Oh boy- the Halloween candy and Thanksgiving bird are barely even gone and we’ve got Christmas in 2 weeks. And despite what most people think, average holiday weight gain is about one pound per year. Unfortunately, most people never lose that ONE pound, so after 10 years, you’ve gained 10 lbs!
To avoid holiday weight gain, you may just need to change your mindset. Recent research suggests that individuals that believe that diet is more important than exercise (when it comes to weight loss) have lower BMIs than those that believe exercise is more important. And let’s face it- it’s probably easier to just not eat that second helping of stuffing than try to find the time and energy to burn off the extra 250 calories you’ve indulged in.
Below are a few tips to keep you on track this holiday season:
1. Don’t skip meals. While it’s tempting to skip breakfast or lunch to pig out later, your metabolism will slow down and you’ll overeat at your next meal.
2. Drink 2 cups of water before meals. Studies show that subjects who drank more water while dieting lost more weight than those that didn’t.
3. Substitute Greek yogurt for sour cream in your favorite appetizer. You’ll get a hearty dose of calcium, protein and B vitamins.
4. Munch on fresh veggies or an apple before your next party to stave off hunger before you hit the buffet table.
5. Stop before you’re full. The party food will be plentiful. There’s no need to try every dish that’s brought in, and especially the ones you’ve had a millions times before.
6. Move a little more this holiday season. A brisk 15 minute walk after meals improves blood sugar and aids in digestion.
7. Don’t talk with your mouth full! Spend more time visiting friends and family than hanging out at the dessert table.
8. Bring a healthy dish to share. A fruit plate with savory cheese is just as welcome as a plate of brownies.
9. Go easy on booze this season. Spare the calories and the hangover the next day. Limiting alcohol also reduces cancer risk.
10. Eat slowly. Savor your food instead of rushing through it. You’ll enjoy it more and likely eat less.
If you think it’s “OK” to grab burgers, tacos or pizza for dinner now and then, think again. Studies show that people that eat out 3 or more times per week eat more fat, sodium and calories than those that avoid fast food and less vitamins, minerals and fiber. And that giant diet soda isn’t doing you any favors either. Research indicates even two 12 oz diet sodas per day may lead to weigh gain around the abdomen. Is that dollar menu really worth your health?
Instead of eating out, stock your pantry with the healthy foods below and eat in. You’ll save your waistline and your wallet in the long run. Below are my top 10 healthy eats on the cheap:
1. Black beans and brown rice. Black, red, kidney or other beans are loaded with fiber- especially the soluble type that lowers cholesterol and helps control blood sugar. Brown rice can be made in large batches and frozen to be used for multiple dishes later.
2. Jarred salsa. Don’t think of it as just a condiment for your chip. Salsa can be tossed in simple recipes (like the beans and rice above), used over eggs or in salad in place of dressing. Most add only 10 calories per 2 Tbsp. but are a decent source of potassium, vitamin C and lycopene (an antioxidant that helps reduce the risk for prostate cancer). Read the label for sodium content and look for those with 150 mg or less.
3. Eggs. They don’t call ‘em the “incredible, edible egg” for nothin’. Eggs are cheaper by the dozen and provide a perfect, complete protein in just 75 calories. Studies show that dieters that eat eggs for breakfast eat about 300 calories less over 36 hours than those that don’t. And don’t toss the yolk! It’s a good source of iron, vitamin A and protein. Just skip the bacon and sausage that normally goes with it. Neither is a good protein source- just fat, salt, nitrates and calories.
4. Bagged spinach. Baby spinach tends to keep longer than other bagged salad and is a better source of potassium and beta carotene than heart of Romaine or iceberg. Try a spinach salad with strawberries or sliced apples to boost the nutritional content even more.
5. Whole wheat tortillas. Whole wheat tortillas are not only great for tacos, but can be used for breakfast burritos wrap sandwiches or flat bread pizza. Look for those containing 100% whole wheat flour and at least 2-3 grams of fiber per wrap.
6. Light string cheese. People shun cheese because of the fat content, but light cheese made with skim or 1% milk boasts 20% of the daily value for calcium in a mere 60 calories. Look for generic versions that taste exactly the same as the big name competitors. Great for a snack or quick breakfast with whole grain crackers and fruit.
7. Oatmeal. That giant cylinder of plain oats is one of the simplest, most nutritious foods on the planet. It’s a great source of complex carbohydrate and soluble fiber and can be doctored up with cinnamon, vanilla or dried fruit.
