Whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah, Easter, Halloween, Valentine’s Day or any other celebratory event, everyone has their own traditions and way of celebrating, but much of it will include a lot of sugar, processed food and alcohol. These “festive foods” are strongly tied to all the happy holiday memories, making a powerful emotional connection in our minds when we eat these foods. In our minds, happiness is tied to eating marshmallow bunnies, christmas cookies, halloween candy, valentines day chocolates…and as we get older, washing it down with celebratory drinks. So it’s no wonder so many people are sick at the end of the holiday period, when it’s time to get back to school and work. Well maybe it’s time for some new traditions! Isn’t it possible to celebrate, have a holiday AND take good care of our bodies so we feel amazing even after the party is over?
All I Want For Christmas is a Good Body
The number one New Year’s resolutions are to get fit, lose weight, and eat healthy, but we spend several weeks before the new year trashing our bodies! Well, this is the year things are going to change for YOU. You are reading this article, and soon will be armed with new ways of approaching any holiday time so that you don’t come out the other side tired, sick and several kilos fatter. So let’s get to it – If there’s going to be a holiday feast and party platters, let’s talk about food!
Every Feast Starts with Meat & Veggies
Meat and veggies are always a feature at any holiday gathering, so make these foods the bulk of your plate! If you’re throwing the party or bringing a plate, make colourful and delicious meat and veggie dishes. When you go to a party, find the meat and veg and fill up on those first. What’s more festive than a roast pork with crackling and roasted vegetables? Or for summer holidays – fresh prawns, barbequed meats and colourful salads? The list of festive meat and veg dishes could be endless but here are some ideas:
– Chicken, beef, lamb or fish on skewers! Alternate the meat with colourful veggies and grill them up for an easy main party dish. Kids love to help make the skewers too.
– Roast turkey, lamb, ham, chicken, pork, or beef. Rub on some salt and herbs; crisp up the crackling; stuff poultry with cut oranges or lemons. You’ll have healthy leftovers for days.
Throw plenty of veggies in too while you’ve got the oven on. Whole sweet potatoes, pumpkin, parsnips, beetroot, onion…or cut them all up and make a roast veggie medley.
– Whole grilled fish, fish cakes, fresh prawns and other shellfish. Seafood is very festive and the possibilities are endless.
– Green beans or broccoli sprinkled with crispy bacon; grated/shredded cabbage, carrot and capsicum (bell pepper) salad with chopped nuts, raisins, orange wedges, oil and vinegar; leafy green salads with loads of colourful toppings.
Sweets without all the Sugar
The best sweet food for any occassion is fruit. Make fruit skewers, fruit salad or a fruit platter. Use as many colourful fruits as possible for the season. Cut fruit shapes with cookie cutters. Hollow out melons to use as a decorative fruit salad bowl.
Nuts and seeds are another perfect snack food for any get together. Toss raw nuts with mixed spices; serve nuts in the shell with a nutcracker; make a trail mix; roast pumpkin seeds.
One of the biggest obstacles, however, to your healthy holiday is all those chocolates, cakes, cookies and candies. Every holiday, there they are staring you in the face, luring you with happy sugar-filled fun memories. There are three ways of getting over this hurdle:
1/ Just say no. If you are the type of person who can’t just have one bite, and is easily addicted to sweets, make a pact to yourself to not even have one bite. Before each party, remind yourself of the consequences of eating sweets: weight gain, bad moods, tiredness (sugar coma), getting sick, or whatever relates to your body and goals. Fill up on meats, veggies, fruits and nuts, and if anyone asks, keep your explanation simple and upbeat.
2/ Choose your battles. Decide which holiday sweets are your absolute favourite and have a small plate or handful of that. Keep in mind the 80/20 rule – take great care of your health 80% of the time, and it will be strong enough to handle the stress, sugar, and toxins you incur 20% of the time. Have a plate of christmas pudding, a slice of pumpkin pie, or a small Lindt chocolate bunny as part of your celebration. Enjoy it slowly and leave it at that.
