This is how I coach my clients over the holidays. You are about to learn 8 of the most helpful ways you can continue your health journey over the holidays without compromising on having fun. After all, that’s what the holidays are all about, celebrating with friends and family whilst enjoying this special time of year. It can also be a difficult time for some filled with anxiety, guilt, and frustration around food. I always talk about how to “anticipate instead of eliminate,” when it comes to food which puts an entirely new spin on having a healthy mindset these holidays. The pandemic will no doubt affect the holidays this year where a lot of people won’t be traveling as they ordinarily would. A lot of us are looking forward to the holidays because, well 2020, but we also have to be mindful that comfort eating might have been the norm for much of this year already. I want you to really enjoy these holidays. This is why I am giving you my top 8 tips on how to navigate them whilst feeling like you’re in control of your choices and not the other way around. Think of these as tools in your holiday toolbox. Let’s do this!
1. Make sure your breakfast contains protein
When you have your breakfast make sure you’re getting around 20 – 30g of protein. Studies show that starting our day with protein helps to lengthen our blood sugar curve, reduces cravings, balances out a number of hunger hormones, and helps to keep us feeling fuller for longer. There are simply too many benefits not to start your day with some quality protein. Whether that be in a Thrive Smoothie with plant-based or grass-fed protein powder, an egg scramble (each egg contains around 6g of protein), or whatever quality protein you prefer. The point is to start your day this way because doing so will help you to make much better food choices throughout your day! Yes, protein is an essential macronutrient and the most satiating one too! When we start our day with 20 – 30g it helps to balance blood glucose levels and reduces the need to snack too.
2. Make yourself half of a Thrive Smoothie before you hit the party
Before I head out to a holiday party I always make sure I am fuelled first! The term I’ve coined “anticipate instead of eliminate,” is something I teach my clients. Focusing on what we can add in as opposed to take away cultivates a positive mindset over the holidays.
We can’t “eat intuitively” unless we understand how to balance our blood sugar and how foods get metabolized, which comes down to basic biology. I’m not suggesting you need to take a biology class, but I am saying that if you wake up and intuitively want to eat a croissant for breakfast with an orange juice you’re also going to want to intuitively eat pizza for lunch – that is if you’ve made it that long without a muffin! You’re in the spike, crash & crave rollercoaster because you need more carbs to bring you back up again.
When we fuel ourselves with the proper macronutrients in the right amount we never need to use our willpower to get to our next meal. Likewise, when we fuel ourselves before going to a party we are less likely to overeat, consume lots of sugary foods, and make better food choices. Ever been to the grocery store hungry? Then you know what I mean! It’s being smart and anticipating our biology, especially during the holiday season when lots of baked goods and sweets are abundant!
The absolute easiest and most delicious way to get out ahead of your biology before you hit that party is to make half of one of my Thrive Smoothies (I have 10 recipes for you to choose from!) You will be amazed at how profound this simple yet incredibly effective decision will have at your next party! It will help to ease your anxiety around food because you will feel calmer and more balanced when you arrive at the party. Too many of us think that if we have a party to go to we should fast or eat much less during the day to prepare for the feast that night. The problem with this is that it often backfires resulting in overeating and being tempted by all of the starchy sugary foods because you’re going in hungry!
Instead, make half of one of my thrive smoothies before you go and enjoy the party. The protein, fat, and fiber will help regulate your hunger hormones so that you rock up calm. Don’t like smoothies? Then make yourself an egg scramble, or enjoy a small bowl of hearty soup that contains protein such as my Chicken Veggie Soul-Soup. Whatever you prefer, just go prepared!
3. Bring a healthy dish, or an “upgraded” dessert to a party
You’ve likely heard this one before. This is especially great for those with allergies or autoimmune issues such as celiac where they don’t have the luxury of a ‘one-off,’ and must adhere to their dietary requirements. When I go to a party I always offer to bring a dish to share with everyone. Often I will bring the ’dessert,’ just because I know I can make it grain, sugar, and dairy-free (I have loads of holiday dessert recipes!) It might be a pie, chocolate, bonbons, or even my chia pudding with muddled berries which I will bring in containers and assemble at their house. Alternatively, it could be a savory dish, whatever I want to share with everyone. This will spark conversation about your dish, especially if they’re not used to eating healthy foods, or sugar and grain-free desserts – you will WOW them and maybe even inspire them into choosing better food options for themselves.
