Story by Kristen Coffield of The Culinary Cure
The average American packs on five to seven pounds over the holidays, and most of us will hang on to at least one of those pounds for the foreseeable future. That is in an average year! 2020 might be a year for the record books! YIKES!
Instead of dealing with those pounds as New Year's resolutions, start now with 12 days of wellness and avoid the weight gain altogether.
It is easy to avoid the holiday tsunami of calories in sugar, sodium, refined carbohydrates, and processed fats with smarter habits that serve us better. I love simple swaps that seamlessly make our lives healthier and our waistlines happier.
In other words, we can actually have a little bit of cake and eat it too!
December is the sweetest month of the year. Treats show up everywhere; and quarantine has inspired even the worst cooks and bakers to double down on their culinary offerings. Which means December is a never-ending month of bad calories. Not only do all those calories pile on the pounds, they significantly contribute to inflammation -- and inflammation is linked to every horrible lifestyle disease we want to avoid.
In the spirit of making the 2020 holiday season fun in spite all the COVID-19 restrictions and global insanity, here are twelve tips that can actually help you lose weight and feel great.
Get wellness inspiration, information and recipes from Kristen Coffield at theculinarycure.com
You can simply adopt one tip and stick with it or add a daily tip and make it more of a mini detox. Either way, adopting any or all, turning these tips into habits will serve you well over the holidays -- and be a gift that keeps on giving all year long.
1. Drink before you drink. Hydration is key to staying healthy over the holidays. Dehydration is linked to over-eating, over-drinking, and horrible hangovers. Proper hydration means consuming 8-10oz of water an hour for 10 hours each day. At a minimum, drink one glass of water for every caffeinated and alcoholic beverage consumed. Staying hydrated is a significant health habit.
2. Drink Less Sugar. Sugar is the most addictive substance on the planet. Skip that
gingerbread latte and have an espresso instead. Steer clear of fancy holiday drinks that are just sugar bombs; we do not need that pumpkin spiced hot chocolate or sugarplum cosmopolitan. Added sugar triggers sweet cravings, testing our willpower and making it harder to navigate the holiday barrage of sugary treats.
3. Sip Sparkling Wine. Champagne and sparkling wine have fewer calories per ounce than wine, beer, and cocktails. Champagne is packed with health-boosting polyphenols – antioxidants found in the 2 red grapes commonly used to make champagne. Antioxidants have a beneficial effect on the walls of blood vessels, helping to lower blood pressure and prevent heart problems. Moderate consumption of champagne has also been linked to improved cognitive function. Cheers to that!
4. Avoid Artificial Sweeteners. Nothing is worse for gut health than artificial sweeteners. They signal your body to extract more calories from the food you eat and store it as fat. Artificial sweeteners are worse for us than refined sugar. They skew our ability to taste natural sweetness, interfere with our digestive system's functioning, and create inflammation in the body. I lump Stevia in here because it is super-sweet, and the more we eat or drink sweet, the more we crave it!
5. Drink cleaner wines. The average mass-produced bottle of wine can contain up to 16 grams of added sugar. Grapes are on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list -- meaning they are grown with excessive amounts of pesticides, fungicides, and chemical fertilizers. All that ends up in our glass of wine. Wine can also contain any of 250 FDA approved additives, including sulfites and added sugar. We can still enjoy wine if we choose wine better for us and better for the planet—more information at The Culinary Cure.
6. Eat fiber, fat, and protein before safe social holiday gatherings or Zoom happy hours. The only thing worse than being a thirsty drinker is the untamed snacking it can trigger. Avoid the risk of calorie-overload by pre-gaming with healthy snacks. A handful of raw nuts, an apple, or nut milk yogurt can fill us up enough to prevent binging on 2000 calories of cheese or a dozen holiday cookies.
7. Add more fiber to your diet. Fiber helps us feel fuller longer and improves gut function. One of the easiest ways to add more fiber to our diet is with ground raw flax seed. Simply add 2 heaping teaspoons to a glass of water in the morning and evening. I love this simple trick -- it has so many benefits. Flax seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids, rich in soluble and insoluble fiber, controlling both blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Staying fuller longer helps us make better holiday food choices too!
8. Chew your food. Chew every single bite 20 times to avoid over-eating and improve digestion. Holiday foods are notorious for being fatty, salty, and sweet. Slow down and enjoy them. This will minimize over-eating, maximize flavor enjoyment, and increase nutrient absorption.
9. Stop eating when you are 80% full. Once you create the habit of chewing your food 20 times, it becomes easier to detect when you are about 80% satiated. Stopping at 80% means less unnecessary calorie consumption, and it gives our bodies time to register fullness.
10. Don't skip meals. It can be tempting to skip a meal when there is a special indulgence on the agenda. The worst possible situation is to face the cookies with low blood sugar and a ravenous appetite. Skipping meals sets us up for failure and justifies a lack of self-control. Instead, practice proper hydration and use fiber, healthy fat, and protein as your superpowers for indulging in moderation.
11. Rehydrate before going to bed. Have one last glass of water or herbal tea before bed. Eating fatty, sugary, and salty foods and sipping alcohol is hard on our bodies. Before you turn out the lights, drink another glass of water and have one handy in case you wake up thirsty in the night. Your body will thank you in the morning.
12. Eat the cake. …, or the crab dip, or whatever it is that makes you happy. Moderation, not restriction, is the key to creating better habits. By practicing the eleven habits above, you make space to enjoy your favorite indulgences and savor them in a manageable way. No, you cannot eat the cake every day until it's gone; but you can enjoy a piece and make peace with yourself when you do. Then it's time to have a glass of water and get back on track!