Healthy Holiday Season Planning
Even the best laid plans for healthy eating and weight loss seem to get thrown out the window during the holidays. And it not just big family meals, like Thanksgiving; it is the whole season. There seems to be a never ending stream of holidays treats and festivities. If you say “what the heck, it’s the holidays” then you might be in for a big crash from that fun ride come the New Year.
There is a way to survive the holiday season without feeling like you took 10 steps backwards on your health and wellness goals! Below are our 5 top tips for enjoying the holiday season, while also keeping your eye on the end goal.
Nothing will sabotage you faster than not having a plan, especially if you are attending a get together where you are not in control of the menu. If you have the ability to find out what the menu will be in advance, then this can be very helpful. You can assess what you will want to eat, and if needed, you can bring something with you as well. You can even offer to bring a dish or two, if it is a gathering where you can do that.
As far as the big meals, the key is to fill most of your plate with the items that support your health goals. A good example would be turkey/ham, salad, and green veggies. I have even eaten before going to an event, so I am not as hungry. And as I mentioned, you can bring something with you, and trust me, I have shown up to many an event with a stash in my purse. Eating gluten-free (I have been gluten-free for about 15 years) always means thinking ahead, but now that I eat autoimmune protocol paleo, I can almost guarantee that there will be far more food that I cannot eat, versus can eat.
For me, it is just not worth it to go off the deep end, as not only will I feel like crap the next day, but it will also open the door for more choices that do not align with my goals!
Make Smart, Tasty Substitutions
If you are the one hosting the get together and can control the menu – yay! This means you can make a meal that is right up your alley and keeps you on track. But how do you do this at Thanksgiving you might say! I have done it for many years now, and I love seeing how everyone reacts to the meal, as it is delicious AND healthy. The turkey or ham (or other protein) is already the healthy centerpiece of the meal. It is the side dishes that can be a challenge. What are some substitutions you can make?
Mashed cauliflower and parsnips – You might think there is no way anyone would forgo potatoes, but you might be surprised. I had a picky teenage family member tell me they were the best mashed potatoes he had ever had, and I needed to teach his mom how to make them! Imagine his surprise when I told him there were no potatoes in the mash. 😊
Sautéed green beans or brussels sprouts – I like to cook them in cast iron and get a nice char on the veggies, and then sliced almonds in the green beans add a nice touch, or pistachios and green apple in the brussels. Have fun with it!
Roasted carrots – For me, this is in lieu of sweet potato casserole. Yes, sweet potatoes have lots of great micronutrients and resistant starch, which is good for your gut health, but if you are in weight loss mode, they are not ideal. When you roast carrots, they have a sweetness that comes out which can satisfy that sweet potato craving. Add a little fennel root for a twist, and throw in a couple of your favorite herbs. These are usually a crowd pleaser!
Homemade cranberry sauce – Homemade is always better, and the key here is to control the sugar content. I use coconut sugar in mine, but not much, as the tartness of the cranberries needs to shine. I also add fresh-squeezed orange juice, dried cherries, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. I could make this by the gallon and still not have any left – everyone loves it!
Gravy…oh glorious gravy! – Gravy made from all the turkey drippings is amazing, and then I just thicken it with a little tapioca starch, and add more seasoning. Simple and yummy!
Green Salad – A simple salad, instead of another starch or calorie-laden dish, allows you to get more greens and veggies on your plate, and be creative. Personally, I love a good homemade pumpkin vinaigrette over mixed greens with my favorite veggies mixed in. The sky is the limit!
Dessert – Thanksgiving without pie would break my heart, so I make a gluten-free pie crust (AIP-friendly) and make a sweet potato and pumpkin filling with coconut cream. My go to sweetener is coconut sugar or maple sugar, both natural sweeteners and a far better option than processed cane sugar. After having such an amazing meal where I did not veer off my clean eating, I can feel good about having a slice of this tasty pie! Remember, if you are going to have some special treats, just make sure they are made with the best possible ingredients.
Some of these recipes will be featured on my food blog with my twin sister, under the AIP paleo recipes, so keep an eye out here as the recipes start going live over the next 2 weeks, just in time for Thanksgiving:
If you are going to indulge a little, “little” is the focus here. Fill your plate with protein, veggies and salad, and then have small portions of the other dishes. Again, a plan will help keep you from using these gatherings as an excuse to throw your wellness goals out the window.
Cheating small can also mean taking a little of something for yourself (imagine a gift tin full of cookies), and then refer to the next tip below.
Share the Love
Every holiday season, it is inevitable that treats will be coming your way from all directions. Chocolates, cookies, and pastries are just a few of the gifts we see a ton of every year. So I share the love, and give these to my neighbors, friends and family, so that they do not end up in my belly. Just because someone gave you a gift does not mean you have to eat it, but if it stays in the house, you will!
Tell Friends and Family
Letting those around you know that you are working towards a health goal, whether it is losing weight, managing diabetes, keeping your autoimmune symptoms at bay, or any other health goal, is more important than you may think. I truly believe that most people will want to encourage and support you on your journey, but they can’t do that if they don’t know. Also, there is something about verbally putting your goal out in the world that makes you feel more accountable to it. So speak up and loop everyone in: friends, family, co-workers, etc.
So let’s review one more time – have a plan! Look at the season ahead and have a strategy for the gatherings and parties, food you can bring, a menu you can create, who you can give your treats to, what items you really want to enjoy in small portions, and looping in your circle of people.
How would it feel to come into 2021 on track and feeling awesome about how you kicked butt through the holidays and did not lose site of what matters most – your health and wellness! A healthy approach and losing weight is not a sometimes thing, it is a way of life, and it can still be fun and tasty!
You got this! ~ Jeanna