It is hardly news that the holiday season can be quite calorie-intensive, what with all those parties, meals and events we tend to attend this time of year. The “harmless” cookie or snack here, the extra glass of hot wine there, or that second helping of mashed potatoes at dinner can inadvertently add up to several unwanted pounds by the end of the season. Sure enough, I have noticed that come January, every fashion, food or health-related magazine has a “lose the holiday pounds” feature to help readers deal with the post-holiday bulge. I’ll be the first to agree that holiday food is delicious and hard to resist, and -admittedly- I have largely given up attempting to restrain myself from indulging in holiday goodies, because I’ve found that not only does it often not work, but also -let’s be honest- it is much less fun to be dieting during the holidays…but that doesn’t mean weight gain is necessarily inevitable this time of year, and it also doesn’t mean that you necessarily have to be left looking for ways to lose weight after you have gained it.
Why is it that we always look for “post-holiday” detox plans, when there is a lot you can do to pre-emptively keep you waistline in check? First off – let’s be realistic. This is not the best time you can choose to start a weight-loss program, but a few seemingly minor tweaks to your daily routine are all it takes to maintain your weight. One obvious way is to step up your exercise routine to offset the extra calories, but if your busy life (like mine) often comes in the way of extra exercise time, you can find your equilibrium by making sure to balance a particularly heavy meal like Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, or a string of holiday parties and social events that often involve snacking and drinking, with uber-healthy meals during “down” time. While it is a terrible idea to cut your calorie intake excessively in preparation for the holidays as this could adversely impact your health and metabolism, I do find that shaving as little as 100-200 calories off of my daily intake on “normal” days in December can go a long way in “making room” for heavier days later in the month and -best of all- shaves inches off my guilt levels.
With Thanksgiving behind us and the Christmas/New Year mania still a few weeks away, now is a good time to stock up on your healthy eating in anticipation of heavier meals, extra sugar and a generally less healthy lifestyle in weeks to come. Here are 5 easy tips to shave those 100-200 calories a day without going hungry.
1. Skip the Starbucks
A simple tall whole milk latte can have up to 180 calories, and a more “festive” holiday drink like a tall peppermint mocha with 2% milk, a gingerbread latte or hot chocolate can pack in as many as 250, 190 and 230 calories respectively before even factoring in whipped cream. If you really need coffee in the morning, go for a tall skim cappuccino (60 calories) or regular brewed coffee (as little as 5 calories a cup).
2. Arm yourself with healthy snacks
Having a healthy alternative to munch on makes it easier to turn down unhealthy snack options like Christmas cookies. One of my favorite snacks is a Granny Smith apple with a tablespoon of peanut butter. The natural sugar satisfies my sweet tooth and the lipids in the pb help create a full feeling. Even better if you can use low fat peanut butter- just make sure it’s a kind with no extra sugar added to compensate for the reduced fat.
3. Drink your 8 a day
Water is soooo underrated. Drink 1-2 glasses of water 10-15 minutes before a meal. It takes up physical space in your stomach and tricks your brain into feeling fuller before you even start eating, so you’re less likley to over-eat. Being hydrated also fights water retention, which can cause unnecessary bloating (retaining water is our bodies’ way of hoarding moisture when we’re dehydrated), and will help regularly cleanse your system of toxins.
4. Eat dinner before parties
Show up to cocktail parties (or even dinners) having eaten a small, healthy meal or light snack like a salad, a lean protein (chicken or fresh tuna are great options), or even a piece of fruit. We’ve all experienced the tendency to over-eat when we’re suddenly surrounded by lots of food while hungry, so if you don’t arrive with a completely empty stomach, you’re less likely to eat too much. At parties, even small bite-size canapes can be deceptively fattening, so be careful!
5. Be smart about your alcohol
It’s easy to forget the liquid calories we consume, but alcohol actually has a high calorie and sugar content. In fact, a gram of alcohol contains 7 calories, second highest of all food types after fat. If you can have one less glass of wine at each party you attend, you can save about 100-150 calories, depending on glass size and wine variety.
In good health,