The holiday season is here. This means that many of us will be with families and eating homemade pies and cakes. At work, there will be streams of goodies and sweets seemingly surrounding us. Planning for and attending various holiday functions, we will unconsciously nosh, nibble and imbibe to our hearts content. All of this means that we will be making those New Year’s Resolutions at the beginning of the New Year. Typically, weight loss is at the top of the list.
However, we need not wait until the results of our holiday activities shock us into more healthy habits. In fact, there are things that we can begin to do right now that will minimize the amount of (unwanted) weight that we accumulate due to the holiday season excess. Specifically, by drinking more water, sleeping more, being more active, eating more fiber and monitoring portion size, we can keep weight gain to a minimum.
When looking to minimize weight gain during the holiday season, one need look no further than though the bottom of their glass; that is to say, drink more water. Water is the liquid that sustains all life on earth. Water also has ‘0’ calories. But more than that, one can actually burn calories due to water consumption. Specifically, men burn more fat while women break down more carbohydrates due to water consumption. So, to hedge your bets against that holiday weight gain, drink more water.
Recommendation: Ideally, 1.5 liters of water per day or 2 (8 Ounce) cups of water before each meal.
According to researchers, adequate sleep can be instrumental to obtaining positive results from dieting and exercising endeavors. Adequate sleep allows for the activation of Human Growth Hormone: this hormone is responsible for “functions in the body such as vitality, energy and weight maintenance“. In addition, adequate sleep brings about a near 50%:50% muscle mass loss to body fat loss. Inadequate sleep can cause five times more muscle mass loss than body fat loss (5:1 ratio). Minimal sleep can stimulate higher levels of consumption because hormone levels, that stimulate hunger, food intake and retention of body fat, increase. One cannot sleep themselves thin but one can insure that caloric accumulation is kept to a minimum with adequate sleep.
Recommendation: Get more than 6.5 – 7.0 hours of sleep.
Walk More/Be Active
To maintain (current) weight and avoid the effects of holiday binging, the importance of physical activity cannot be overlooked. The amount of physical activity can positively affect the efforts to maintain weight. Balancing Calories In vs. Calories Out will yield Weight Control/Weight Maintenance. 60 to 90 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity is recommended to maintain weight. If this proves difficult, however, there are options such as parking farther away from the entryway door and walking, taking the stairs, doing little chores around the home and the like. Every little bit helps. Increased physical activity will also help people to improve conditions of:
Heart disease and stroke
High blood pressure
Depression and anxiety
Recommendation: Try to accumulate 30 minutes of mild to moderate activity per day or try to stand up and stretch a couple of times every hour.
Generally, studies indicate that increased fiber intake correlates to better weight control. Fiber is an important constituent of food that assist with the passage of food through the colon. Fiber supplementation, along with adequate water consumption, can be part of a balanced diet. However, if a person needs to see and consume an amount of food that makes them feel full, then eating fiber dense foods will be instrumental in their consuming less. Fiber may not help with calories that are consumed from high-caloric beverages: consider that the average American’s recent, increased calorie consumption has come from increased consumption of high-calorie drinks.
Recommendation: Accumulate more fiber from food sources; drink more water.
One of the best ways to minimize weight gain is through portion control. Many people often eat what is in front of them and most underestimate the amount (of calories) that they consume on a day to day basis by as much as 25%. In order to affect portion control, one must direct their efforts toward assessing, monitoring and regulating the portion sizes of foods that they consume. If you are at a restaurant, eat half of your order and take the remainder home, if possible. If you are at home, eat a smaller than normal portion and wait a bit before going for seconds. If the feeling a fullness is there, you just may not want to go for seconds.
Recommendation: Make a strong effort and adhere to consuming smaller portions and waiting to see if satiety sets in or eat smaller portions throughout the day.
These steps are presented as a way to help in minimizing the weight gain that typically occurs during the holiday season. By adding these steps to your daily routine throughout the holiday season, you can be in control of what transpires with your weight. Of course, if you are exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet, then these steps will easily help you in maintaining your weight.
Drinking water will assist in caloric expenditure. Sleeping more will help the body to burn more fat. Being more active will help to burn the calories that you consume. Consuming more fiber will keep the colon clear. Portion control will allow you to regulate how much you are actually consuming.
