By: Bailey Fitzgerald
The holidays are for enjoying time with loved ones – not for feeling crappy! But with all the indulgences and changes in people's routines, it often ends up being a time when people find themselves feeling not so great!
But we’re not going to let that happen this year! There is enough stress surrounding the holidays already, so I want you to feel your absolute best when it comes to your health. I’ve put together a list of my favourite recommendations to help you feel prepared and able to stay on top of your goals this holiday season:
1. Avoid or limit alcohol- Most types of alcohol are filled with sugar and empty calories. Instead, bring or ask for sparkling water with lemon or lime. If you do opt for an alcoholic beverage, choose something low in sugar like a spirit [vodka, gin, or rum] mixed with sparkling water and a garnish of fresh fruit.
2. Practice mindfulness- Be present and check in with yourself. Are you eating because you’re hungry or for other reasons? Try taking five deep breaths before your meal and chew every bite slowly. Notice the texture, colour, taste, and smell of all the delicious food you’re about to enjoy. No one likes to feel stuffed after eating a meal so eat slowly and enjoy your meal. Check your fullness levels halfway through your meal- I recommend putting your fork down and taking a pause to assess your hunger on a scale of 1 to 10. Ask yourself how much more you need to feel satisfied and still comfortable.
3. Stay active- Remaining active during the holidays will help burn off the extra calories we’re likely to consume. A walk after a meal will also help support digestion and reduce bloating. Try planning an activity to look forward to after the meal like a group walk, visiting with other friends or family, a group game or playing with younger family members. Offering to help your host clean up also gets you up from the table + helps prevent you from reaching for that extra piece of dessert!
4. Plan ahead- When you forget to plan, you plan to forget. The holidays are such a busy time of year, so try to stay organized by scheduling in your meal planning time because otherwise it probably won’t get done. Planning this ahead of time will set you up for success and you will be less stressed in the long run.
5. Let go of guilt- Worrying and regretting that piece of chocolate you ate is not going to get you anywhere. So, you overindulged, it’s okay to just move on. This doesn’t mean you’re losing control, or all your goals are ruined. Don’t beat yourself up and see this as an opportunity to give up on your health journey, just acknowledge it, enjoy it, and keep moving forward. Focus on creating more healthy eating habits in your next meal and stop having regrets about the things you ate. Your self-worth is not determined by what you eat. And remember to ENJOY your holiday treats when you have them! Having treats a few times a year is not going to make or break you.
6. Find support- You’re not alone this holiday season. Find friends to go on walks with, have a trainer help you stay motivated at the gym, work with a nutritionist to help you plan your holiday diet. Whoever will be there for you and help you stay accountable, recruit them. Your friends and family could likely use your support during this time of the year as well, just ask!
7. Write down your goals- Think about how you want to feel when you hit those holiday parties and dinners. If you want to feel great, you’re less likely to indulge in foods and activities that make you feel less than great. Set an intention for how you would like to feel after each meal and hold yourself accountable by writing it down and posting it somewhere you can see it like on the refrigerator or the bathroom mirror. If goals are out of sight, they are out of mind. You can also try sharing your goals with a friend or family member to help you stay accountable!
8. Choose veggies first- Starting the meal with soup, fresh veggies or a salad and avoiding appetizers filled with refined flour and other unhealthy choices can prevent cravings. Look for the vegetable board or other healthy options as snacks or appetizers. Volunteering to bring something to every gathering you attend guarantees there’s a healthy choice. Additionally, you can enjoy a healthy, balanced snack at home before you go to avoid overeating!
9. Don’t deviate from your norm- If you know you’re going to attend a holiday party, begin your day as you would any other. Don’t skip meals to save calories or carbohydrates- this is not a healthy behavior to practice! Instead, try eating a high protein/high fat snack an hour before your holiday meal like celery sticks with nut butter or a protein shake. Protein and healthy fats help reduce cravings for sugar and processed carbs.
10. Stick to basics- Drink water, get enough sleep, eat your fruits & veggies, move a little, etc. The simpler, the better. Health shouldn’t be complicated. You don’t have to count every last macro to be healthy this holiday season. Relax and enjoy the holiday season with friends and family, share the joy, and don’t be afraid to treat yourself!
Get in touch with your creative side and try making some healthy holiday treats to bring to your next holiday gathering!
Healthy Dark Chocolate Turtles
· 3 1/2 oz 70% dark chocolate
· 1 heaping cup pitted dates
· 2 oz pecan halves (about 40-45 small halves)
1. Blend dates in a food processor until they become a sticky and very thick jam-like consistency.
2. Roll the processed dates into 15 marble-sized balls using the palms of your hands. Place the balls on a lightly greased cookie sheet.
3. Press 2-3 pecan halves into the date balls and then place in the freezer for 10 minutes to set.
4. Heat a small saucepan over very low heat and add in the dark chocolate, stir continuously until melted into a smooth sauce. Remove from the heat.
5. Using a spoon, pour a small amount of chocolate sauce over each date/pecan mound. Repeat until each one is covered with the chocolate. The chocolate sauce will harden quickly becoming a shell over the date/pecan mounds.
6. Place in turtles in the freezer to set for at least 10 more minutes.
7. Keep turtles cold until ready to serve.
Healthy Gingerbread Muffins
1 tsp unsalted butter or coconut oil, melted and cooled slightly
2 large egg whites
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp ground ginger
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp salt
½ cup plain Greek yogurt
¼ cup molasses
¼ cup pure maple syrup
1 cup almond milk
2 ½ cups whole wheat flour or gluten-free flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp baking soda
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and coat 12 muffin cups with non-stick cooking spray.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the butter, egg whites, and vanilla. Whisk in the ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Add in the Greek yogurt, stirring until no large lumps remain. Stir in the molasses and maple syrup. Stir in the milk. Pour in the flour. Gently sprinkle the baking powder and baking soda on top of the flour; then gently stir everything together.
3. Spread the batter into the prepared muffin pan. Bake at 350°F for 19-22 minutes or until the centers feels firm to the touch. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.
No-Bake Chocolate Peppermint Protein Balls
· 10 tablespoons cocoa powder
· 6 tablespoons maple syrup
· 1/4 cup almond butter, use sun butter for nut free
· 1/4 cup unflavored pea protein powder
· ¼ - ½ teaspoon peppermint extract
· 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
· 2-4 tablespoons crushed candy canes, or cacao nibs for a healthy crunchy option (plus more to top for presentation if wanted)
· 2-4 tablespoons 50% dark chocolate chips
· 2-4 tablespoons water optional
1. Put everything except the candy cane or cacao nibs, chocolate chips and water into a bowl and mix well.
2. Slowly add water if needed. You may not need any water if your almond butter is runny. Start with a teaspoon and slowly add until you get a well-mixed batter. If you add too much, then the batter will be too soft to roll.
3. Add the candy canes/cacao nibs and chocolate chips and mix again.
4. Allow to chill in the fridge while you clean up, then roll into 10-12 balls.
5. You can then top with more crushed candy canes for presentation if you want.