The average person gains 5-8 pounds every holiday season. Although this may be frightening to read, if we’re honest with ourselves, it’s not that surprising. We’ve all had that second helping of turkey, that third glass of wine, that fifth sugar cookie. It doesn’t take much to gain weight when you go from eating 2,000 calories a day to 3,500!
While it can seem daunting (and not so fun) to eat healthy over the holidays, we spoke with nutritionist and co-host of OWN Network’s Healthy Gourmet Julie Daniluk who shared tips on how we can do both — maintain a healthy diet while also indulging in some of the delicious tastes of the season.
Her main tip — get out of the diet mentality. Healthy eating is too often associated with dieting, and you’re either on the wagon or you’re off it. The problem with this is that as soon as we have just one sugar cookie, we throw in the towel, call it a cheat day, and eat everything. “Let go of the food prison!” Julie says. It’s not about dieting and it’s also not a free for all. It’s about being conscious of what you’re eating.
This is especially important over the holidays as we’re staring down way more refined carbohydrates and sugary drinks and treats than we’re used to. So instead of jumping on that wagon that never really gets you anywhere, set an objective instead to maintain your weight over the season.
1) Take Some Holiday Food-cations
“I have a policy,” Julie says. “On the days I’m not going to a party, I have a mini cleansing day.” This is Julie’s go-to strategy. Give your body a break in between holiday festivities by reigning in on the carbs and choosing vegetables and protein on your free days. This will give your body time to return to its regular caloric balance so instead of gaining weight over the holidays, you can maintain it.
On these days, Julie says to eat a lot of vegetables, recommending 7-10 servings. This will help push out any refined carbohydrates that you ate in the days before. She herself will eat a breakfast of red pepper and guacamole to start the day off right!
2) “How Much” You Eat is Just as Important as “What” You Eat
Are you also guilty of sometimes starving yourself ahead of a party so that you can eat and drink whatever you want when you’re there? This is really hard on your system, Julie says, and ends up doing the exact opposite of what you’re hoping. You may think it will strike a balance, but instead you end up eating even more than you intended because your body is in starvation mode.
It’s important that leading up to a party or a big night, you still eat your balanced meals throughout the day as this will help prevent overeating at night. Julie even recommends that you treat yourself in these meals so that your body (and taste buds) feel cared for and you’ll be less inclined to over-indulge in or binge on sugary treats later on.
For example, Julie says, have a chocolate shake that morning with raw cacao powder. It’s a great source of serotonin, tryptophan, tyrosine and phenylethylamine all of which stimulate feelings of happiness and love, and can tame that sweet tooth of yours.
Don’t get us wrong — you’ll likely still want those sugar cookies at the event, but maybe you won’t feel the urge to binge on them, and that is integral to maintaining your weight.
If you want to take it one step further, look for the veggie trays and the shrimp ring (you know they’re there!). Fill up on those first so that by the time you reach dessert, you may not even want it.
If it’s a sit-down meal, remember your recommended portion sizes. You can even use your hand for guidance — your protein serving should be the size of the palm of your hand, vegetables should be the size of your fist, carbs should be size of your cupped hand, and fat should be no more than your thumb
3) Get Your Party Tricks Ready
We often overeat during the holidays because people like to show they care by shoving delicious food down your throat. If you find it difficult to turn down your friends, family, or co-workers, Julie has three different techniques she uses to protect herself from peer pressure:
- Be honest and turn the conversation to your health. “It’s weird that we allow people to bully us about food,” Julie says. We shouldn’t feel embarrassed or guilty if we don’t want to eat something, so don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. If you are full or want to avoid certain foods, be honest with people.
- Chew gum or pop mints at parties (if you can). Mint clashes with so many flavours you can use it as an excuse, “Oh, I’m so sorry I just popped a mint, and that won’t taste very well right now. I’ll grab one later.” Julie recommends the sugar-free brand Pur.
- Receive the gift and “save it” for later. If you don’t want to draw attention to yourself, just take the food on offer and say that you’re saving it for later. This usually appeases the person and then you have the choice to give it away or dispose of it in some way after they leave.
Alternatively, expose people to your own healthy treats by bringing your own snacks. Healthy food has come a long way, Julie says, it’s not like eating cardboard anymore!
If you have a sweet tooth Julie recommends sugar free chocolate bars from Lily’s Sweets, or SmartSnacks (low sugar gummy bears) available in health food stores and at Bulk Barn. If savoury snacks are more your thing, she recommends pumpkin seeds flavoured with tamari (a gluten-free soya sauce alternative), or a nice bowl of salted macadamia nuts and/or pistachios. While everyone else is eating chocolate filled with refined sugar and oils, you can turn to your own delicious, sugar-free, healthy snacks.
Before the holidays hit, Julie often spends time baking her own delicious, low-carb treats so she is well stocked. One of her go-to recipes is for red velvet cupcakes that uses beet juice instead of red dye. Get the recipe here.
It’s not just food that can tempt us though! Often, alcohol is free flowing at these events as well. Julie says wine spritzers are a great way to cut down your consumption while still enjoying a drink. Or, take a break and grab a glass of cranberry juice in between your drinks to make it look like you still have a full glass of wine.
If you can only remember one thing over the holidays, Julie says, it’s to make it a less “white” Christmas. Avoid white flour and sugar as much as possible. Instead, turn to vegetables and keep hydrated. This will help you on your way to fulfilling your objective of maintaining your weight over the holiday season.
Nutritionist Julie Daniluk has a knack for breaking down complex scientific research into practical, real solutions that everyday people can relate to. The co-host of the Oprah Winfrey Network’s Healthy Gourmet and a regularly featured health expert on CTV’s The Marilyn Denis Show and on CTV News Network, Daniluk is a trusted source for health-related information that can immediately be put to use.
Interested in learning more about Julie and what she can bring to your next event? Email us at [email protected].