8. Clementines. I can typically find a great bag of cuties for cheap at Aldi or other big chain store. The beauty of these is they’re simple to peel and eat if you’re in a hurry.
9. Frozen vegetables. For about $1.29 per bag, you get at least 8 servings of low calorie, nutrient dense vittles. And don’t be fooled that fresh is better. Frozen is picked at the peak of ripeness and flash frozen.
10. Peanut butter. While calorie dense, a little dab will do you. Peanut butter boasts loads of mono-unsaturated fat and a decent dose of protein. Smear some over whole wheat toast for breakfast or on your banana or apple for a filling snack. Keep in mind that “natural” peanut butters may contain palm oil, which is saturated fat. It may be worth spending a bit more on the type where oil rises to the top and the only ingredients are nuts and salt. Store it upside down to make mixing easier.
With school starting up soon, many of us are pressed for time (and ideas) of what to pack for lunch. A little advanced planning can help. Here are a few items to stock, store and stash to start the school year off right.
1. String cheese. The beauty of string cheese is it’s portable and highly nutritious. One serving provides 7 grams of protein and 20% of the daily value for calcium. Light varieties are lower in saturated fat and add only 60 calories to your childs’ daily total.
2. Veggie bags. Most kids are shy on veggie servings. Spending one hour, one day out of your week to cut and bag vegetables won’t kill you! Slice up pepper strips, cucumbers, celery and carrots and toss in multiple bags or clear plastic containers. Grape tomatoes or sugar snap peas are another good option.
3. Hard-cooked eggs. Another quick item to pack in your kids’ lunch. Boil up a 1/2 dozen and add some whole grain crackers and fresh fruit to the bag. Don’t forget a cooly pack to keep the eggs cold and fresh.
4. Water bottle. Kick the (juice) box habit and pack a BPA-free water bottle in your child’s lunch. They can fill it up as needed and stay hydrated after gym or sports practice. Be sure to clean it daily!
5. Nuts. As long as your child is not in a room with children with allergies, buy multiple small containers and pack almonds, mixed nuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds in place of sugary treats. The protein and healthy fat will keep them feeling fuller, longer- which may keep them more focused during the day.
You’re invited to another grill out? What a surprise! Well- actually, it may be a surprise given the lousy weather we have had this summer! So, let’s just say the party is inside. You know there will be lots of savory treats to enjoy- maybe too many. How will you control your urge to eat everything?
Below are some tips to keep you from blowing your dietary budget this BBQ season.
1. Bring a healthy dish. Healthy need no be boring. Try a veggie plate with raw asparagus, jicama or snap peas in place of the usual baby carrots and celery. Substitute Greek yogurt for sour cream in the spinach dip you normally bring.
2. Skip the chips, cheese and nuts. You already know what these taste like, so why fill up on them when there may be so many more interesting dishes to experience. You can have cheddar cheese cubes or peanuts any time.
3. Drink more water. In a review of studies on water intake and weight loss, female water drinkers who drank 2 cups before meals lost about 4 pounds more than non-water drinkers. Water consumption is also linked with reduced risk for kidney stones and possibly diabetes.
4. Don’t talk with your mouth full. Find a friend you haven’t seen in a while and move away from the party table. It’s rude to talk with food in your mouth, so keep it empty for a while and enjoy catching up.
5. Substitute, don’t sacrifice. Many favorite dishes can be altered to be lower in calories and fat, but still delicious. Use light mayonnaise in your potato salad and light shredded cheese on your taco dip. Try olive oil on your corn on the cob in place of butter. Why not?
6. Turn up the tunes and dance. Dancing is a fun way to shed a few extra calories at your next event. You’ll be the life of the party!
7. Limit liquor. OK- so maybe you need a few cocktails to get you dancing. Allow yourself a glass or two of wine, then switch to water after. Who likes a hangover?
8. Share a dessert with friends. If you absolutely cannot resist that cheesecake, split a slice among 3 or 4 friends. Chances are, they didn’t want the whole piece either.
9. Fill up on veggies. Eating vegetables helps curb your appetite because of their high fiber and water content. Make half your plate veggies and eat them first. Try grilled vegetables for something different.
10. Leave the leftovers. It’s tempting to take a slice of pie or container of pasta salad home after the party. Let the host deal with the leftovers (and extra calories).