By Hilary Sheinbaum
The holidays can be stressful for a myriad of reasons — travel, visitors, lots of family time, cooking and cleaning (read: the list goes on and on). And, in the midst of the busy weeks between October 31 and New Years (where time seems to slip away from us), often these seasonal celebrations revolve around sugary treats, hearty foods and plentiful meals — not to mention high calorie cocktails.
With the inevitable combination of modified schedules and a change in diet, bloating and weight gain can occur. Thankfully, we chatted with some health and wellness pros who have a few tips to avoid packing on pounds (…even if you do have to unbutton your pants or wear stretchy bottoms at the dinner table — which, for the record, is totally acceptable).
“You have to have a decent amount of self control,” says Nada Foley, CPT and co-founder of Punch Pedal House in New York City. “Whatever you put on your plate, eat slowly and enjoy the different flavors. The goal is smaller portions, slow bites, enjoying the food, and having a nice connection and conversation with your close ones.”
“If you go to a party or a gathering hungry, you will only end up eating more than you should,” says Jennifer Jacobs, CPT, Beachbody Super Trainer and founder of The J METHOD. “Be sure to eat your regular meals throughout the day.” And, if you’re hungry in between: snacks are a good idea.
“Eat something nutritious beforehand,” she says. “It will help take that slight edge off and keep you from overeating. If you arrive satisfied, chances are you will be more thoughtful about what you choose to snack on or eat.”
“Staying hydrated has so many benefits,” says Jacobs. “Research suggests that the more hydrated you are, the more efficiently your body works at tasks that range from thinking to even burning body fat. Thirst, which is triggered by mild hydration, is often mistaken for hunger by the brain. So, before grabbing a snack, try having a glass of water first! And if you are hydrated throughout the day, you may find yourself snacking less.”
“The average holiday meal can contain upwards of 1500 calories, and that’s before booze and dessert!,” says Ivey Leidy, a certified health and wellness coach in West Palm Beach, Fla. “Some of my favorite swaps to keep the calories down and the nutrients dense are cauliflower mash using almond milk instead of mashed potatoes with butter (450 calories per serving), baked or roasted vegetables and squash instead of casseroles (550 calories per serving), sautéed kale in garlic and olive oil instead of creamed spinach (250 calories per serving) and an apple crumble using just a touch of maple syrup instead of pecan or pumpkin pie (350-500 calories per slice).
Sticking to dry white wine and clear spirits like vodka and tequila, sweetened only with fresh squeezed citrus, instead of eggnog and red wine can save you hundreds of calories.”
Beyond diet, moving one’s body is important. “Stay active, go for runs, and take online classes,” says Foley. “Find the workouts that work for you and be dedicated. My top three are cycling, boxing and yoga.”
Alternatively — if you work out all the time (and your muscles need a breather) — you are entitled to take some time off. “Listen to your body and don’t go against it. My husband and I workout every single day, and when the holidays come, we don’t want to think about the workouts. For us, it’s a time to rest our bodies, go to our vacation home and simply enjoy our family time.”
“Eat meals full of healthy nutrients, and stop eating processed food,” says Foley. This might be a little more challenging around Halloween and Christmas sweets, but hopefully a tad easier when Thanksgiving rolls around. “Focusing on real, whole foods like fruits, vegetables and healthy fats fill you up and keep the cravings at bay,” says Leidy.
“Fiber rich vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and kale help to slow down digestion and regulate blood sugar, keeping you feeling full and curbing the cravings. Berries and apples are rich in fiber and taste just as good as the sweet treats. Good fats, like avocado and olives, help to keep you fuller longer.”
With these 7 tips, you’ll be satisfied — not stuffed — and sailing through the holidays without stressing about added lbs! After all, you’ve got enough on your (figurative) plate!