3/ Make paleo / primal sweets and treats. With the paleo ‘movement’ and health awareness growing rapidly, there are hundreds of recipes for baked goods and sweets with less to no sugar and flour. And being homemade, it won’t have additives and preservatives! Some great sites for these recipes:
Cheers! What about alcohol?
In many of our cultures, hardly any celebration is without alcohol. However, if you are eating well, exercising and making lifestyle changes to feel healthier and/or lose weight, drinking alcohol can quickly reverse all your hard work. So try these ideas during the holidays:
If you want to only have a few drinks:
– Sip your drink slowly. Slowly drink a full glass of water between each drink.
– Drink spirits straight or only mixed with water, soda water, or sparkling water. Leave out the soda and fruit juice mixers!
– Dilute your wine and champagne. Halve your glass of white wine and fill the rest of the glass with sparkling water. Fruit puree fills up a champagne glass well and tastes nice.
– Keep lots of healthy food snacks nearby as alcohol will make you crave junk food.
If you want to celebrate without drinking at all:
– Bring a bottle of sparkling mineral water and some fresh limes, so you’ll have a nice drink for yourself. Also, drinking this in a short glass looks like a cocktail, so you won’t get pestered to have an alcoholic drink.
– Make mocktails with blended fresh or frozen fruit and sparkling mineral water.
– Think about how great you’ll feel tomorrow and know that you’re not really missing much.
Eating isn’t the only holiday activity
There is more to holidays than consuming food, alcohol and material goods! Put your time and energy into memorable activities and traditions and make your celebrations revolve around the activity.
– Go for a walk or drive to look at Christmas lights
– Set up an Easter egg hunt or a more challenging scavenger hunt for adults
– Have a Halloween costume parade and competition
– Go Caroling or sing carols at home
– Play board games, do puzzles, make crafts
– Play at the beach, in the snow, by the lake, in the park
– Serve meals at a homeless shelter or deliver old clothes to the needy
Don’t forget the other 5 of the Primal 6
– Thoughts: Say no if you feel too busy or pressured; omit holiday traditions that are too stressful; stay within your budget and do free things; make time for yourself.
– Breath: Take time to stop and breathe and/or lay on a foam roller; use your holiday time to learn breathing techniques, meditation and yoga.
– Water: Keep drinking plenty of filtered water. Keep your water bottle with you at all times.
– Movement: Get outdoors and play; dance with friends and family or by yourself in the living room; do some stretches every morning or night; join an active group or sport.
– Rest/Sleep: Get to bed by 10pm on the nights when you are not out, so you don’t accumulate too much sleep debt from late night celebrating. Don’t overschedule yourself, make rest time.
The Golden Rules of Healthy Socialising
Lastly, never forget the golden rules of staying healthy at parties, dinners, and social events. These apply perfectly to holiday time:
1/ If you know there won’t be much healthy food offered, eat well before you leave home!
2/ Never stand next to the food table / buffet / snack table / bar.
3/ Carry lots of whole food snacks with you like raw veggies, nuts, fruit, egg muffins, salmon cakes, and spinach bread. This is especially important for your children!
4/ For main meals, serve up your plate then don’t go back for seconds. Avoid family style dining and buffets when possible. Learn more on portion control.
5/ Decide before you go if you will have no sugar and/or alcohol or just a little, and stick to it.
6/ Enjoy a small amount of unhealthy food and drinks if you are following the 80/20 rule for health and weight maintenance.
7/ Don’t make a big deal explaining your healthy choices. Simple, upbeat answers work best.
Above all, enjoy yourself! Stressing about the challenge of staying healthy over the holiday can cause more health problems than actually having the cookies. So instead of thinking that you will be deprived of treats and drinks, focus on all that you will receive and enjoy about the holiday – homemade food, friends and family, music and activities. Happy Holidays!