It is hard to believe but the holidays will soon be upon us. This will mean family gatherings, holiday parties and often overindulging in food and alcohol. On average, Americans gain 5 pounds during the holidays due to over indulging. This weight gain is called holiday weight creep and despite our best intentions to lose it most Americans never do.
I recently had the opportunity to ask Dr. Keith Kantor, a leading nutritionist and author of the book, “What Matters: Leadership Values that Just Might Save America“, a few questions about Holiday weight creep and what we can do to avoid it this year. Below are his tips on how to have a healthy holiday season and foods that can be served that won’t add holiday weight to the waistline.
Why do Americans gain weight during the Holidays?
It is simple, Americans typical gain what we call the “seasonal 7 pounds” between Halloween and New Year’s Day because there is an abundance of unhealthy foods loaded with sugar and unhealthy fats along with our schedules being booked with school activities, parties, shopping, and exercise drops down on the priority list.
How can we avoid the Holiday weight creep?
Stay active, even if you cannot devote the same amount of time to exercise as you normally do outside of the holiday season, try to still remain active throughout the day. Buy an activity monitor like the “fitbit” and aim to get 10,000 steps in per day. Rather than devoting separate time to exercise, counting steps can be done at the mall while holiday shopping, walking more at work, cleaning at home or on your lunch hour at work. Also, try to stick to a balanced meals consisting of protein, non-starchy vegetables and heart healthy fats. Avoid the “counting calorie trap” don’t substitute a cookie for a healthy salad because they are equal in calories. Just because foods are equal in calories does not mean your metabolism will process the foods the same. You may develop a sugar addiction and suffer from insulin spikes and drops, causing you to crave more sugar than normal, resulting in unwanted weight gain. Getting adequate protein, fats and at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day with an occasional holiday treat will ensure your metabolism does not get damaged.
Also, don’t forget to take your supplements, if your body is deficient in nutrients due to a change in your diet, then it could result in excessive cravings, inflammation and weight gain. A high quality multi-vitamin and omega 3 fish oil should be consumed daily. If you have a hard time with sugar cravings, a chromium supplement taken an hour or so before a party or get together can also help reduce cravings, due to its powerful role with insulin in the body.
What are some foods that Americans can enjoy during the Holidays that will not add to their waistlines?
All foods can be modified into a healthier version. A healthy version of a holiday meal includes roasted turkey, sweet potatoes, and a variety of roasted vegetables. Try to use real unprocessed ingredients, avoid refined flours and white sugar. If you are into baking sweet holiday treats, opt for healthier versions of your favorite recipes. There are several recipes that use almond flour, coconut oil, dark chocolate chips, etc. instead of the traditional fattening ingredients.
If your family wants you to cook the traditional recipes then try to give away the remaining leftovers so you will not be eating heavy foods several days after the meal, this will cause unwanted weight gain, one “off” meal will not.
Do you have any simple healthy dishes that can be served during the Holidays which will help us to avoid the weight gain?
Roasted your meats with fresh herbs, which is the best way to maintain flavor without adding excess fat and calories. Instead of candied yams try making a sweet potato mash with stevia or honey and cinnamon.
Instead of traditional white potatoes try a cauliflower mash.
4 c cauliflower florets
2 Tbs. organic butter
1 oz. half and half, or sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
1 pinch of salt
1 pinch of black pepper
1 pinch of garlic powder
1 Tbs. Chives
¼ c shredded cheese
Makes 4 servings
Steam cauliflowers till soft add to food processor and add other ingredients to flavor.
What are some other important nutrition tips we should remember during the Holidays?
Avoid beginning a rigid nutrition plan over the holiday season, this can become depressing and often lead to a feeling of failure if you give into holiday treats at the office, your child’s school or holiday parties. A sensible goal is to try to maintain your weight during the holiday season. Enjoy time with your loved ones, start new active traditions with your family, instead of driving to look at neighborhood lights, ride your bikes (weather permitting of course), go to a local corn maze or orchard, etc.