For many years I sent out an email to all of my clients with helpful hints for getting through the holidays without ruining their healthy eating habits.  That email turned into a little booklet that addresses Nutrition, Exercise, Sleep and Stress.  I've decided to share the Nutrition chapter with you in this blog.
Chapter 1

The holidays bring a whole array of challenges to those who are trying to live a healthy lifestyle.  Nutrition is at the top of the list of challenges.  Between parties and family gatherings, it can be overwhelming.  That is why I recommend making a plan.  I believe in writing everything down.  I am much more likely to stick to my plan if it is written out.

 At Home

During the holidays we all seem to have extra treats around the house.  Dealing with this is priority number one.  If you are at the point in your life where you no longer have children living at home, this should be pretty easy.  I no longer bake at the holidays.  My children are adults and I am lucky if I get to have them for a couple of days during the holidays.  That means I don’t have to have the house stocked with all of their childhood favorites.

In the event someone brings us holiday treats, I put them out of sight.  (You’ve heard out of sight, out of mind?)  I save them to bring along to holiday gatherings to share.

But, what if someone has made you something really special, and maybe that person is right there wanting you to try one?  Well, if you can’t beg off that you are not hungry right now, take a bite; just one bite.  Then, put it away.

Do your best not to bring food into the house you would not normally eat.

What if you need to bake or cook something to take to an event or gathering?  This happens to me ALL the time.  Sometimes I’ll choose to make something I don’t personally have a taste for…problem solved.  That’s not always possible, so here is how to handle it.  Wait until the latest possible time to make whatever the goody is, then pack it up to go as soon as possible.  Out of sight, out of mind.

 When you go to the grocery store, take a list.  Do not cave in to temptation. Stick to your list!  The hardest thing is when you have made the purchase and brought the unhealthy stuff into your home.  Try to keep it out of the house.

Going to a dinner party
My first word of advice is never go to any kind of party hungry.  Eat your normal meals throughout the day.  If you are not hungry you will be able to make better food choices and exercise portion control.

If you are going to a sit-down dinner party, part of the problem is solved because the host will probably be controlling at least some of the portions.

If it is a buffet, you need to be on your game.  Try to avoid temptation.  Look over the buffet.  Are there some healthy options?  I bet there are!  Take a small plate and go for your veggies and lean protein first.  As usual, stay away from the white stuff.  Ie: Dinner rolls and mashed potatoes.  Avoid heavy, fatty sauces like cheese sauce and gravy.

One of the best-kept secrets to controlling your eating at a dinner party is to drink lots and lots of water!  You will register satisfaction sooner if you drink a whole glass of water before dinner and another during dinner.

Alcohol is one of the biggest sources of calories.  Wine goes down pretty easily, but it’s 120 calories a glass.  So limit it or opt for a wine spritzer.  Hard alcohol is usually mixed with sweet mixers that are all sugar.  Unless you can drink it straight or with water, I would skip the hard stuff altogether.

What about dessert?  Truth be told, is anyone actually hungry after dinner?  I never eat dessert because I am never hungry for dessert.  Is there something being offered for dessert that you just must have a bite of?  Then just take a single bite-size serving, or ask your dinner companion to share it with you.  It’s ok to taste something; you just don’t want to eat an extra 500 calories for dessert.

Holiday Party—No dinner—Just Snacks
This can actually be more challenging than a dinner party because there tends to be lot’s of rich, fatty, salty dips and the like served at such parties.  That, along with the alcohol can put you over the edge.  So, make a plan.

1) Eat before you go.  Don’t show up hungry.  Try to eat a healthy, balanced meal before you arrive.  If you are not hungry you won’t be so tempted. 

2) If you are asked to bring something, be the one to bring something healthy and tasty.

3) Do not socialize next to the food table.  Move your conversation to another part of the room so you don’t feel tempted.

4) Small Plate.  If you decide to eat at a party, take the smallest plate available.  Go for veggies and lean protein first; shrimp is a good choice.  Try to stay away from chips and dips; they are honestly the worst; full of salt, fat and unwanted calories.  They will also make you thirsty.  Once you have filled your plate move away from the food table!  (Am I repeating myself? Yes.)

5) Drink water.  Even if you are imbibing, drink a glass of water for every glass of wine or cocktail.  Alternate them.

6) If you are drinking remember that wine is 120 calories a glass.  A wine spritzer is a good alternative.  Hard alcohol:  Gin, Rum, Whiskey and Vodka run 50-60 calories an oz depending whether it is 80 or 100 proof.  If you are mixing it, you need to calculate those extra calories of the mixer.  And remember, when people drink too much they tend to let their guard down and make poor food choices.  Again, for every glass of wine or cocktail, have a glass of water.  You can have it in a fancy glass with a squeeze of lime.

Allow yourself to enjoy—This is really important!

You thought this was going to be all about what you could NOT have.  But I do not believe in deprivation.  Everyone should be able to enjoy a little treat once in a while.  We just need to make sure little treats don’t turn into big binges.

We all have special things we look forward to at the holidays.  For some it is pumpkin pie, for others it is chocolate truffles.  Here’s my rule of thumb:  Do not totally deprive yourself of these treats.  It will only make you resentful.  Instead, allow yourself small bites of special treats.  Have a bite or small sliver of that pumpkin pie; or sit down, close your eyes and really savor a chocolate truffle.  I think the key is to be mindful while eating that special treat.  Don’t eat it while in the middle of a conversation.  Focus and really be in the moment and enjoy that treat.  You want your brain to register you’ve had it. 

Little tricks to save on fat and calories

Baking:  Make the cookies small.  Cut the bars and cakes into small, bite size portions.  That way it is easier to just have a taste.  Start out with really good ingredients.  I try to only use healthy fats when baking and everything is organic.

Cut the fat:  When possible, swap out ingredients in heavily fat-laden recipes.  There are always options.  If you take a dish out of the oven and you can see the fat sitting on top, take a paper towel and soak it up. You’d be amazed how many fat calories you can cut with this simple trick.  (Fat calories run 9 per gram.)

Alcohol:  I’ve already referenced swapping wine for a wine spritzer.  If you are drinking hard alcohol, stay away from sugary mixers.  Try having your vodka with sparkling water with lemon or lime juice.  Put it in a tall glass with lots of ice and sip.