When it comes to social gatherings and family feasts, the opportunities to indulge seem endless. Often, it’s the increased consumption of sugar, alcohol and refined carbohydrates that encourage those excess pounds to stick around. For many of us, it only takes one or two meals to lose complete momentum with our healthy-eating routines. If you know you are one of these people, this article is for you.
Regulating your blood sugar is one of the best ways for you to maintain your health and prevent cravings. This balance enables you to make clear decisions, burn body fat and avoid those low-energy episodes and mood swings. If you are eating out of balance, calorie restriction will never do you any favours. Protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats in the correct balance help to reduce inflammation in the body. If you want to continue feeling comfortable in those pants, consider these seven strategies at your future holiday meals:
DON’T SHOW UP STARVING
Going to a spin class and starving yourself before the “big meal” should not be your strategy. If you are hungry, your blood sugar levels are low and that means you are at risk for some poor food decisions. A small snack with some protein will take the edge off and allow you to think clearer and choose healthier options. It’s never a good idea to show up ravenous to any event, especially when you aren’t sure what’s being served.
CHOOSE YOUR TREAT
Decide before you portion your food what your high carbohydrate or sugar treat will be. The key here is to make your choice—keep in mind you will be plating this LAST. Carbohydrates in the form of sugar, grains and wheat raise your blood sugar levels and promote fat storage. Vegetable-based carbohydrates such as carrots and sweet potatoes offer more nutritional benefits and don’t impact your blood sugar as much as breads or desserts. Whether it’s the famous mashed potatoes, garlic bread or pumpkin cheesecake—choose the one you really want. If you want full portions of all three, maybe you take two single portions home to add into another meal. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing!
PICK YOUR PROTEIN
Turkey, ham, roast beef and chicken are all popular holiday proteins. Protein slows the rise in blood sugar— keeping you balanced and satisfied longer. If someone cooked the turkey into jerky, don’t feel bad about adding some gravy! Although gravy isn’t ideal on a regular basis, when it comes to these feasts it’s not even close to your biggest problem. Make sure your protein covers about 1/4 of your plate.
PILE ON THE VEGGIES
Broccoli, cauliflower, green or yellow beans, spinach, Brussels sprouts, kale, celery, zucchini and cucumber are all examples of excellent non-starchy vegetables to add to your plate. Find these right away and cover half of your plate. That’s right, I said HALF! Just get them on there because these little guys have fibre and nutrients that satisfy your hunger, so you don’t overeat on the treats!
COMPLETE YOUR BALANCED PLATE
Now that you have your protein and vegetables on your plate, you can now add your treat. Your carbohydrate dense choice should not take up more than 1/4 of your plate. If you chose desert as your treat, you can leave this space empty until dessert is served. Depending on your goals, it’s okay to have spoonful or two of something else here in addition to a controlled portion of dessert.
The end result might look something like this: turkey with gravy (1/4), combination of sweet potato and mashed potato (1/4), broccoli and Brussels with butter (1/2).
WATCH THE ALCOHOL
Alcohol raises your blood sugar just like sugar does. If you choose to enjoy a couple cocktails, it may be in your best interest to go lighter on the carbohydrates. Alcohol should never be consumed on an empty stomach—ideally with snacks and meals containing proteins and quality fats.
Hydrate with plenty of plain, clear water during the day. If alcohol is involved, this should increase by one cup for every beverage you consume (see previous article to calculate your daily water requirement). Water helps remove toxins from the body—an absolute necessity during these holiday meals.
This is NOT your last meal! I’ve never heard anyone announce how pleased they are with themselves after overeating. The stuffed, uncomfortable feeling isn’t worth it. Instead of telling yourself how deprived you are, focus on the smiling faces of friends and family—that’s what this time of year is all about.