Holiday eating: Let your food be your medicine.

Holiday eating: Let your food be your medicine.

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Thanksgiving launches us into a feeding frenzy each year. During the weeks following Thanksgiving and all the way through New Years we will eat just about anything put in front of us.  We will treat our plates just as a painter does their canvas: Fill it all in with color…not one square inch of the underlying surface will remain exposed.  The following are some “quick-tips” to help you manage the effects of your dining, snacking and gorging and remain healthy.  The 3 areas covered will be:

  • Decrease weight gain (averages during the holiday run from 2-10 pounds)
  • Foods that improve health (let your food be your medicine)
  • Foods that help you get over the side effects of the foods you consumed.

I mentioned above that the average American gains between 2 and 10 pounds during the holiday season.  Reports vary due to the age of the person (college age vs. middle to late age people.  The younger crowd seems to gain about 2 pounds while we older folks gain between 5-10 pounds.  Regardless, I believe that we all don’t want to spend the beginning of next year working off what we gained in the last 5-6 weeks of this year.  Throw into the equation this little tidbit: What if you never lost that weight? In 10 years you will have gained and extra 20-100 pounds. Ok, probably not 100 pounds, but this may be the most critical part of the year to focus on with regards to your weight gain/loss.

1.     Eat off of a smaller plate- Trust me, you are going to pile it on and cover every square inch of your plate…so make it a small plate (salad plates work great) 

2.     Put the leftovers away after the food is served- if they aren’t on the table and already getting cold in the refrigerator you are less likely to go back for seconds.

3.     Eat a salad first (or start on the veggie tray). Adding more fiber prior to a meal will help curb your appetite as well as decrease cravings.

4.     Drink plenty of water- this will give you a feeling of being full.

5.     Decrease alcohol- Alcohol decreases inhibitions, which lead to you eating more food and making poor decisions about the type of food and portions.  Alcohol is an empty calorie too.

6.     Supplement suggestions: Take Phase 2 before all meals and snacks that contain carbs.  Phase 2 decreases calorie effect of these foods by 2/3rds…that is Huge.  Chromium is great to take if you are a sugar consumer. This helps stabilize blood sugar and decrease cravings. Prenulin is another great supplement because it decreases the sugar being absorbed from your foods.

Eating foods that will improve health

In this area, I am going to focus on the “seasonal” type of foods and not those that we eat year-round.  Examples:

1.     Walnuts: These are high in omega-3s and also know to help with cognitive function.  These can be added to just about everything by chopping them up or even grinding them. 

2.     Pumpkin and other gourds: I used to teach, “Eat a rainbow” and pumpkins are orange.  Eating fruits and veggies that are of all of the colors of the rainbow and pumpkins definitely cover the orange area.  Spaghetti squash (yellow), Acorn squash (orange), butternut squash etc. are all great examples of intense colored foods meaning they are very high in antioxidants.

3.     Berries: Just like with pumpkins, berries are very high in antioxidants.  We are often looking for ways to add a splash of color to the plate and berries are a great way to do this…especially with dessert.

4.     Salmon: Ok, maybe this isn’t a traditional holiday food, but in my family it is now and adding “outside the box” type of thinking to your holiday meal planning will make a big difference in the long run.

5.     Nuts (Brazil, almonds, macadamia, etc. (not peanuts)) have a basket of nuts and a cracker on the coffee table.  Spending time cracking these buggers open and then eating them was a blast for me as a kid…and they are super healthy! If you don’t dig the idea of doing the work, buy unsalted raw nuts when you can. Granted they are as fabulous on the tongue, but make an incredibly healthy snack, great for the waistline and high in minerals and good fats. 

6.     Cranberries: Like I mentioned earlier in the pumpkin and berry section, cranberries are super high in antioxidants and well known for their health benefits for those with reoccurring UTIs.  In past media engagements, I have encouraged people to use the scientifically backed supplement form; CranMax instead of eating the berries in order to get the full benefits.  Too often we combine cranberries with sugar (because they are so tart) and the sugar decreases the health benefits significantly.  CranMax can even be sprinkled into you foods to add color and impart no harsh flavors. 

7.     Eat the white meat: White meat contains less saturated fat and will have a bit of a healthier impact for you.  Granted I think that eating both dark and white are fine (dark tastes better because it contains more fat), but for most with an unhealthy lifestyle avoiding saturated fats might be a good idea.

8.     Sweet potatoes and not white potatoes: sweet potatoes have less of an impact on blood sugar and also are high in antioxidants because of the orange color.  Also, eat the skin, which is high in minerals.

9.     Roasted Brussels sprouts: An awesome veggie that is high in antioxidants and so many other health benefits.

10.  Cauliflower mashed like mashed potatoes:  Don’t frown at me…this is amazing. Cook your cauliflower like you normally do and then mash it like you would mash potatoes.  The taste amazing. You can also puree cauliflower and added it to sauces to help thicken it and add the health benefits of this veggie.

11. Spice things up: Adding spices like turmeric, paprika, cayenne, pepper, onion, garlic, rosemary, cinnamon, etc. will add more than just flavor to your foods.  These all provide unique health benefits and are a great way to have your food be your medicine.

This list could go on, and hopefully my suggestions will help you think “outside the box” during this years mealtime planning.

Foods that help you recover

Lets go ahead and admit it, we are going to consume things we don’t normally eat and over consume foods we do and both of these will leave you with digestive issues.  The following are my food-tips to help you recover quickly from each digestive issue:

Diarrhea: Eat foods that are high in probiotics or take probiotics daily beginning now and all the way thru the New Year.  Foods such as yogurt, kefir and sauerkraut are well known to be food high in friendly bacteria.  One caution though, make sure you buy these foods made in the “old-fashioned” way.  Newer and faster techniques usually kill the good bacteria, which means you will have no benefits.  I don’t like any of these types of foods so in my case I take a probiotic daily. Your local health food store and pharmacy should be able to guide you.

Bloating: Drink mint or ginger tea, have a sprig of mint and suck on it or chew on a slice of ginger root. If you don’t have these, sometimes mint gum or candies will help.

Heartburn/acid reflux: Usually with heartburn and or bloating the above suggestions will help and perhaps adding pineapple or papaya to your desserts.  Both papaya and pineapple are high in enzymes (papaya is the best especially for those who over consumed proteins). Digestive enzymes help your body break down the food more quickly and will help ease any discomfort.  You can also purchase enzymes as a supplement and take them when you eat…. your choice.

Finally, keep in mind during this Holiday season that you should NEVER feel guilty for eating anything.  Give thanks and savor each bite. Be grateful for the food, friends and family.  I hope this helps you have a healthy(er) holiday season.