How’s it coming with the holiday shopping and preparations? Hopefully you are taking time to enjoy this time of year and not getting too bogged down in the busyness of it all.
It can be so difficult during the holiday season to stay on track. We have so many social engagements, holiday parties, different events to go to, and even host some of our own. It is often a time for overindulgence, isn’t it?
Of course, it is always wonderful to have those special treats – you know, the ones we seem to save for the holidays! One of my family’s favorites is the Cranberry Bread I make.
In the past, I would just over-indulge and feel lousy about myself, feeling like I had no self-control – or my stomach would feel so bad from having over-consumed.
Many of us live by that counting calorie guide, and of course, we find ourselves way over the limit at this time of year.
While counting calories can be very helpful to help you stay within a desired calorie range, having a focus on the quality of those calories can make more of difference in helping you reach your goals, or staying on track during this time of year.
Here are some ways to help you out:
Focus on real food as much as possible. By “real food,” I mean unprocessed or minimally processed foods that either came from a plant or animal such as: vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, grains, meat, chicken, eggs and seafood. To simplify, these are foods that can be found in nature.
Yes, calories matter, but even more so, it’s the quality of those calories. We have become so conditioned to counting calories, while most of us have not been taught to also be aware of nutrients. Believe me, I wish I knew this 20 years ago!
Let me give you an example. If you have a choice between 200 calories from a candy bar or 200 calories from a serving of nuts and fruit, the difference in quality is very dramatic. The sugar in the candy bar will spike your insulin levels, putting you on a sugar roller coaster ride that will crash, leaving you hungry again a short time later. (And those of you who have been around me long enough know that an English candy bar to me is pure heaven and years ago, I would have chosen the candy bar any day over the healthy, quality option!)
However, if you were to choose the nuts and fruit option, you would still be getting something sweet from the natural sugars in the fruit and you would benefit from healthy fat, some fiber, protein as well as other nutrients. Plus, this choice would keep you feeling full longer, which would help you avoid feeling the need for more snacks in another hour or so. You will be feeding your body nutrients and the fuel it needs instead of ‘empty’ calories.
Since it’s common for snacking or ‘mindless munching’ to be challenging for many people, let’s start there.
HINT: When choosing a snack, ask yourself, “Is this going to nourish my body and give it what it needs?”
Keeping your body well nourished will help with more than just weight control; it also supports your body with energy, digestion, elimination, immune function and disease prevention. So, instead of focusing just on the number of calories in your food, zero in on the quality as well.
This season, choose more real food (whole food) snacks instead of processed snacks and see what difference you notice. Click on the picture for some healthy snack ideas.
Generally, snacks like meal replacement bars are usually highly processed foods, comprised of a long list of additives. While convenient, they do not fall into the “whole food” category! A couple of exceptions that I recommend are Lara Bars (some have added sugar, some don’t, so be sure to read the labels), and Quest Bars (the ones with only 1 g. of sugar).
A salad with lots of greens, veggies, lean protein and olive oil-based dressing is another example of a healthy snack.
You can keep a small container of almonds and raisins with you for a quick snack.
Dinner left overs can be a great snack as well.
I’ve included a list of 20 Healthy Snack Ideas for you this week, so be sure to take a look at that too. (Click the picture above.)
Tip #1: Plan ahead! Have healthy snacks stocked and ready to go, so that these become the options you and your family reach for most often.
Tip #2: Develop a transition plan! If you or someone in your family loves chips, for example, you can transition away from something like Doritos, Cheetos or other highly processed snacks that also contain MSG, artificial colors and artificial flavors (and a long list of other ingredients that sound like a science experiment) to something like organic tortilla corn chips with salsa. You don’t need to overhaul everything at once.
Not quite sure what’s healthy or not? I know it can be confusing. A helpful app I like to use is called Fooducate. Using the app, you scan the package barcode with your smartphone and it gives the food a grade from A – D based on set criteria and it tells you the reason for the grade. It’s fun to start with the food in your pantry to see what grades they get.
Tracking your food intake isn’t always fun, but it’s a great way to get a snap shot of how many calories you’re consuming. Sometimes, just being more aware of our food choices can help us eat healthier. The number of calories isn’t the most important thing when it comes to healthy eating, but it gives us a place to start.
Allrecipes.com can be helpful to search for recipe ideas. Just type in ‘healthy snacks’ and see what appeals to you.
This week, try adding in more real foods. This will nourish you and give your more sustained energy as well as help control your appetite. Whip up a smoothie each day, and see how you feel.
Make a list of what you plan to add this week so when you go to the grocery store, you’ll be all set.
Remember, when you are at that social event, look around for the quality, healthy options. If you are going somewhere where you can do this, try taking some healthy foods you have prepared yourself so you won’t be as tempted. The other thing you can try is having a small bowl of salad before you go and then you won’t eat as much.