Updated: Dec 24, 2021
Whether you’d like to admit it or not, if you put time and effort into your health (ie. make healthy meals, eat vegetables, drink water, watch your sugar & alcohol intake, exercise, etc.), you can’t go into the holiday season without a strategy. Even if your strategy is “no rules apply,” and you eat and drink whatever you want - it’s still a strategy.
Fact: there are extras over the holidays - extra food, extra sugar, extra alcohol, extra nights with poor quality sleep. So how can you enjoy the extras and still feel energized and happy throughout the holidays?
Here are my tips on how to have a more balanced holiday season, and feel good(ish) on January 3rd:
I think one of the reasons we like to eat and drink more over the holidays is because we’re in the mood to celebrate with family and friends, and we want to relax. Loosening the reins on our regular eating and drinking habits provides a sense of taking a break, being on holiday or being relaxed.
1. This year, I want you to switch your focus and engage in activities (other than extra food, sugar & alcohol) that make you feel relaxed, or like you’re on holiday. For me, it’s the things that I don’t usually have time to do in a regular week, like:
A yoga class that’s longer than 20 minutes
Take a long bath while listening to an audible book or podcast or music
Take an afternoon nap
Do a big puzzle - the kind you leave out, and come back to day after day
Read a book or magazine under a blanket by the fire - no screens - like the real kind that you hold in your hand
Watch a favourite old movie like Almost Famous or Ace Ventura (don’t judge me, I love those movies)
Play Nintendo Switch or Xbox with your kids - family Mario Cart races anyone?
Play a board game with your family
2. When it comes to holiday eating and drinking strategies:
Start the day with a healthy breakfast - something that’s low sugar, and includes protein, healthy fats and fibre. When I travel for the holidays, I bring healthy choices like chia pudding, grain-free granola or healthy muffins (check out my recipe for Almond Banana Bread Muffins below)! That way, no matter what happens the rest of the day, you at least have control over your breakfast choice.
Choose one meal to have a treat after. My mother-in-law makes the best Christmas baking of all time. I look forward to her fudge squares every year. There is no way I’m avoiding them, but I choose to have one after dinner, and avoid the after-lunch treat. I usually pack my Pur gum or mints to pop after lunch, and have ginger or mint tea if I need something else.
Choose a number for your alcoholic drinks, and stick to it. I recommend two drinks per night, and drink lots of water in between.
Drink at least 2L of water during the day - if you’re travelling, bring your big water bottle to help you stay on track!
Lemon, ginger and peppermint are detoxifying, help banish bloat and can satisfy a sweet craving. Pop a lemon wedge in your water, or enjoy a ginger or mint tea after meals.
3. When it comes to exercise, it can be difficult to stick to your regular routine over the holidays. Just because you may not get your regular exercise class in, you can still make it a goal to move your body everyday throughout the holidays:
Skating on the outdoor rinks
Downhill or cross-country skiing
Play outside with your kids - make a snowman, have a snowball fight, go sledding
Get into the habit of going for a family walk after meals. I was listening to a podcast the other day, and the Italians have a phrase for this: “Fare una passeggiata”, which means to go for a walk or stroll. Sounds simple, but make a point to get up and move after eating. It’s important for healthy digestion, and to use those calories for energy right away!
Finally, don’t focus on the extra fudge squares, focus on the health wins from your day - something you did that was good for your health like, getting outside for a walk, the bath you made time for, the veggies you put on your plate, or the water you drank. Focusing on health wins motivates you to continue making healthy choices.
And, if you overeat or over-drink, don’t throw the rules out the window, get back to your healthy rituals the next day: start the day with lemon water, take your supplements, move your body, have a healthy breakfast, drink water, eat your veggies, etc.
Have a safe, happy and healthy holiday season!!
Almond Banana Bread Muffins
Makes 12 large muffins, gluten-free, dairy-free
3 very ripe medium or large bananas, mashed
3 tbsp. unsweetened almond or any nut milk
2 tbsp. maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups packed almond flour
½ cup flaxseed meal
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
½ cup walnuts, chopped
Preheat oven to 350F and line a muffin tray with paper liners. Spray each muffin liner with a non-stick spray (I like to use coconut oil spray).
In a medium size glass bowl, chop and mash banana, stir in eggs, milk, maple syrup and vanilla extract until combined.
In a large mixing bowl, combine almond flour, flaxseed, cinnamon, baking soda and salt.
Add banana mixture to flour mixture, and stir until mixed well. Fold in walnuts.
Evenly distribute batter into prepared muffin cups. Bake for 25 minutes or until lightly browned on top. Let muffins cool in the tin. Place in fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Enjoy with almond butter and a sprinkle of sea salt!