How to Survive the Holiday Party?
The weather is getting cooler, meals are becoming heartier and your inbox is full with holiday party invites. This most magical time of the year can also be a huge setback for your newly achieved health goals. Here are five ‘P’s to keep you from starting the New Year in a health deficit.
Plan a Healthy Plate
According to the Harvard School of Public Health1, your healthy eating plate should aim to consist of:
- Half vegetables – aiming for colour and variety. Unfortunately, this category does not include potatoes, so Gratin Dauphinois doesn’t count!
- One quarter whole grains – examples of this include whole wheat, quinoa, brown rice, and oats; although they’re not officially a grain, potatoes fall into this category. Try to avoid refined carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta & rice because these foods rapidly raise blood sugar and insulin levels, pushing the carbohydrates into storage, for example, on your waistline.
- On quarter protein – This can include beans, lentils, nuts, eggs, tofu, fish or meat. Plant sources of protein provide different health benefits than animal sources; switch it up for maximum impact!
- Healthy oils – drizzle olive oil over salads; include fish in your holiday cooking; use coconut oil as a replacement for butter; incorporate avocados and nuts into snacks and hors d’oeuvres.
Each meal need not be perfect, but aiming for a healthy day or even few days based on these principles can help achieve nutritional balance. Certainly, some foods fit in more than one of these categories, so there’s no need to be rigid.
Prevent Sugar Cravings
Notice what’s not on the “Healthy Plate”? Highs and lows in blood sugar contribute to the sugar cravings that make holiday treats irresistible. Sticking to foods that have a lower glycemic index helps slow the rise in blood sugar after a meal, preventing mood swings and cravings.2
Another trick to avoid sugar cravings is protein! The average adult should consume about 0.36 g per pound per day (54g for a 150lb adult). To put this into perspective, a 3 oz. piece of turkey breast (about the size of a deck of cards) contains approximately 26 g and half a cup of almonds approximately 14 g. Maintaining protein intake will keep energy levels up and your stomach satisfied, reducing the desire for a sugar loaded jolt of energy.
Pay Attention to Extra Sugar
Liquid beverages such as alcohol and pop are commonly forgotten when calculating total consumed calories. For example, a can of coke has 39 g of sugar and is 140 calories. That has almost double the amount of sugar content as a piece of pumpkin pie, depending on the baker. It’s okay to indulge in a treat, but make the decision between pop and pie and remember water is always a great alternative, especially when festively sparkling and garnished with colourful fruit.
Avoiding the addition of extra toppings like whipped cream or chocolate chips can be a quick and easy way to keep calories at a minimum while still enjoying a delicious treat. If you are too full from dinner and afraid of missing out, take home a doggy bag to enjoy at a later time.
Delicious eats are an integral part of celebrating the season. Enjoy it! Whether you choose the pie or other scrumptious dessert, enjoy every bite rather than fretting or feeling guilty. Eating slowly and mindfully, paying full attention to flavour and texture can increase your enjoyment of the food, often resulting in eating less overall. This is a health-promoting practice whether the food is good for your body OR good for your soul!
Before heading to your first holiday party, set some goals. Create a plan for what you will eat, what sorts of foods and drinks you will choose, and how you will enjoy them. The more goal-oriented you are, the easier it will be to make healthy selections. Then go ahead and spend less time worrying about counting calories and more time enjoying the company around you at this celebratory time of year. Happy holidays!