Holidays Here We Come
With December just around the corner, it's time to think about the holiday season. It's a subject that fills most of us with a mixture of anticipation and dread. A time to reconnect with family members: some whom we cherish and others we're happy to see only once a year. A time to give and receive gifts: the look of joy on a child's face when you get it right, the feeling of guilt when taking back the unbelievable sweater your mother thought you'd love. And of course, then there's the full spectrum of holiday food sensations: "Mmm, delicious!", "Yes, a bit more thanks", "No I've had enough", "Uh-oh, I think I'm going to explode".
How do we balance all that food? Some of the treats on offer are rarely seen the rest of the year. And it's a time of year for indulgence, isn't it?
My own challenge is to eat a modest amount of my favourite holiday baked goodies. Everywhere I go, somebody offers their holiday baking, handmade with love. My conscience advises me to eat what's offered me; it's the polite thing to do. My taste buds squeal "actually we've never tried that type of shortbread before!" Even my rational mind thoughtfully points out "well, how often do we eat gingerbread, anyway?"
I've devised a method of eating for this time of year that specifically includes a certain amount of sugary treats. Tongue-in-cheek? Well, let's just say I won't be handing this meal plan to my clients. But I have used it myself to get through the holiday season and it does moderate my hedonistic tendencies.
Holiday Meal Planning
Eat a medium-sized portion of something hearty. It's cold out, and you don't want to be hungry in an hour and have to reach for any random sugar cookie lying around at the office.
Start off with a piece of fruit: mandarin orange, or half a grapefruit
30 minutes later, follow with oatmeal with pecans, flax oil, coconut, raisins and nutmeg. Add milk or soy milk.
Or an omelette or tofu scramble. Try curried tofu scram with diced peppers and onions.
**Take your multivitamin**
Veggies and dip. Or apple with cheese.
'Tis the season to eat lots of vegetables if you want to boost your immune system to keep colds and flu at bay.
Lunch: Protein + vegetable meal. Save room for calorie-laden desserts!
Try a turkey black bean soup with side salad
Or, chicken quesadillas
Or, small bowl of chili or stew with kale or other leafy green vegetable on the side
Now you can choose your favourite holiday treat for dessert: about three small-sized cookies/bars is appropriate. Eat slowly and savour. Do NOT feel guilty. Feel happy and filled with holiday cheer. This is one of the requirements for the holidays and you are simply following tradition.
You could have one of your coworkers proffered delights if you like, but make sure you stick to your plan of going to the gym or for a run before dinner. Now is not the time to let your exercise regime slip up! Forgoing exercise will make you feel guilty and will deny you a much-needed stress reliever.
Dinner: Meat and veggies. No bread, rice or potatoes. You're having dessert, remember?
Try roast chicken with broccoli and cauliflower on the side with olive oil dressing
Or, fish with a tomato, cucumber and green onion salad.
Or, tofu stirfry, but watch for sugar content in any of your sauces
Choose after-dinner desserts that contain cinnamon which is said to help balance blood sugar levels. Take small bites and enjoy your dessert. Praise highly the person who made it. Be thankful for your health and your well-functioning taste buds.
If you need another holiday snack before bedtime, make sure it's a small one and balance the blood sugar rush with some protein such as a cup of warm milk.
Repeat ad nauseum. Because eventually, you will get sick of all these rich desserts and you will come back to a healthier diet. But it's much better psychologically to enjoy a reasonable amount of desserts, than to mightily crave them. That can lead to deprivation or binge eating. So, dive into Aunt Margie's pumpkin pie, nibble appreciatively at your colleague's gingersnaps and take two of your neighbour's truffles. It's good for your relationships, and for your soul. Look forward to January, the stoic month, when you can resolve to reset your diet: from pies to piety.