4. At the party fill up your plate with the 5 to thrive
My rooted in science flexible framework with the 5 to thrive works so incredibly well during the holidays to keep you on track. Rather than focusing on what you need to keep off your plate, I want you to focus on what you can put on it. I realize when you’re at a family gathering, especially during the holidays you’re served a plate of food which can be tricky, and to this, I would say take some enzymes before if you know it’s going to be a big meal and just enjoy it – NO guilt, ever! If however, your host has a buffet-style setup (which I always prefer to do for guests because then they can plate their own) that’s when you can look for the 5 to thrive. Even though it’s ‘buffet-style’ remind yourself to have just one plate and to be present whilst you enjoy every single bite. This works really well especially when you have multiple gatherings to attend and don’t want to be overeating (or drinking) at each one.
Here are the 5 things I want you to look for on our plate with easy-eyeball sizes:
- Protein (about the size and thickness of the palm of your hand)
- Healthy fats (about the entire size of your thumb)
- Fiber (load up your plate with non-starchy vegetables. Enjoy a much smaller amount of starchy veg like potato, etc)
- Dark leafy greens & green veggies (fill up your plate, have at it girl!)
- Colored cellular carbohydrates (look for as many non-starchy colorful veggies as possible with their fiber cell wall intact. If you can, eat the rainbow with any assorted veggies and salad that might be offered.)
You may have already noticed that numbers 1 and 2 are protein and fat and numbers 3, 4, and 5 all contain fiber! Combined, these will help increase insulin sensitivity, balance out your blood sugar, regulate your hunger hormones, and feed your good gut buddies in your microbiota! If you LOOK for the 5 to thrive at every party to put on your plate you will feel so much better over the holidays. What about dessert? If you’re attending multiple parties you might want to make the decision to either indulge in that glass of mulled wine, or the dessert, but not both. Or my other suggestion is to enjoy your glass or two of alcohol of choice and if you must have some dessert ask for a smaller slice, or plate yourself up a couple of bites to eat slowly, savor and enjoy.
5. Make healthy sensible SWAPS!
I am all about making sensible swaps and here are some of my favorites over the holidays that have really helped to keep my blood sugar from skyrocketing and my mood and energy levels elevated:
Baking: Use coconut or almond flour instead of white refined flour and/ or grain flours, especially those containing gluten. Add in some ground flax too for extra fiber and plant-based ALA’s. These cannot be swapped out for white flour, so you will need to follow a grain-free baking recipe usually for baked goods containing almond and or coconut flour. I have lots of baked holiday delights or search some up on the internet. Just be aware some of them don’t work properly so I would source someone reputable whose recipes have been tried and tested.
Sugar: Use monk fruit drops (I like NOW Foods) or stevia sweetener (I like SweetLeaf) instead of refined sugar, or sugars such as honey, maple syrup, dates, etc that will spike blood sugar. I like to also use on occasion erythritol (NOW Foods – make sure it’s organic so no GMO) and yacon syrup, which is a prebiotic and FOS.
Alcohol: Stay clear of congeners, which are found in dark alcohol such as red wine, whisky, brandy, etc. These types of alcohol increase your risk for a nasty hangover the next day, are toxins, and break capillaries in the skin. Instead, opt for a clear liquor these holidays such as tequila or vodka, and ditch the sugary mixers for fresh lime. If you need it sweeter go ahead, but “upgrade” your beverage by adding a few drops of liquid monk fruit or liquid stevia sweeteners. This is how I make my margaritas in my vitamin on those rare occasions I actually drink! If you just love your red wine look for pesticide-free, low sulfites (naturally occurring in the wine), and organic.
Starbucks pumpkin spiced latte: Ditch the pumpkin spiced latte sugary syrups at coffee houses and make your own delicious “upgraded” version. It’s so easy! Into your fav holiday mug pour 1 shot espresso (or add your preferred coffee), unsweetened almond milk (or cashew milk, or vanilla collagen creamer), ½ teaspoon pumpkin spice (I use Simply Organic brand), and 3-5 drops of monk fruit sweetener (I use Now Foods – they have plain or sometimes I use their caramel one.) I like to also add ½ tablespoon MCT oil for some exogenous brain-on ketones and mushrooms (I use Four Sigmatic mushroom blend) which makes caffeine a little easier on the adrenals. It makes the most delicious pumpkin spiced latte.
