10 tips for healthy holiday balance

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This weeks blog post is from our member Stephanie Kay of Kay Nutrition

The holidays are my favourite time of year. They are a time for celebration, tradition and some cheeky indulgence. Life is all about balance, and I certainly don’t expect people to deprive themselves over the holidays, but that doesn't mean you need to go off the rails. Balance is a daily, weekly and monthly measurement, and it is important to keep in mind that there is some balance in balance. For instance, convincing yourself you can splurge for the month of December because you are eating well for the other 11 months of the year is not quite a balanced approach. That being said, there are some simple ways that you can help keep your health and nutrition goals in check while still having a fun. Here are 10 simple tips to help you keep your balance this holiday season.

1. Plan Your Treats Ahead
During the holidays treats are everywhere. I mean, you turn the corner and it's like there is another cookie starring you in the face. This constant prompting can start to wear you down after a while, so here is one simple thing you can ask yourself; "Is this the treat that is worth it?". For example, would you rather the "festive" grocery store donuts that your co-worker brought to office, or your mom's butterscotch tarts on the weekend? Would you rather the dollar store candy cane your kids brought home from school, or the cocktails at the holiday party? There will certainly be treats during the holidays but knowing when they are coming will help you to keep a little control on a daily basis. 

2. It's Ok to Say No!
I actually think the office is one of the biggest danger zones for holiday treats. It's like everyone brings in their Christmas cookies to share with they staff because they are the "best" and "you must try them". News Flash - the  cookies co-worker Sally baked for the office staff probably aren't as great as she told you they were, and Sally will get over it if you say no. Don't let anyone cookie-pressure you. The truth is most people want to say no, too.

3. Bring the Goods
If you are invited to a party, and you're concerned about what you'll eat, the best thing to do is bring something yourself. Bringing a healthy appetizer, side or dessert can help you chill out and ensure you have at least 1 thing you can feel good about eating. In fact, you can take something healthy that you would make every day and make it "festive" by swapping a few ingredients and giving it a fancy name. Add some pistachios and cranberries to your favourite green salad and call it "Santa's Salad", or add some ginger to your morning oatmeal and call it "Gingerbread Oatmeal". I assure you people will eat it up (pun intended). Last holiday, I made simple almond flour cookies, added some dried cherries and called them "Almond Cherry Shortbread" - worked like a charm.

4. Step Away from the Table
I've got to admit, I'm guilty of this one. At any good party, things always seem to turn to the kitchen and people tend to congregate around the food. Standing next to the table loaded up with appetizers, treats and (my favourite) cheese plates, can cause some real havoc on your diet. We've all been there, you're great Aunty Gertrude is chatting your ear off, and although you are trying to pay attention, all you can think about is getting that next piece of mouth-watering brie you can stuff into your face. As a rule, try and stand a good arms length away from the table, so at least you'd have to make a move to get your next treat. Hopefully the distance with slow you from demolishing the cheese platter. A little. 

5. Pick: Salty or Sweet?
There are so many dinners to go to during the holiday; with family, work and friends, our schedules seem to fill right up with evenings over food and drinks. Knowing you are going to be eating out this much my advice would be to decide if you are opting for the salty OR sweet option. A three-course meal with appetizers, your main meal and dessert can be a lot of the ol' waist band, especially if it's happening often. This tip is easy, decide whether you'd prefer the appetizer or the dessert option. You don't need all 3 all of the time, so making this decision can help you dial in the amount of calories you consume at meal time.

6. Implement the One Bite Rule
The one bite rule is exactly as it sounds. Take one bite of the treat you were craving, and see how much you really want it. How many times have you munched a cookie and then thought to yourself "it wasn't event that good"? Taking one bite can help you satisfy the craving without eating the whole thing.

7. Focus on Protein
During the holidays its inevitable that your diet will be filled with carbohydrates and fats from indulging in rich meals and holiday treats. Focusing on protein and ensuring that you are eating a source at every meal and snack will help keep you fuller longer and help to reduce cravings. Since protein is the most satiating nutrient it can help to switch on hunger signals in the brain. Focus on animal proteins, and plant proteins likes beans, lentils, nut and seeds.

8. Never Shop Hungry
Never! Just no. Don't do it. The grocery store is a dangerous place on a good day, but during the holidays it's like it's Willy Wonka on steroids. Cookie displays at the end of every aisle, candy galore and chocolates the size of your head. On top of that, it seems even the most innocent places begin to sell treats and every store has a special holiday treat to give away. For instance, the holiday ginger-candy-cane-caramel-mint-chocolate-mocho-choca-half-sweet-non-fat-no-whip-extra-foam latte from the local coffee shop can do just as much damage, if not more, than box of chocolate.

9. Keep Exercising
It can be challenging to keep your exercise routine during the holidays, but the more you can stay on top of it, the better it will be, and the easier it will be get back into it after the holidays. Plan your workouts ahead, if you are travelling find a local gym or enrol the family in a little outdoor activity. Knowing you are going to workout will also help you to want to make better food choices.

10. Let Go of the Guilt
Like I said at the beginning, the holidays are about tradition, celebration and some cheeky indulgence. So if you have an extra slice of dessert, too much chocolate or a little too much wine, don't feel guilty about it. Embrace it.  Let it go.  And move on. If you have too much fun the night before, wake up make yourself a healthy breakfast and get back on track. Don't let the guilt get the best of you, that's when the chain reaction of treats begin, and that's the one you want to avoid.

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