Eating Right – “Have yourself a healthy little Christmas …”

Some alternate titles I was working with were, All I want for Christmas is to stay on track, It’s the most fattening time of the year, and Everyone was singing “Here Comes Santa Claus” but it was only me.” Being raised Jewish I’d like to say I never fall into the “throw my healthy-living diet out the window during the holidays” trap but alas, even I tend to indulge a bit this time of year.  So I want the first tip to be; GO EASY ON YOURSELF!  I can’t stress enough that the best gift we can give ourselves over the holiday and every day for that matter, is to drop the rigidity and stress around healthy-living.  Because, as I’ve said so many times, it’s just not healthy.  Life is to be enjoyed and to the degree that our balance is compromised toward either apathy or severity we lose serenity.  So in that vein here are some tips on staying the course of a healthy diet while enjoying and giving this holiday season.

So what do we usually do?  Pig out and then make the New Years resolution to “be good”.  This insane thinking gets the teeter totter of shame/pride going and we never seem to learn that they’re depending on each other for the ride. The truth is that staying healthy DURING the holiday season is easier than you think.

Three basic things to remember:

  1. Stay mindful.  It’s so easy to get caught up in the joy and revelry of gathering with loved ones that we often become essentially unconscious of what we’re eating.  Pay attention to your hunger and don’t eat if you aren’t hungry.
  2. Measure your indulgences rather than deny them (unless of course there’s a true health risk) but don’t just shuck the whole plan for the holidays.  For some, Christmas is a very holy day, for other’s it is a relatively secularized holiday but when considering your healthy-lifestyle, it’s really just another day on the calendar
  3. Stay true to and love yourself.  Don’t feel obliged to eat every dish or dessert made by good old Aunt Ethel or to attend every single event you’re invited to.  Politely decline and show you care in some other, more honest way.

And now to get down to some details:

  • Try some pre-event healthy eating.  If you’re going to a party that you know won’t be healthy-living friendly, have something light beforehand.  A blended smoothie, whole grain cereal or even quality yogurt will fill you up just enough to keep from giving in to temptation and overindulging.
  • Stay away from the buffet.  Make your selections and then go schmooze somewhere else. (I just love using Yiddish in a Christmas article)
  • Make wise selections.  Choose raw vegetables, fresh fruits with healthy dips; hummus, guacamole and salsa types, avoiding the creamy options.
  • Avoid the fried/fatty foods and if you’re a meat eater, choose solid pieces of chicken or turkey and remove the skin or look for fish options.
  • Have a desert buddy.  I won’t say “If” but “When” you indulge in dessert, share with someone (It’s the spirit of giving…  to yourself as well as another).
  • Be mindful of your alcohol consumption.  Isn’t this one obvious?  If you’re drunk, you’ll cheat.  If you must drink, don’t overdo it and drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration and maybe even a bad hangover.  If you want to skip drinking altogether but don’t want to deal with inquiries, substitute with sparkling water with lime or a “virgin” anything.

If you do over do it the night before:

· Have breakfast, no matter how small – some fresh fruit or a fruit smoothie, whole grain cereal or toast.

· Drink fresh juices containing carrot, apple, beetroot, parsley, spinach and ginger to aid detoxification and provide the body with nutrients, especially vitamin C.

· Have some herbal tea to help settle the stomach: chamomile, peppermint, ginger, fennel or green tea are good choices.

On Christmas Day…:

  • Instead of snacking on the bottomless tins of sweets try dried fruits and nuts.
  • Again, stay with raw veggies and dips instead of the doughy finger foods.
  • Try not to drink large volumes of fluid with your meal; this doesn’t help to ‘wash it down but rather dilutes your digestive secretions thus reducing their effectiveness.  And drink pure water instead of punch, beer or eggnog.
  • Chew slowly and thoroughly. It’s essential for digestion and will help prevent bloating and indigestion and it will also reduces the likelihood of overeating as it allows the brain the register when you are full.
  • If you stockpile, do it with vegetables. They are a great source of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals and you would have to eat vast amounts to get fat on them.  Aim for a variety of colors and flavors.
  • Include steamed vegetables tossed in extra virgin olive oil or unsalted butter with fresh or dried herbs, sea salt and pepper as a side. Steaming is quick and helps to preserve the nutrients.
  • Cut potatoes into large pieces and parboil them first before roasting to reduce the surface area for oil absorption.  Use extra virgin olive oil, garlic and/or fresh or dried herbs for added flavor.
  • Remove the skin from chicken and turkey, it may taste nice but is one of the fattiest things you can eat.
  • For stuffing, use something more vegetable-based rather than sausage meat or breadcrumbs.
  • Choose which pie is your favorite and have one slice.  Don’t kid yourself by having two or three bite-size ones and think it’s the same.
  • And remember, it may be Christmas but after the game, get off the couch and move.  Take some form of exercise each day; even a 15-20 minute walk before or after your main meal is beneficial. You’ll feel refreshed and it will aid digestion.

Have a happy, healthy holiday.

Be well,

Juicy Josh

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