Can you feel it? The holidays are upon us-and I am not just talking about daylight savings time, the weather getting colder or trees dropping leaves. I am talking about the full-on aggressive attack on your health that occurs during the holiday season as we get caught up in the sugar laden hype of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.
Thanksgiving, as an example, has its roots in harvesting a bounty of real, wholesome foods that sustain families and communities through long, cold winters and an unpredictable New Year. Let your feasts this year reflect that strong foundation. Here are some ways to make this holiday season one your body will thank you for.
When you plan and prep ahead of time, you can more easily stick to whole foods made from scratch without losing your mind in the process. It’s a clever way to trick yourself. Make a menu, delegate, and start working on it over the weekend (or before!) to minimize cutting corners and stress meltdowns.
USE REAL FOOD
With a plan in place, you can make sure only real foods hit your table. Be careful with packaged foods labeled as healthy or natural – they can be deceiving! Instead, make sure ingredients lists include only a few recognizable foods, or better yet, stick with homemade dishes as much as you can!
CUT THE GLUTEN
Even if you aren’t intolerant, gluten is difficult for your body to break down. By using gluten free flours, sprouted or nut flours, you’re taking a load off of your digestive system and giving your whole system one less thing to dedicate energy and resources toward.
BE CARB PICKY
Better yet, just choose carbs carefully to begin with! Baked sweet potatoes and quinoa provide lots of nutrients without spiking insulin. In short, the right kind of carb “sticks to your ribs” without sticking to your gut or thighs. Luckily, sweet potatoes are in season in the fall and an enduring part of the holiday food tradition.
Without the accompanying antioxidants and minerals found in whole sweeteners like honey, molasses, and even stevia, insulin levels and fat storage methods go haywire with processed sugars. Natural sweeteners can create a decadent dessert that your body is prepared to handle. There are plenty of recipes for desserts on this site for you to use these natural sweeteners.
DON’T DRINK YOUR CARBS
If you’re avoiding heavy sugar foods, this probably goes without saying – but I’ll say it anyway: sugary seasonal drinks aren’t doing you any favors. Drinking heavily sugared drinks (i.e., pumpkin spice lattes or hot cocoa with marshmallows) adds calories that you aren’t even aware of, and that’s the least of your concerns. Stick to eating your calories, and when you do need to curl up with a hot drink, make sure you make it yourself with natural ingredients and spices. Also, alcohol is a major health killer. There are many reasons (least of which all the things it gets mixed with) but as far as alcohol itself goes, when your liver is forced to process the substance, all other detoxification needs become secondary and you are much more likely to store fat than process it.
Perfection isn’t the goal, at any holiday gathering. Yet stress is still a problem during the holidays, frequently triggering panic attacks around holidays. Don’t let the day get the best of you! Set your sights on an enjoyable time with family and friends, and let the little mishaps roll off your back.
GET SOME SLEEP
Listen to your body. If you’d like to reduce your holiday stress, you’ve got to prioritize holiday sleep. According to the Journal of Behavioral Medicine, “Findings suggest that inadequate sleep confers vulnerability to poor cognitive, affective, and physiological responses to stress.” Get good sleep and you’ll be able to field burned dishes, family squabbles, and juggled schedules much better.
Moderate exercise keeps your body functioning optimally. It doesn’t have to be much – somewhere between getting up to get a slice of pie and an afternoon shoveling the first blizzard by hand. Enjoy a family walk or bike ride, jog around the block while the turkey roasts, or practice a bit of yoga on Christmas morning to keep your body moving and heart pumping. Or, to really kick things up a notch and get your body in gear, practice high intensity interval training to help your body burn fat better as you enjoy holiday feasts.