I have assembled a Percentage (%) of Effort Chart below to give you an idea of how these activities will contribute to your minimizing that dreaded holiday weight gain. The items are the five points outlined in this blog: i.e. water, sleep, activity, fiber and portions. The more days that you do these things, the better your results will be. 100% of effort will yield better results than 20% of effort.
Fresh fruit smoothies are an easy way to consume several servings of fruit at one time. I prefer to make my smoothies at home so I know exactly what’s in it. I purchase fresh berries, freeze them and use them throughout the week. This smoothie is high in folate, potassium, manganese, magnesium, vitamins C and K, antioxidants and flavonoids. Fresh fruit smoothies are also a great source of fiber. The berries are my smoothie staples, but I will vary the other ingredients. Sometimes I add a fresh banana, pineapple, oranges, grapes, cherries, peaches, etc. Be creative.
½ cup Blackberries
½ cup Blueberries
2-3 tablespoons yogurt (optional)
½ cup 100% juice
Combine in the blender until all ingredients have liquefied.
When it is time to eat, many of us want it quickly. It does not seem to matter that quickly comes at a cost. Fast food restaurants rob us of money, energy, vital nutrients, and fiber. Prepackaged, precooked, and processed foods are another culprit. These “foods” are loaded with salt and preservatives. Sure, they may be quick, but they are dangerous if you eat them regularly. Don’t get me wrong, I occasionally consume packaged foods and I enjoy eating out but the majority of the food I eat I prepare myself.
Cooking at home using fresh ingredients is an excellent way to get more nutrients. When dining out, we tend to gravitate toward all the wrong things. I don’t know anyone who goes to a restaurant and orders the steamed or raw vegetable platter. Experts believe up to one-third of cancers are related to diet.
Doing a little prep work ahead of time makes home cooking a lot easier. You can prepare your weekly meals over the weekend and freeze the meals until you are ready to eat them. Crock-pots also save plenty of time. You can prepare the meal in the morning and it will be ready by the time you get home, add a fresh salad and voila!
Home cooking does not mean that you are tied to the kitchen every night; it means you care enough about your health and the health of your family to put in a little effort.
If you are short on time and need something quick to eat, reach for one of these healthy alternatives.
1. High fiber, low sugar granola bar
2. Raw fruits and vegetables
3. Serving of raw nuts
4. 6 whole grain crackers
5. An ounce of cheese
*See Healthy Food blog for the “Healthy Fast Food” recipe.
Rinse the quinoa under cold water for 1-2 minutes. Bring 2 cups of broth or water to boil. Add quinoa, stir, cover and simmer on low heat for 20 minutes. Check the quinoa after 10 minutes, you may need to add a little more liquid. Cook until it is tender.
In the meantime mince, mash or crush the garlic. Place in a bowl and stir in the lemon juice, black pepper and salt; whisk in the oil.
Add the cooked quinoa and the chickpeas, almonds, and bell pepper to the bowl and mix. Serve over the spinach or arugula leaves and drizzle with the dressing. Salad can be served warm or cold.
2 large heads of cauliflower, stems lightly trimmed
2 ears of corn, shucked
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 fresh red chile minced or red chili flakes
4 scallions, chopped
2 teaspoons drained capers
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 375. Cut three 3/4-inch-thick center slices from each head of cauliflower to form “steaks.” Reserve the remaining cauliflower for another use.
In a saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the corn until tender, about 3 minutes. Drain and cool, then cut the kernels from the cobs.
In a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the chile and cook over moderately high heat for 30 seconds. Add the scallions and cook until softened, about 1 minute. Stir in the corn and capers and season with salt and black pepper.
In a large, nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil until shimmering. Add 3 cauliflower steaks and season with salt. Cook over moderate heat until lightly browned, about 3 minutes per side; transfer to a large rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and 3 cauliflower steaks.
Press the corn-scallion mixture into the spaces between the cauliflower florets. Bake the cauliflower steaks for 25 minutes, until tender and richly browned.
Measure 1 cup of brown rice. I generally use short-grain or medium-grain brown rice. Long-grain may need a little extra water.
Heat a little oil in the pot over medium heat, add rice and throughly mix with the oil. This cuts down on the stickiness of the rice, and it is optional.
Add 2 cups liquid and stir. Bring to a simmer and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Turn the heat to low and cook for 45 minutes. Remove the lid and stir to make sure there is no liquid at the bottom of the pot. Let cool, then serve.