can be a pitfall when it comes to weight gain and ill health over the holidays. I’ve already discussed the negative aspects of high cortisol so keep working on your breathing, meditation, and self-care this holiday season.
Sugar alternatives! Stevia as a wonderful sugar alternative for baking and drinking! What is stevia? Stevia is a plant of the Chrysanthemum family, the leaves of which have been used as a sweetener in South America for hundreds of years. Extracts from the Stevia leaf have been available as dietary supplements in the U.S. since the mid-1990s
Stevia has no calories, and it is 200 times sweeter than sugar in the same concentration. This can make it a little challenging when first introducing this into your diet, as an alternative to sugar.
There are studies indicating Stevia not only doesn’t raise glucose but, that it can actually decrease glucose and increases glucose tolerance. Stevia can also reduce blood pressure, balance endocrine system, and reduce obesity.
Unlike other “artificial” sweeteners, there is evidence that stevia does nothing to change eating habits or hurt metabolism in the short term.
How many calories does Stevia sweeteners contain? Stevia sweeteners have zero calories. Foods containing Stevia-based sweeteners can have zero or minimal calories per serving, depending upon the other food ingredients with which they are combined.
How are stevia sweeteners helpful in weight control? As a sugar substitute, with zero calories, stevia sweeteners can help reduce or replace calories in foods and beverages, while offering low to no calorie alternatives, for people looking to lose or control weight. Traditional artificial sweeteners like Splenda, NutraSweet can affect your body's learned state and will confuse your brain, which will send signals telling you to eat more, especially more sweet food. Studies show people who consume artificial sweeteners are more likely to have Diabetes. Stevia however, does not affect your taste buds for sugar, (possibly because it’s sweeter than sugar) plus it can suppress your plasma glucose levels which can reduce your risk of Diabetes.
Unfortunately, many Stevia products like Truvia are highly processed and can undergo 40 processing steps, therefore I recommend the “whole” plant. A professional company NutraMedix Stevia is the one I personally use and carry at the office.
Here are a few other approved sugar “alternatives’ with zero calories and sugar
monk fruit extract sugar alcohols, such as erythritol or xylitol tagatose If stevia by itself is too sweet and is just isn’t your thing try the Whole Earth Sweetener Nature Sweet Packets. This is a blend of non-GMO erythritol, chicory root fiber, stevia leaf extract, monk fruit extract, and a little fructose.
Some sugar alternatives that are still better than table sugar Chicory root coconut palm sugar (is still 70-80% sucrose) date sugar honey maple syrup agave One of my favorite products is Lily’s chocolate! Chocolate!!!! https://lilys.com/ (on most days you will find a little Salted Almont Extra Dark Lily’s chocolate bar in my desk drawer) https://nomnompaleo.com/ ( a great site, with lots of great alternatives to fool your brain you’re indulging😉) Here are a few recipes for a “sweet treat” to try out this holiday season https://steviabenefits.org/coconut-rum-balls/ https://steviabenefits.org/berry-nut-granola/ https://steviabenefits.org/caramelized-cinnamon-almonds/ https://steviabenefits.org/awesome-pumpkin-pie/ Stevia in warming beverages? Yes https://steviabenefits.org/himalayan-chai-tea/ Stevia in drinks? Yes https://steviabenefits.org/french-75-cocktail/ https://www.zevia.com/products to add to your cocktails https://www.zevia.com/products/mixers
I also found a A “guilt free” alcoholic beverage by Stem Ciders, the Real Dry Apple Cider 6.8% alcohol 0 total or added sugars!
I plan to bring these to my holiday parties this season. (you can buy this at Hazel’s in Boulder)
Below is a link to Pam Vagnieres, a local Nutritionist and chef who has cooking classes and E Books to share! ' 3 Holiday GF E-Cookbooks which she is putting on special for $4.99 https://tinyurl.com/vfthdkp A great site for Paleo cooking https://nomnompaleo.com/
Other recipes https://www.wholesomeyum.com/recipes/sugar-free-gingerbread-cookies-low-carb-paleo/ (sugar free gingerbread cookie) https://elanaspantry.com/recipes/?diet-type=&recipe-type=holiday&ingredients https://www.maangchi.com/recipe/baesuk Steamed Korean Pear with honey (could totally use liquid Stevia) and dates or jujubes
Whatever, wherever your holiday plans may take you this year, my hope for you is to feel nourished by your community, your family, your spirituality (if you practice one) and certainly by yourself.
Do the best you can do, as that is all that you can do and please be kind to yourself as you are amazing! I look forward to you all staying healthy and happy this holiday season! Yours in health and in gratitude for all of you, Carrie Ballas
Stevia research https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31754814 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31752141 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31451273 (small pt sample however) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31438580 (Meta Analysis and show lowered BP d/t stevia) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31420111 (endocrine system support) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31372346 (protective to the kidneys) https://www.nutramedix.ec/products/stevia (is also a biofilm buster so helps with things like Yeast, Lyme etc. ) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19961353 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5651958/ Studies/Articles on Weight gain over the holidays A Prospective Study Holiday Weight Gain https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM200003233421206#t=article https://www.health.harvard.edu/diet-and-weight-loss/holiday-weight-gain-is-a-worldwide-phenomenon-study-suggests https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/05/190523091305.htm https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc1602012?rss=searchAndBrowse#t=article https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-proven-benefits-of-cinnamon#section3