Sunday, November 20, 2011

Staying on track during the holidays


It was pretty warm today - about 70 to be exact. Yet, for some reason, I've been a late-sleeping, blanket hogging, couch potato for the past few days. What gives? I don't know if it's the short, dark days that are stirring my hibernation inclination, but it's getting more difficult to motivate myself into working out and eating healthy...which is awful timing seeing as how this is the season of holiday parties, food feasts and weight gain. The good news, according to researchers, is most people only gain one or two pounds during the holidays – an improvement over the five to ten pound weight gain statistic frequently cited. The bad news, though, is that the extra weight rarely comes off.
But while the stretch between Thanksgiving and New Years is filled with high-fat and calorie laden food and beverages, you don't necessarily have to nix the festivities or push aside that slice of pumpkin pie. Here are a few tips to help stay trim during the hectic holiday months ahead.

Stay active. A lack of exercise is one of the primary causes of weight gain during the holidays. Find time between social gatherings, errands and shopping for physical fitness – even if it just involves taking extra laps around the mall or walking up the stairs at work. A 30-minute workout every day will work wonders when it comes to weight maintenance.
Cook healthy. Make simple healthy recipe substitutions when baking to lower the calories. Choose fruit and veggies instead of high-fat appetizers or desserts and consider foods or beverages sweetened with sugar substitutes - such as sucralose - to enjoy your favorite meals without the additional calories. For example, drinking a diet soda can save 150 calories a day. Over the course of a year, that daily calorie savings could result in a 15-pound weight loss. Choosing sugar-free chocolate will save you 50 calories a day, or five pounds, by year’s end.
Portion control is key. Eat regularly throughout the day but practice moderation. Keep serving sizes on the smaller side and you can enjoy your favorite holiday treats without having to bust out the elastic waistband pants.
Limit the celebration. Eat a few sweet treats when you are at a special event. Try to avoid the cake and cookies, though, when you're hanging out at home. In fact, in the days or hours leading up to a big soiree, consider eating lighter than usual to help compensate for the added calories later.
Don’t show up hungry. Before heading to a party or holiday dinner, take the time to eat a healthy snack. A small salad or cup of soup with help stave off hunger pangs. That way, you’re less likely to chow down later.
Don’t diet during the holidays. Avoid starting a fad diet in an effort to lose ten pounds before that big holiday party. Stay healthy, but don’t be too restrictive. The focus should be on maintenance during the holidays rather than weight loss.
Pre-make healthy meals for those hectic shopping days. Stock up on frozen dinners or make large batches of salads, pasta and other healthy, low-calorie meals so that leftovers can be easily and quickly reheated. This will help prevent any last-minute takeout orders or snacking on fattening foods.
I'll be back later this week with some Thanksgiving-specific, low-cal recipes. But until then, here are  two sucralose-sweetened recipes to get you started. Enjoy!
Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes 
Cranberry-Orange Sauce

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