As the Holiday Season approaches and the cold begins to creep in, the healthful promises of summer can quickly become a distant memory.
It’s natural to crave heavier and warming foods this time of year. Combine letting loose at family gatherings with your body’s inclination towards warming comfort foods and you’ve got yourself a recipe for overeating.
Sound daunting? Don’t worry, I have good news!
You don’t have to rely on will power alone. All you need is a little bit of savvy planning.
These five tips will not only help you prevent overeating during the holidays, but they’ll also make balanced eating feel effortless and satisfying.
Tip #1: Eat a protein snack before the big meal or party.
Have you ever avoided eating for the entire day leading up to a big holiday dinner or party? If your answer is yes, then chances are you were cranky most of the day, ate way too much once you got there, and then felt terrible afterwards.
Hunger and deprivation followed by gorging yourself is extremely taxing on both your digestive and hormonal systems and can lead to exhaustion, moodiness, bloating, headaches, constipation, and weight gain. Not fun. Next time, avoid “saving” yourself and eat some protein before heading to the party. It will give you lasting energy so you’re not starving by the time the food comes and can pace yourself accordingly, stopping when you’re full instead of compensating with overeating.
Protein snack examples: a handful of nuts, pumpkin seeds, nut butter with celery or carrots, a cooked egg, half an avocado with sea salt (ok that’s more like a healthy fat, but it’ll help in the same way and tastes great), hummus, a quick smoothie with peanut butter, coconut oil, and frozen banana, or some grass-fed organic yogurt with homemade granola.
Tip #2: Stick to low-glycemic foods.
When you consume foods that are high in sugars (high glycemic), your body has to produce insulin to balance the levels in the blood and store any excess sugar as fat.
To add insult to injury, after an initial spike in blood sugar, your body will inevitably crash shortly after, leading to cravings (as well as lethargy and irritability) that can cause you to overeat. On the other hand, low glycemic foods will give you lasting, steady energy to help stave off hunger and prevent the yo-yo effect of blood sugar spikes.
Some low glycemic foods include most vegetables, nuts and seeds, nut butters, eggs, organic meats, most berries, full-fat Greek yogurt or kefir, hummus, black bean spread, avocado, quinoa.
High glycemic foods to avoid: most pastas and breads, sweetened cereal, soft drinks, cookies or pastry, too much sweet fruit or dried fruit, packaged granola or basically anything high in sugar.
Check out my 5 best natural sweeteners for those times when you need to add a little sweetness to your food.
Tip #3: Hydrate.
Did you know that thirst can sometimes be disguised as hunger and lead us to continue eating past the point of being full in an effort to satisfy our body’s need for water? Simply staying hydrated can go a long way in preventing overconsumption of food, not to mention generally keeping you energized, clear-headed, and feeling your best.
We tend to drink more water in warmer months to stay cool, but hydration often falls to the wayside in the cooler months since we’re more likely to try to stay warm. That makes focusing on your water intake even more important in the colder months.
Hydration tip 1: Herbal tea counts. Cozy up with a warm cup of mint, ginger, or chamomile tea when you get a sudden snack attack shortly after eating a meal. I’m currently loving the Yogi and Traditional Medicinals brands of tea.
Hydration tip 2: Bring your travel water container wherever you go, and aim to refill it at least 5 times throughout the day. Add natural flavors like lemon or fresh mint to play with the taste.
Hydration tip 3: Drink purified water. Your liver is not only your body’s filtration organ, it’s also your hardest working organ. Help it out and filter your water before it enters your body to lessen the toxin load.
Tip #4: Take your time.
It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to receive the signal from your stomach that you’re full, so you might find yourself much more likely to reach for seconds if you eat too fast. Here are some of my best tips for slowing down:
- Schedule your meal times just like any other meeting to give your self time to slow down your eating process. For example, I block out 12 pm-12:30 pm as lunchtime on my calendar so I don’t have to scarf down my food to make it to my next appointment.
- Be more ceremonious around food by appreciating every ingredient, truly tasting every flavor, admiring the colors and aroma, and generally stretching each meal to take over 20 minutes to consume. Then, if you still feel hungry, see if a glass of water helps reach a level of satisfaction.
- Practice chewing. This one might sound silly, but the reality is that most people don’t chew their food enough to actually digest it well. Chomp-chomp-swallow is a pattern that barely breaks down your food. You don’t need to count your bites to reach any specific number but a good rule of thumb is not to swallow your food until you can no longer discern exactly what you just ate by the texture remaining in your mouth. Not only will this help prevent overeating, but it’s also really good for your digestion so your body wastes less energy breaking down food.
Tip #5: Think French.
Food gives us pleasure and brings us together during the holidays in a truly special way, so enjoy it! There’s no need to deprive yourself.
In the famous book, French Women Don’t Get Fat, the author divulges that it’s common for French women to have one or two bites of dessert instead of an entire piece of cake. This allows you to still enjoy the flavor and texture without over-consuming sugar and empty calories.
It works! Give it a shot and get in the habit of always sharing desserts with the table or only have a bite or two of anything indulgent.
Also, fill up your plate with the healthiest foods first so that your most essential nutritional needs are met and you’re satiated; you’ll be more present to make better choices. Start by loading your plate with salad and cooked vegetables before you reach for the meat and starches. Once you retrain your mind to gravitate towards the more wholesome options, you’ll be pleasantly surprised how satisfying the simplest foods can be.
And finally, if you can, plan to bring a healthy dish to the gathering.
Try this flexible and simple quinoa salad recipe: bring 4 cups of water or veggie stock to a boil, add 2 cups of quinoa and 2 cloves of garlic, reduce to a simmer and cook until all the water has been absorbed. In a large bowl, combine the cooked quinoa with any combination of the following vegetables and herbs: shredded carrots, zucchini, arugula, spinach, cucumber, cilantro, scallions, kale, sprouts, mushrooms, or tomatoes. Mix in some olive oil, fresh lemon, apple cider vinegar, sea salt, and pepper, then top with pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, or cashews. Serves 6-8.