How to Navigate the Holidays on a Diet
How to Navigate the Holidays on a Diet
From Halloween chocolate bars to Christmas puddings, holiday treats are inescapable. So, the question is this: how can you indulge in all of these heavenly foods without also growing the circumference of your waist? The good news for you is that I’ve worked out a few neat ways to do so, and bundled them all up in a nice wrapped early holiday gift for you!
Orange leaves, cozy jumpers, and pumpkin spice - these are the warm and fuzzy signs that the seasons are changing, and with them, Halloween & the Holidays begin to approach.
Problem is, they usually bring along a ton of awesome food, which means it’ll be harder to avoid eating more calories. From late October onwards, literally everything revolves around food.
From Halloween chocolate bars to Yorkshire puddings, it’s inescapable.
You might be a sucker for savoury dinners, or, if you’re like me, you might find it hard to walk away from that coffee cheesecake.
So, the question is this: how can I indulge in all of these heavenly foods without also growing the circumference of my waist?
The good news for you is that I’ve also had to ask myself this, and I’ve managed to work out a few neat ways to enjoy my favourite foods and party traditions (while not busting out my waistline), and bundled them all up in a nice wrapped early holiday gift for you! gi
I’ve found they all work quite well for avoiding a huge 5-10lb permanent weight gain, and if you know anything about me, you’ll know that my family love our huge celebrations - hence the term ‘McKenzie holiday seasons’!
The first 5 tips are mostly for keeping a nice weight maintenance level while still allowing you to have all of the foods you want as normal, but in case you want to take things a step further, I’ve also put together some extra useful food prep and party snacks choices that are a bit healthier overall.
5 Tips for Generally Maintaining Weight & Approaching Parties
1. Start Working on Your Diet Now
Although the typical tradition is to start focusing on your health and weight during late December and early January (3… 2… 1… happy New Years!🎉), you shouldn’t wait until resolution season to start working on your waist.
Start working out and leaning out your diet NOW, because the bonus pounds you manage to shave off now will be useful if you need to make up for any ‘naughtier’ diet choices you might make.
Plus, holidays aside, anything you can do to improve your overall health any time of the year is great for longevity and feeling awesome!
2. Don’t Starve Yourself Before a Party
I’ve made this mistake before, it’s not a wise decision, trust me. The minute you arrive at the party (or your guests arrive) you’ll be famished, and guess what you’ll want to do first?
EAT! Yup, you got it right.
I’m not saying you should go all out beforehand, but if you’re feeling snack-ish, don’t be afraid to help yourself to something light and healthy.
3. Plan Your Food Fun
For November and December holidays, try to plan your everyday diet around the different parties or events you have planned. Practice moderation during parties, avoid seasonal goodies laying around your office or family’s houses.
Workout like usual and eat clean whenever you can to keep your metabolism going and your body conditioned.
Oh, and one more thing: you don’t always need to taste every bit of food you prepare. Seriously. That chuck of cookie dough is still a cookie, and those four bites of gravy still make ¼ cup. Trust your recipe and eat smart, and if push comes to shove, ask a family member to try your dish for you.
4. Eat What You Love
This is super, super, super important, and it’s also another big reason as to why you need to follow your diet as much as possible on those ‘no party’ days.
You don’t want to be the only one in the room not enjoying that thanksgiving dinner that you and your family spent hours working on.
It’s not fun for those around you, and more importantly, it’s not fun for you. Sure, a smaller portion of this or that will never hurt, but go ahead and have a big pile of potatoes, turkey and your gran’s cornbread. A few days won’t ruin months of weight-loss, as long as you’ve been eating healthily and working out the rest of the month. Also, a little bit of alcohol won’t hurt, so go ahead and enjoy some bubbly too.
5. Avoid Punishing Yourself
Don’t force yourself to do 3 hours of intensive cardio the day after thanksgiving. Don’t weigh yourself after a giant holiday meal. Don’t hate and blame yourself after having a cookie on Christmas eve. Don’t stress about a little bit of bloating. Don’t, and I repeat, don’t let yourself give into constant worry about food, or believe that you’ve failed yourself.
The holidays are there so that you can have fun and spend time with your family, and if you fixate on food 24/7, not only will you be ruining that special time, but you will also likely crave the foods you resent more too.
You don’t have to go crazy, and always remember that quality time with those you love is just as rewarding as food.
Now, if you insist on making some slightly more diet friendly alterations to your dinner menu, here are my tops tips for doing so while still preserving flavor.
6 Tips for Healthy Holiday Meal Preparation
1. Change Turkey for Ham
Turkey is lower in calories and fat than most other meats, and it also contain flu-fighting vitamins such as zinc (while also being packed with flavor). Don’t fry your turkey though, as that would be an oil and fat disaster and defeats the point of using turkey in the first place.
If you want to go even further, you could even cut all of the meat out of your holiday menu.
I’m vegetarian, and I’ve always been able to savour delicious holiday flavours using delicious veggies like parsnips and brussel sprouts, and other main dishes like Yorkshire pudding.
2. Don’t Baste in Lard
First of all, avoid buying a self-basting turkeys - the fats they contain are terrible for your waist. Opt to baste with a decent (but not massive) amount of butter or olive oil, basting every 35-45 minutes manually.
3. Skim Gravy Fat
One way to reduce the calories in your meal a bit is to skim the fat in your gravy.
If you’re using meat juices in your gravy, go ahead and place them in the fridge for a few hours before using. That way, you can scrape off the fat that solidifies on the top. You go also go with a vegan/vegetarian gravy instead.
You won’t be missing anything - my mum makes a mushroom and Bisto gravy every year, and even the meat eaters who have tried it prefer it!
4. Skip Turkey Skin
The skin of your turkey is loaded with fat and calories, so you should probably cut it off before eating the rest of the meat, especially if your goal is to avoid empty calories. Sorry to say it, but turkey skin just won’t fill you up as much as the plain meat will.
5. Eat a Smaller Portion (Add Extra Veggies)
Probably the best way to modify your meal to be more ‘diet friendly’ is to simply have a smaller plate.
This way you won’t be missing out on eating your favourite food as normal, and you’ll also still be eating less calories than usual.
You can allow just yourself a smaller serving of carb filled foods like stuffing and bread, and add a larger heap of the delicious roasted veggies to your portion. This way you won’t feel as if you’re eating less.
6. Eat Before You Cook
The reason behind this is a pretty basic one: if you’re hungry while you cook you’re more likely to pick at bits of the food you’re cooking. Play it safe and have something healthy and filling BEFORE you put on your apron.
Bonus: 3 Healthier Party Food Tips
1. Choose Roasted Meats & Veggies
Roasted meats and veggies are great options for keeping you full, and flavor-wise, satisfied.
Just make sure you don’t pick any that are covered in gravy or dressing (to keep the calorie level down).
2. Go for Cheese Instead of Crackers
Cheese is always a wonderful high protein and high flavor pick, and is an easy food to find at most holiday get togethers. Just make sure to avoid crackers, as they can be loaded with carb and sugar.
If you need a little something to go along with your cheese, and a small smear of butter to each slice. This makes an awesome keto-friendly snack.
3. Pick Expensive Booze
Whew. This is the last tip - we’ve nearly made it! Here it is: don’t waste calories on a cheap wine that you’re not even fond of. If you’re going to have a drink, make sure you have something that’s really worth it. Also, make sure to alternate with some tasty sparkling water or seltzer.