6. Workout fasted in the morning
With all of the festivities, it can be easy to blow off fitness – not so fast. Try working out in the morning fasted with some strength training and cardio acceleration (CA). This winning combo allows you to resist your muscles and in-between sets and/ or supersets get in some cardio (30-60 seconds max). It’s super productive and efficient to work out this way. Research shows it aids in delayed onset muscle recovery (DOMS) and helps to circulate more blood, oxygen, and nutrients into your muscle cells. Plus, more waste products get pulled from your muscles to be eliminated and detoxified when we engage in CA. Exercising fasted (by being in a lower glycogen state) means we get a double whammy of fat burning and human growth hormone (HGH). HGH is secreted by the anterior pituitary gland and stimulates cellular growth. The body produces HGH during our REM cycles of sleep, fasting, strength training, and high-intensity exercise. Research shows that by combining exercise and intermittent fasting we are able to increase our lean muscle mass, decrease our fat mass, and possibly increase the elasticity of our skin! A great way to age backward over the holidays 😉
7. Look after your good-gut-buddies & they will can look after you
A lot of people complain of bloating and constipation over the holiday season and rightly so. With parties, get-togethers, holiday luncheons, and dinners, most people are eating a lot of foods they don’t ordinarily consume. We want to be making sure we are getting enough fuel to feed our good gut buddies and their preferred fuel to feed on is – Fiber! In fact, the more variety the better so that they can make short-chain fatty acids (SCFA’s). One SCFA in particular, butyrate in the scientific literature has shown to reduce inflammation, protect our brain, and helps prevent obesity, diabetes type 2, and cancer.
I rotate acacia fiber, chia seeds, psyllium husk, and ground flax (I grind my own to prevent rancidity of the ALA’s). I will use up to three at a time in my thrive smoothie. Acacia fiber will give you a thinner smoothie. Psyllium husk which has been shown to help lower cholesterol will give you a very thick smoothie, so go easy with this one. Chia and ground flax I always use. These create a mucilaginous gel that your good gut bacteria love to feed on. Likewise, getting fiber from non-starchy veggies is super important and of course, you will get all of those beneficial phytochemicals from dark leafy greens.
Next, up these holidays make sure you take a good probiotic! Choosing the strains of probiotics you need over the CFU number is optimal in my opinion. You can take one anytime during the day and it will help to proliferate your microbiota. Lastly, for those who suffer from bloating post-meal, you may benefit from taking some enzymes (supplement) before you sit down to eat a big meal over the holidays. These can really help with digestion and reduce bloating, but you must take them prior to your meal.
8. Write down 5 things you did well that day
The holidays are often a time when people ride what I call the ‘guilty-grizzly-gulch!’ If you’ve been to Disneyland then you know about this ride. It’s a roller coaster and at one end it brings you all the way up only to drop kick you backwards at super speed. Rather than riding the rollercoaster and feeling like you are spiralling backwards these holidays, I want you to focus on the GOOD STUFF you’re doing each day and write it down. I am not a fan of journaling unless it is to celebrate your wins during the day. Finding 5 things to write down each day is a way of self-dosing in dopamine (yes, it’s a real thing), uplift you and perpetuate more of this be-your-own-bestie type behaviour. I am going to ask you to DIG DEEP and each day come up with something new that you did well that day. There are so many things we do well in a day, however, we allow that one or two not so great things to take precedence and lower our mood.
I want you to get into the habit of writing down 5 things in your journal or in your notes section on your mobile phone before you go to bed at night. It can be as simple as “I gave my kids extra cuddles tonight before bed, I know I’m a great Mum,” or “I enjoyed and savored every bite of a piece of pumpkin pie without any guilt because I deserved to really just enjoy that.” Another example could be “I sat with my morning coffee and had fifteen minutes of pure bliss to myself which felt so rejuvenating,” or “I needed to take a rest today from exercising without any guilt so that my body could recover because I am worth it.” Doing this on a regular basis, as I can attest will change your life! You won’t be on the ‘guilty-grizzly-gulch’ anymore because you’re too busy focusing on what’s working.