By: Diana Bello Aristizábal
DORAL, FL – The holidays are here once again. During this time of the year, many people take a break from their healthy eating style, stop exercising, and overeat to spend a time of unlimited fun without restrictions alongside family and friends.
What many people don’t know is that enjoying this time of the year with responsibility and, at the same time, staying healthy and without gaining weight, it’s completely possible.
Finding a balance and making some adjustments in the routines and life habits throughout December will help you stay healthy and prevent you from starting a strict diet in January.
Here are some nutritionist tips to help you spend these holidays guilt-free.
Say No to express diets, and Yes to balanced eating and good habits
The first thing we must know is that the eating style that we usually have for the most part of the year should not be seen as something temporary that allows us to reach a goal (usually lose weight), to later abandon it after reaching our goal. In fact, those who see food through this perspective not only regain the weight lost quickly but also put their health at risk.
The recommendation is to opt for a balanced and sustainable eating style, understanding that the function of food is to nourish the body and provide well-being and not only help us have the body image we want.
December should be seen as just another month in which the same eating habits of the rest of the year are maintained, although the vast majority of people take a break from their healthy lifestyle this month and surrender to excesses with the promise that in January they will begin a strict diet and exercise routine.
On the other hand, some people deprive themselves of enjoying the food offered at meetings and parties for not gaining weight, which only brings anxiety, sadness and raises the possibility of overeating later.
How not to fall into any of those corners? To begin, take the word ‘diet’ out of your vocabulary and think of a ‘balanced eating style’ instead that should be sufficient in quantity and quality.
We have a balanced eating style when the food we put in our mouths daily gives us all the nutrients we need to stay healthy. Those are found in the different food groups available (proteins, vegetables, fruits, grains, fats, dairy, etc.) Of course, if you have food allergies or a disease, you should make the appropriate adjustments with your doctor.
As for the quantity, your plate ideally should have more fruits and vegetables and less carbohydrates (without taking them out completely). Animal-type proteins should be the size of your clenched fist, and red meat should be replaced sometimes with fish or chicken.
Now you may wonder, how do alcohol, sweets, and refined carbohydrates that we like so much in December fit in this equation? The answer is not to take them off the plate. Once again, the secret lies in moderation, because there are no good or bad foods, just inadequate portions.
This means that if you go to a gathering where they offer, for example, Tequeños, instead of eating five portions, put two on your plate. To clarify, there is not an ideal amount for everyone, as each person has a different size, weight, lifestyle, and medical history. Use your common sense and listen to your body.
One way to avoid gaining weight is to help yourself with exercise, which should be practiced at least three times a week in sessions of 45 minutes to 1 hour or 30 minutes daily. You don’t need to adopt a too structured routine, just walk every day or play with your children. Be creative!
Physical activity should be part of your weekly routine at all times of the year, as this not only helps maintain weight but improves physical resistance, regulates blood pressure, provides well-being and protects you from diseases.
Another tip is to make the grocery list according to a preset menu. Prepare in advance all the meals in which you will not be at a celebration or a family gathering. If you eat well in your daily routine, it will not be so problematic that you indulge yourself in unhealthy food at Christmas celebrations.
With regard to sleep, it is proven that poor sleep increases the chances of gaining weight, due to the fact that a tired brain usually has cravings for foods high in sugar and carbohydrates.
On the other hand, be careful with alcohol. If you go to a family gathering where, in addition to desserts and ‘pastelitos’, alcoholic beverages are served, remember that everything adds up.
On average, a serving of alcohol contains between 100 and 150 calories, which does not include the calories of high-sugar ingredients such as those found in end-of-the-year drinks such as sangria, coquito, or eggnog.
If you are going to drink, take plenty of water between each glass, use low-calorie mixtures such as tonic water or lemon, and limit your consumption to no more than two glasses.
As for sweets, replace them with healthier options. For example, if you have a party at home, offer a dessert sweetened with stevia, honey, or ‘panela’ instead of refined sugar. Another alternative is to opt for low-carb desserts, such as those made with almond flour.
You can also prepare healthier versions of typical dishes such as ‘tamales’, lasagna, roast beef, or Christmas cake. If you know you are going to eat a hypercaloric dish, limit your portions, include vegetables, and eat little at the other meals of the day.
Yes, it is possible to include “December food” into a healthy and balanced lifestyle without quitting traditions or being a party-pooper. You only need to create a daily routine strategically and feed yourself consciously.