Another holiday season has come — are you going to spend it the same way you did in previous years? It is common for people to engorge themselves with sugar, cookies and alcohol and then set unrealistic fitness goals for January. I want to give you some tips on how to not only survive this holiday season, but thrive. Why start in January when you can get ahead of your goals now?
It is common for people to gain a steady 5-10 pounds per year, slowly but surely this weight gain adds up. Some people work hard to get it off with exercise and diet in the New Year, but with added stress and family obligations this may not always be the case. Not to mention, high fat and sugary foods can elevate cholesterol, blood pressure and wreak havoc on digestion. A large percentage of staying healthy starts with diet and nutrition, and exercise helps maintain.
Imagine your dinner plate as a pie chart when deciding how much of what type of food should go on it. Half should be some kind of non-starchy vegetable that is filled with fiber. Fiber keeps you full by stretching the stomach receptors, it also helps regulate colon health and even cholesterol balance. One third should be a lean protein like fish or poultry. Vegetarian sources of protein include beans and nuts/seeds. The other third can be a whole grain like brown rice or quinoa, full of minerals like magnesium and fiber. Don’t forget to add a healthy fat to keep you full from a plant-based source like olive oil, avocado or coconut.
Eat before you go out to social functions. When you have a protein snack prior to attending an event, you will be less hungry. This will keep your blood sugar balanced so you are less likely to overeat. Try to stay away from the carbohydrates and sugar as these can spike blood sugar levels and store calories easily. Aim for veggie snacks or hummus, or even the cheese plate has a lower amount of carbohydrates. Stick to one or two alcohol drinks, but skip the sugary mixers as these are extra added calories. Have water or sparkling water between drinks to balance the alcohol. Too much alcohol stresses the liver, and gets stored as excess fat.
When you are trying to avoid eating a food, you can replace it with something similar. For example, parsnips or cauliflower mash makes a good replacement for regular white potatoes. Try using coconut or almond milk instead of milk and cream. Coconut oil or olive oil makes a good replacement for butter or margarine. Butter still has casein in it, and so if you are dairy sensitive this may not be a good option. Butter is also a saturated fat which can raise cholesterol just like other saturated fats from dairy and meat products. Almond flour makes a great replacement for regular wheat flour, even for cookies. Many people are looking for a sugar alternative, in which case xylitol or erythritol makes a good replacement that tastes sweet without raising blood sugar. The higher the cacao content of chocolate the less sugar — cacao is actually a great antioxidant.
Dr. Allison Apfelbaum is a naturopathic primary care doctor at Tree of Health Integrative Medicine clinic in Woodinville. To learn more go to www.treeofhealthmedicine.com, or call 425-408-0040 to schedule an appointment.