Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Healthy Holidays

I must preface the contents of this post by providing important foundational assumptions that are key to understanding how diet works (or does not work). If you don't understand and follow these two guidelines, you will not lose weight and may not feel too good either.
  1. Weight gain or loss is only affected by caloric intake (as well as exercise). The average person is supposed to eat between 1500-2000 calories a day.
  2. Feeling good or bad is affected by the types and balances of foods you eat.
Therefore, you could eat 1500 calories worth of candy bars every day without exercising and you would still maintiain or lose weight (but you probably wouldn't feel very good). On the other hand, you could eat 3000 calories worth of organic and properly balanced fruits, veggies, meats, carbohydrates, etc. and feel great, but you would gain weight because that is more than your body needs (assuming you weren't counteracting the caloric intake with the same amount of exercise.) The only ways to lose weight and feel great is to limit your calories to the appropriate level for your gender, age, and size while "spending" those calories on the perfect balance of healthy foods as portrayed in the food pyramids and by dieticians. Exercise always helps too! Now I continue...

Today, my post inspiration comes from this article I found on Yahoo news written by Joy Bauer (the original article appreared on She discusses ways to avoid holiday weight gain (while still managing to appropriately indulge in the much-needed goodies). Here were some of her suggestions:

  • Buy the bare minimum of candy needed for trick-or-treaters and don't open the bags until October 31st.
  • Give away the left-over candy the day after Halloween. If you desires to keep some, you should portion them out (1 or 2 treats a day) replacing afternoon snacks.
Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's:
  • Don't skip meals - A normal daily routine would consist of breakfast, lunch, and dinner with two 100-150 calorie snacks in between. You don't want to skip any of these because you will get hungry and overeat on unhealthy food.
  • If you know you are going to a party, "bank your calories". This involves choosing breakfast, lunch, and snack foods that are heavy on lean protein (chicken, fish, turkey) and vegetables and light on fat, sugar, and starch. This will fill you with nutrients while eating fewer calories.
  • Drink lots of water. You need to stay hydrated to not only feel better but also fuller.
  • Exercise 30-60 minutes a few days a week. This will add to the calorie control while fighting off stress.
  • Eat plenty of "Unlimited Foods" throughout the day. This one was really what inspired me to write this post. I was amazed to find that there are certain foods that you could eat as much of as you want without even considering calories (and they will fill you so you will eat less bad stuff)! I would definitely take advantage of this fact, since I would personally rather snack and eat food continually than eat only one piece of candy in a given time period. Here is a list of the foods (it is good to keep these around all the time - not just holidays) :
    • Seltzer or Club Soda
    • Coffee (black or with skim, 1%, or soy milk)
    • Artichokes, Asparagus, Beans (green, yellow, Italian, wax), Broccoli, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Jicama, Lettuce and all leafy greens, Mushrooms, Peppers, Radishes, Snow Peas, Squash (yellow, zucchini), Tomatoes, Water chestnuts
    • I would throw in a couple snacks involving raw fruits too (grapes, strawberries, apples, bananas). While these are not necessarily unlimited, they will provide some of the sugar your body needs and give you energy - being a good alternative to candy or most desserts.
  • Have a few of your favorite goodies. You should never deprive yourself of enjoying life to the fullest - especially at Christmas! The key here is portion control. Limiting yourself to a modest amount of only 1 or 2 favorites (such as egg nog, pumpkin pie, deviled eggs, etc.), you will not only enjoy the treats more (the first bite is always the best anyways), but you will feel better afterwards while also avoiding the calorific ramifications.
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Most of these tips are extremely useful at all times during the year. However, we all know that an increased amount of parties offers more opportunities for prolonged temptation. Prepare your mind and your stomach when you know you have those types of events upcoming, and you will have a guiltless blast while leaving the party feeling great and the holidays looking good!