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How to Splurge AND Enjoy the Holiday Season

2008 CHRISTMAS PARTYphoto © 2008 RAFTWET Jewell | more info (via: Wylio)Let’s be realistic here… its the holiday season, you are bombarded with everything from cookies in the break room to your family’s huge holiday meals. For those of us who are working on a healthy lifestyle change, this is like being thrown from a ship in the middle of a monsoon. Let us throw you a life ring so you can confidently navigate the treacherous waters of the holiday season.

1. First off, please remember that you should enjoy your holidays. There IS a reason you are doing all this work and that is to be able to splurge when you want and still return to your healthy routine. Do not put so much stress on yourself that you end up miserable during this time. Be proud of the work you have accomplished and KNOW that you can get right back on track. Live your life and give yourself permission to enjoy some treats with a reminder that you will be right back on track in the morning. And stick to  it!

2.  When it comes to appetizers at parties we all know how dangerous these little bites can be. The best rule of thumb is to look at all the appetizers and really think about their nutritional value. While some may be empty calories, others may be higher in protein or fiber. Pay attention and make solid choices. For example, if you go for two mini spinach quiches, know that those are about 100 calories. Make them last by eating them slowly and savoring the taste.  Making your own appetizer? Bring a veggie and hummus tray. Looking for something more decadent? Look up breaded mushrooms that you can bake instead of fry.

3. Sugar and spice and everything NAUGHTY. Oh yes, the desserts. Hundreds of sweets to challenge even the strongest-willed person. How to handle this? Have some! That’s right. Allow yourself one small dessert per party, or, split a dessert with a friend or loved one. When you split desserts, you automatically slow down your eating and savor the pie while you talk to your friend.  Want your own? Pick something small such as mini cream puffs or a dark chocolate truffle. When the serving size is kept smaller, you won’t be tempted to eat more and you can still satisfy your sweet tooth.  Obsessing over another truffle? Either take one home and freeze it for a snack later in the week or promise yourself you will buy a treat next week.

4. Still can’t shake that sweet tooth? Try hot cocoa made with dark chocolate. At 113 calories hot cocoa made from dark chocolate has some great antioxidant properties. In addition, several brands make sugar free instant cocoa these days. It is a great way to satisfy that sweet tooth without overindulging.

5. What happens when your family just leaves buckets of candies, cookies,  and cakes out all through the holiday season? This is a tough one. Out of sight, out of mind is something we try to follow. See if you can get your mother to put the candies and cookies in tins and in the pantry. If you have children, ask that these desserts be considered treats and only should be brought out at the appropriate time. If you are ignored, see if you can make those changes yourself. Otherwise, you have to be strong. Allow yourself a certain amount of daily treats. Plan for them and when you are going to have them. You will feel more powerful for doing so, yet still be proud of yourself for not mindlessly snacking.

6. Try to get your family focused on healthy family activities.  We recommend continuing, as well as, upping your exercise over the holiday season. When you are staying with family and off of your exercise routine, try to encourage family members to join you for a long walk after dinner or an early morning run. Not only will you get to spend more time with your loved ones, but you can also let them know that studies show that people who walk after an indulgent dinner metabolize their food more quickly and burn significantly more calories than those though who just sit down and relax.

7.  Alcohol. Egg nog, hot cider, irish creme, oh my! Treat heavier, creamier drinks as you would a dessert. You can treat yourself, but keep it in moderation. Want to drink more through the night? Stick to wine. With both white wine and red you can add seltzer to make a spritzer. Not only does this make your drink last longer, but you get fewer calories. Try champagne for another low-cal, yet celebratory, drink!

8. Having a hard time finding anything to eat at those parties? Almost every holiday party has some version of shrimp cocktail. Lucky for you, this is virtually fat-free including the cocktail sauce. Add high protein and iron and you have a satisfying snack. 10 medium shrimp and 1 tbsp of cocktail sauce weighs in at 67 calories!

9. Drink a gallon of water a day. We already recommend this, but make a point to step up water intake over the holiday season. Not only will it flush out your system from any over-indulgences, but it will curb your hunger.  Which in turn makes ignoring the break room of evil and its minefield of cookies that much easier.

10. Eat before parties. Running out the door? It takes under two minutes to drink a protein shake and eat a banana. You can arrive at the party satiated and able to ignore the appetizers being passed. It will also help you fill your stomach so if the first thing you get is a glass of wine… you aren’t drinking on an empty stomach which in turn generally leads to, ahem, a much healthier appetite when food is put in front of you.

11. Arrive late to a party. That’s right! Skip the cocktail/appetizer hour and arrive in time for dinner. Choose your healthier proteins and veggies and enjoy catching up on all the good gossip you missed.

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