Cheating (Sensibly) Over the Holidays

Temptation is everywhere…shortbread cookies in the lunch room at work, a dessert buffet at the office Christmas party, plus all of the baked goods you made at home that are supposed to be for Christmas Day. Where is your willpower when you need it? How can you continue to eat healthy over the holidays?

Luckily we live in frigid Toronto, where the style is over-sized sweaters and loose hanging scarves that cover up those few extra pounds many of us gain over the holidays.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

If you are fed up with gaining the “festive five” over the holidays, follow the tips below to treat yourself without having to loosen your belt a few notches. You will be able to have your cake and eat it too, without compromising your waistline and health.

Get those zzzzzs. Sleep deprivation raises cortisol, a stress hormone, which makes us crave sugary and carbohydrate-rich foods such as cookies, cakes and desserts. When we don’t get enough sleep, we also release high amounts of ghrelin, a hormone that makes us feel hungry. Our bodies also produces less leptin, a hormone that makes us feel full. You’ll be fighting a losing battle if you get less than 7–8 hours of sleep at night.

Drink up. Our bodies can confuse dehydration with hunger. Make sure you are drinking at least 2 litres of fluid every day; herbal teas and water are best. This will help to keep your energy levels high and sugar cravings at bay. Try a herbal tea from your local specialty tea shop when you want something sweet. Some of my favourite flavours include rooibos mixed with cocoa nibs, coconut, vanilla and/or chai spices. Sip up and enjoy!

Bump up magnesium levels. Sugar cravings, especially for chocolate, may be a sign that you are deficient in magnesium. Stress, the birth control pill, alcohol, coffee, some medications, excessive sweating and a poor diet can all result in magnesium depletion. Eating foods that are high in magnesium, such as pumpkin seeds, spinach, Swiss chard, sesame seeds, halibut, black beans, sunflower seeds, cashews and almonds will reduce your cravings. Talk to your licensed healthcare practitioner before taking any mineral supplements. Discuss the possibility of deficiencies of chromium and zinc as well, as these are needed for proper blood sugar control.

Don’t go hungry. Eat a well-balanced and healthy snack before going to a holiday party to ensure you don’t overindulge. Have a hard-boiled egg and some raw vegetables, snack on some hummus with vegetables, or eat an apple or pear with about 14 raw almonds or walnuts. At the party, focus on the sushi plate, vegetable platter, salads and small amounts of meat to stave off cravings for the sweets.

Enjoy what you are eating. Be mindful of what you are putting in your mouth. Treat yourself but don’t overdo it. Scan the room to see what desserts are available, then choose one or two that you would enjoy the most. Take your time eating the first one, noting the smell, texture, and taste on your tongue. Chew slowly and savour each bite. Give yourself some time before deciding whether or not you want another one. It takes time for your body to feel full from food, so if you wait before you have seconds, you will be less likely to want more.

So go ahead and cheat, without the guilt!

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is not meant to replace treatment with a licensed healthcare practitioner. It is for informational purposes only. Consult with a Naturopathic Doctor or other licensed healthcare professional to determine which treatments are safe for you.