The holidays are a time to enjoy family and friends. However, they can also be a time of food stress to those of us who are attempting to maintain a healthy lifestyle. This can be especially true for people who are attempting to overcome type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, lose weight or simply improve their overall health with a natural approach.
Here are some tips to help you maintain your healthy lifestyle and still enjoy the holidays with friends and family:
1. Hydrate first with water– The hypothalamus in the brain which registers hunger also registers thirst. This can often lead us to confuse the two. You may believe that you are hungry but, in fact, are only really thirsty. Before the meal begins when all those holiday cookies and treats are out, make sure you drink a glass or two of pure water to satiate thirst and tame that hunger
registering area of the brain. Chances are water is what you actually desire and need- not solid food.
Temper the water dragon first and you will likely be more able to deal with those goodies more judiciously. Have water or a hot cup of green tea or even black coffee before addressing those tempting but nutritionally dangerous sugar bombs.
2. Don’t go to family events hungry– Make sure you eat a healthy breakfast or lunch. It can be light but should be nutritious and feed your natural health needs. If you fast or go hungry before the gathering, you can be sure that you will eat what is out without discretion. So, in addition to taming the thirst dragon, tame the hunger dragon with some nutritious food as well before the holiday event because your chances of finding natural snacks may be slim.
3. Survey the food landscape first– The temptation is sample a little of everything. However, when you mix too many tastes together you confuse your nutritional regulator, so to speak, and end up feeling eating too much and especially the wrong foods.
Have a look at what is available while hydrating on water or tea before making any choices. This includes the main meal which is often served buffet style. Choose a few of your favorites that are within your limits and focus on them. If you want that holiday cookie or slice of pie have it as a dessert after eating an orderly meal. You will likely eat less of it that way, but still satiate that need to keep up the holiday tradition, so to speak.
4. Make smart choices with the appetizers– Do you really need all that cheese and crackers before dinner? Skip the fried foods and go for the shrimp or chicken appetizers instead. Watch those carb and sugar-based treats, they will only ignite your desire for more sugar-based carbs. Eat carrots, celery or raw veggies, alone or with the healthiest dip in place of the candy or cookies. Are there nuts or seeds around? Use them as a protein source along with the raw veggies and you are having a mini-meal, yet staying within your natural boundaries of eating.
5. Take a walk break after the meal and before dessert is served– This is not only a good time to bond with relatives but is also a good way to digest your meal and help your holiday meal intake normalize. Your appetite sensor, the hypothalamus, senses sugar levels through hormone levels and protein peptides. The walk allows your hypothalamus time to register your blood sugar levels and digest some of your food intake. Going right to dessert does not allow enough time for you to recognize how full you actually may be. That walk break may just be what your natural doctor ordered. It will help you make more regulated choices.
6. Substitute healthfully– Have a simple but healthier dressing on that salad like balsamic vinegar and oil instead of the store-bought varieties. As suggested earlier munch on nuts and veggies not cookies and candy before the meal. You can even bring your own variety of roasted nuts and seeds in a small container. People won’t object and you may even be able to have some intelligent conversations about diet instead of the latest gossip when they ask you about your choice.
7. Don’t skip the vegetables– If dinner is at your house make sure you have a healthy salad with some nutritional goodies like roasted seeds and dark leafy greens with a healthful salad dressing mixed in. Prepare a healthy, natural, even organic vegetable dish or two if you can.
If you are not preparing the dinner, try to select the more nutritional veggie choices that are available. Perhaps you can offer to prepare a dish or two (or snack) yourself to bring to the meal. Prepared with good natural or organic ingredients it will not only offer you an alternative to poor quality dishes but also family and friends who attend. It may also be a conversation starter about your own healthful lifestyle choices and get them started on the path of natural and organic nutrition.
8. Keep your own stock of healthy food up– Make sure you are well stocked on natural and organic food choices in your own home. Maybe even some healthy snack choices or sweeter treats that are healthier than the commercial or sugar laden treats that are ubiquitous during the holidays. This can not only offset the lapses you may encounter in your own choices, but also offer alternatives for family gatherings that you can bring along for others or as alternative choices for yourself.
9. Freeze what you don’t eat– If you are the recipient of cookies, breads and chocolates as holiday gifts, you don’t have to eat them all at once. Use the freezer to store them for later. Better to eat them over the course of months than all at once. If you get a whole pie or cake, divide it into smaller portions before freezing which will make it easier to break out into increments at later dates. Then, you only need to defrost what you want as desired in place of being faced with eating it all at once again.
The holidays can still be a time of joy and sharing without having to sacrifice your health while spending time with friends and family if you prepare a little beforehand or make better choices while at the family gatherings. The real joy is in the companionship not the consumption. Make your holiday a time of stress-free sharing rather than a hard-line discipline or a time to recover from by using these tips and your own good judgement as well. Have a happy and healthy holiday!
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