Enjoy the Holidays Without Taking a Step Backwards
Thanksgiving marked the unofficial start to the holiday season, and you’re definitely not alone if you’re feeling like you’ve had to work especially hard this week to get back on track. But it doesn’t have to be that way! There are strategies we can use to keep from falling into that weight gain trap this time of year, and keep that bod we just worked so hard for only a few months ago!
Below are a few of my tips for keeping a healthy weight and reducing bloat through the holiday season. Before diving in, I do want to preface this by saying that I completely understand this time of year is supposed to be for celebrating, and food is a big part of that! If you would like, make one day a week a little more indulgent (i.e. have a slice of apple pie, or an extra glass of wine) so that you don’t feel overly restricted, and follow the guidelines below the rest of the week to stay on track!
1. Keep an eye on the salt. 77% of the salt Americans eat comes from restaurants and pre-packaged foods. Try to eat home as much as you can over the next few weeks, especially since you’re probably dining out more frequently between the holiday parties and family get-togethers. Remember that 1 tsp of salt is your salt goal for the entire day, so stay away from the salt shaker. Read nutrition labels- aim to buy foods with </=140 mg sodium/serving to keep your overall daily salt intake in check. When you do go out, try to stick with a more vegetable + protein dish and avoid lots of sauces, choosing olive oil and garlic when given the option.
2. Eat more potassium! Fill up your plate with green leafies (like spinach and asparagus); eat some melon or a small banana. This can help with reducing bloat and also help keep you more regular. Other foods that can reduce bloat include cucumbers, papaya, and ginger. Try to add at least one of these foods to each meal to reduce bloat throughout the day! Even though broccoli is a good source of potassium, you want to limit this one because cruciferous vegetables like broccoli – and cauliflower, kale and Brussels sprouts – can actually make bloating worse; cooking them first can help reduce their bloat-causing potential though!
3. Limit the appetizers. When you go to a party, you’re probably going to be offered the typical cheese and crackers, dips, and fried foods. Think of your meal out just as you would your meal in – if you were home, you probably wouldn’t eat an entrée-sized plate of cheese and crackers before sitting down to your dinner. So when you’re at a party, if you do want a few crackers with mom’s spinach and artichoke dip, pretend that was part of your entrée plate and then adjust accordingly (i.e. skip the potato side you would have had otherwise). Of course- this can be difficult to do 100% of the time, so if you want, I would suggest having one of these weekly parties be a time that you can indulge a bit more than you normally would to help keep yourself from feeling super restricted.
4. Drink, drink, drink… water that is. Our brains can often confuse hunger and thirst, so make sure to rehydrate throughout the day, as this will help keep your energy levels up (so you don’t crave sugary and salty foods), and will help flush your body. If you don’t like water, add lemon/lime/mint to it; you can also try seltzer, or decaffeinated unsweetened tea (or a combo of them both- Sound Sparkling Tea!). For whatever reason, as soon as I add a slice of lemon to my water, I can down it! Avoid diet drinks and other sources of artificial sweeteners like sugar-free gum, as they can also be a culprit for bloat. Skip the alcohol and stick with non-alcoholic beverages as much as possible; when you do have alcohol, limit how many you have and choose low calorie options e.g. vodka/tequila with club and lime or a glass of champagne!