The “eating season” is upon us once again! It begins with the sugar binge of Halloween, and continues right on through alcohol-rich New Year’s Eve. Throughout the season, we are subjected to an abundance of cookies at work, holiday parties with tables laden with processed and caloric foods, too much alcohol, not enough sleep, and a hefty dose of family issues to round out the menu. What’s a sane and diet-conscious person to do?
Here are a few tips and tricks to make it through the holidays with both waistline and dignity intact!
- Have a plan. If you are watching your calories and KNOW you have a food-intensive party in your immediate future, plan ahead. Make sure that your calorie intake is a little less than usual for a day or two before the event, and that what you do eat includes high-quality protein. Be sure to limit yourself to a single trip to the buffet table, and take small portions of everything you want to sample.
- If you have known food sensitivities, make sure you can avoid the foods that make you sick. If you have any doubt about whether that crème brulee was made with flour or corn starch, ask the host! If you are attending a pot-luck, make sure whatever you bring meets your dietary needs so there is something on the table you are able to eat. Eat something before you go, so you aren’t starving and tempted to fill yourself with foods you should be avoiding.
- Avoid eating sugary snacks without first having some protein. If you are going to succumb to the beautiful hand-made caramels your friend bought you for Christmas, make sure you’ve had your chicken first! Eating sugary snacks causes a rapid rise in your insulin level, which then leads to a crash a few hours later. Having protein and/or fiber along with the sugar slows the rate of glucose absorption so the insulin is released more gradually. Your adrenals and pancreas will thank you if you don’t over load on sugar alone.
- Host the party yourself. When you go to other people’s homes, you are at the mercy of what they serve. You can eat your own food before, and plan on minimal nibbling while there, or you can take the bull by the horns and provide a table filled with the wholesome, healthy, low-sugar, unprocessed foods YOU want to eat! Try appetizers such as dates stuffed with goat cheese and sprinkled with grated lemon rind, fig tapenade on roasted potato slices, or roasted slices of winter squash drizzled with maple syrup and toasted pine nuts for example.
- Watch your alcohol intake. A drink or two is fine for most people without compromised livers, but it is easy to overdo it during the holidays. Make sure someone is a designated driver, and limit yourself to two alcoholic drinks per party. Alternatives to wine/beer/cocktails can include sparkling water with a twist of lemon or lime, or iced tea. Be careful of fruit juices and soda – they are very high in sugar, and many contain large quantities of high fructose corn syrup. Try adding sparkling water to a ½ cup of fruit juice for a compromise which has less sugar.
- Avoid the temptation of cookies, cakes, and other sweets at work. If it isn’t home made, it probably contains tons of processed flour, high fructose corn syrup, and other artificial ingredients. If it is made from a commercially produced mix, the same thing applies. Limit yourself to the items which are truly home made from scratch, and then only if it fits with the rest of your food plan. Feel free to blame your restraint on me. “My acupuncturist told me too many sweets are bad for my qi!” is a valid reason for not indulging.
- Have fun! If you let yourself stress out about your food plan, you’ll stress your adrenals as much as if you had eaten the food you’re feeling guilty about. If you fall off the wagon, pick yourself up, dust off your ego, and start again in the morning. You have a lifetime for good eating habits, and for most of us a slip now and then won’t kill us.