No matter where my patients are from, whether I am coaching them locally in Pittsburgh or on a webcam consultation with someone thousands of miles away, one topic invariably comes up: the holidays.
This time of celebration and family is usually focused on food, and it's typically the kind of food that can make you feel bloated, gain weight and generally make you feel lousy the next day.
So let's reclaim the holidays for your health. Let's use festive meals as good medicine. Let's navigate through times of celebration so that you can feel better because they happened. Let the days of post-holiday regret be a thing of the past.
Every meal is an opportunity to create more health or destroy it. This holiday season and beyond, choose to give yourself and your loved ones the gift of health.
Whether you're going out to a holiday party or having one of your own, here are some of my favorite tips to stay healthy during the holidays:
1. Have a healthy snack before parties.
If you're going to a holiday party where you don't exactly know what the hosts will be serving, have a healthy snack before you go. Taking the edge off hunger will help you to make more rational, healthier choices at the holiday party. Then, if you decide to eat that cookie, you'll choose to do so rationally instead of compulsively, and move on.
2. Avoid the snack dishes.
Bowls of pretzels, peanuts and other snack foods are common at holiday parties. While it may be instinctive for you to grab a handful of these, I would avoid it. These snacks typically contain inflammatory oils, like canola or soybean, and inflammatory grains, like wheat. Inflammation is not festive, believe me.
3. Keep it simple.
There's usually a somewhat healthy option at holiday parties. I find myself standing in front of the vegetable tray, and that's all right! When people see you making healthy choices, they may pick up the broccoli just because you did. Since most holiday gatherings offer vegetables and meats, keeping it simple by filling up on these nutrient-dense and delicious foods is a great idea.
4. Share a healthy treat you enjoy.
What better way to share this holiday season than by showing your friends that eating healthy can be delicious. Sharing a healthy treat that you love is a great idea for a holiday party. Making a yummy recipe you found online and bringing it to the party will also give you at least one thing you can have!
5. Opt for grain-free alcohol.
I'm not insinuating that drinking alcohol is the healthiest option, but I want you to have better alternatives so that you can go through the holidays with more ease. Avoiding grain alcohols, specifically ones made from gluten-containing grains, is a good goal. Instead of beer, opt for hard ciders. Wine, tequila, brandy, cognac and rum are also all grain-free alcohol options. There are even spirits made exclusively from grapes or potatoes!
In moderation, these are the smarter choices for you. See, you didn't know you could have this much fun when talking about health, now did you?
6. Avoid sugary holiday drinks.
Going for sugary holiday lattes that are sold at large chains are absolutely loaded with sugar. Opt for making your own holiday lattes at home.
7. Avoid sauces.
When you're out at a holiday party and don't know what ingredients were used in sauces, try and avoid them when you can. Wheat flour is commonly used in gravy recipes, and sauces typically have refined sugars.
8. Take natural medicines beforehand.
If you know you may end up eating something that doesn't agree with you, try taking digestive enzymes, probiotics and anti-inflammatory nutrients like turmeric before the party. While these are not a license to eat everything in sight, they may help soften the blow if you have a run-in with a sugar or gluten bomb.
9. Don't be afraid to say, "No thank you."
If you're at a holiday party and are offered something you know isn't a good option for you, it's OK to say no politely. Sometimes we're afraid we may offend, but in reality, has anyone's day been ruined because someone turned down a cookie or a drink?
10. At your own party, go organic.
When you're having a holiday party of your own, you obviously have better control over the quality of the food. Instead of conventional factory-farmed meat, opt for going local and organic. Beef should be grass-fed, chicken, turkey and ham should be pasture raised.
11. Try making grain-free desserts.
Again, when you are throwing your holiday party make desserts using gluten-free and grain-free flours like coconut, almond, hazelnut and tapioca. Grains just aren't always the best option when it comes to healthy eating.
12. Relax and enjoy good times.
Stress isn't good for your health either. Don't make healthy food a source of anxiety. Make a conscious effort, logical choices, then relax and enjoy your time with family and friends. Being a nervous health zealot is not necessary to make healthy decisions in a sustainable and realistic way.
To receive a free download of The Holiday Guide, with my favorite recipes and treat ideas for the season, subscribe to my newsletter. Happy holidays!