5 Simple Hacks to Stay Healthy Over the Holidays!
The holiday season is finally upon us. If you’re anything like me - it’s easy to get swept up in all the merriment, feasts, treats, parties and indulgences that aren't typical of the other 11 months of the year. Are you anxious about navigating the holidays, while still keeping your health goals in sight? Follow these 5 simple tips to fully enjoy the jolly season, without the post-holiday guilt.
1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
This seems like a fairly simple one, but something as easy as drinking a glass of water in between sugar-laden cocktails, wine, or that dangerous rum-filled eggnog, can make a world of difference. This can help slow down the consumption of alcohol, as well as keep you from mindlessly snacking when you just may not be adequately hydrated. If you know you have an event in the evening, drink plain or infused H2O (think lemon, cucumber, berries, mint, ginger) as often as you can throughout the day.
2. Eat Mindfully
For many of us, certain Christmas foods come along with many warm memories and a sense of nostalgia from our childhoods. Instead of depriving yourself, guiltlessly allow yourself to have one of your favourite holiday cookies (not a dozen!), and really take the time to savour it, enjoying the rich flavours and aromas that you don’t get to have every day. Studies have shown that the more you chew your food, the more full you actually feel (1). This is hypothesized to be due to the increase in number of chews being linked to increasing the concentration of gut hormones that are involved in satiety - resulting in a decrease in self-reported hunger and overall food intake (1). Knowing that holiday feasts are on the agenda, when navigating the food table, opt to fill up on the healthier options that are available, and choose smaller portions of the foods that you absolutely love. Start with filling up your first plate with any available vegetable (think roasted or raw with hummus), fresh fruit, salads and lean proteins (think shrimp, turkey or chicken here) and saving the second round for the richer, creamier or carbohydrate heavy dishes. And lastly... CHEW YOUR FOOD!
3. Take 10!
Before hitting the buffet for seconds, take a 20 minute break after your first helping, to allow your stomach to communicate with your brain. Drink some water, chat with loved ones and check in with yourself - are you still hungry? Research shows that there are two things controlling satiety - the actual feeling of fullness moderated by the stretch receptors in your stomach, as well as the signals released from digestive hormones in the gastrointestinal tract released during eating (2,3). Most people tout the 20 minute rule, but this may not be the same for everyone. Allowing any length of hiatus between helpings, allows you to redirect your focus back to your internal fullness and satisfaction cues, and you may realize you truly are full, or only need a small portion of seconds.
4. Don’t run on an empty tank!
Before heading out for a holiday event, ensure you have a well-balanced meal or snack, ideally containing a complex carbohydrate, protein and fat source. This prevents you from showing up utterly famished and downing that entire wheel of brie in the blink of an eye. In a time crunch running around for last-minute gift ideas? Here’s a few portable, balanced snack ideas, to stave off that hunger and inevitable over-eating later on:
- mixed raw nuts and seeds
- apple & nut butter
- hard boiled eggs
- unsweetened greek yogurt with berries, cinnamon, nuts
- veggies & hummus
- roasted chickpeas
Additionally, starting your day off with a smoothie or even adding it in as a snack throughout the day leading up to a party, is a genius way to sneak more veggies into your diet. Blend a couple servings of produce with a generous serving of protein and fat, to provide your body with a nutrient-dense meal among all the holiday hubbub!
5. Reinvent your holiday workout!
Although it may be challenging to make time for your usual sweat routine when your social calendar and to-do lists are jam packed, it doesn’t mean you have to scrap exercise altogether! Instead, adapt your workout regimen to your holiday schedule, and aim to split your physical activity into smaller, more manageable time chunks. No time to make it to the gym? Don’t sweat it! There are plenty of online fitness tutorials and apps that can lead you through at home-workouts to get your body moving and up your heart rate. Another way to incorporate physical activity into your holiday schedule is to plan outdoor activities with family and friends. Organizing a hike, ice-skating, or snow-shoeing event (socially distanced of course), not only allows you to integrate movement into your day, but allows you to spend time with loved ones - the best of both worlds!
And last, but not truly not least - remember that no healthy diet or lifestyle routine is ever unsalvageable. To indulge or over-do it once in a while is completely human, and practicing self-love, compassion and forgiveness during these times is of the utmost importance. If you ate one too many shortbread cookies the night prior, don’t dwell on those negative thoughts and feelings, and refocus your energy on the next opportunity to make a positive, more healthful choice.
- Miquel-Kergoat, S., Azais-Braesco, V., Burton-Freeman, B., & Hetherington, M. M. (2015). Effects of chewing on appetite, food intake and gut hormones: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Physiology & behavior, 151, 88–96. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2015.07.017
- Harvard Health Publishing. (2020). Why eating slowly may help you feel full faster. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/why-eating-slowly-may-help-you-feel-full-faster-20101019605
- Amin, T., & Mercer, J. G. (2016). Hunger and Satiety Mechanisms and Their Potential Exploitation in the Regulation of Food Intake. Current obesity reports, 5(1), 106–112. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13679-015-0184-5