Ah, the holidays: full of plane delays, awkward moments with family, unhealthy food, stress and anxiety that leads to overeating and compulsive drinking, and plenty of regret and guilt on the back end for falling off your weight loss or health goals. The most wonderful time of the year right? Well, it doesn’t have to be so terrible. With a game plan and a little practice, successfully navigating the holidays can be a breeze, even if you’re a vegan or plant-based eater . While I can’t do anything about the polar vortex and the horrible travel scenarios, I can help with some tips and tricks to stick in your healthy tool chest.
Take a look at the ten tips below, print them out or save this page on your phone,and have a wonderful ThanksgivingChristmas- HanukkahKwanzaaFestivus season.
Oh, and if you have any other great tips to share with the PlantEater Family, post in the comment section!
Tip #1: Breakfast
Eat a hearty breakfast the day of your Thanksgiving/Christmas/Hanukkah meal. You should be doing this all the time anyway, but eating a filling, nutrient-dense breakfast full of fiber will help you deal with temptation later on in the day. Something like a big bowl of oatmeal with chia seeds and berries will cut hunger, control your blood sugar, and give you a good chance of making good decisions come dinner time. If you happen to be traveling, you could bring a small Tupperware container with some overnight soaked oatmeal along with you on the plane. Just prep oatmeal the night before in the container and leave it in the fridge overnight to grab and go. Adding plenty of fruit in the beginning of the day will also help you cut down on dessert cravings at your holiday meal.
Tip #2: Reduce Your Caffeine and Alcohol Consumption
The rollercoaster of energy and hydration levels stemming from drinking caffeine in the morning and alcohol in the evening can make anyone more susceptible to sugar cravings, so watching your intake of these liquids can help control your desire for sweets.Moreover, some studies have suggested that drinking coffee can impair the body’s ability to control glucose levels.
Tip #3: Drink More Water
This goes hand in hand with the previous tip, since dehydration can sometimes manifest itself as sugar cravings. If you find yourself staring at the plate of cookies in your office kitchen, have a glass of water and wait a few minutes to see if you’re still pining for the sugary stuff as much.
Tip #4: Hit the Gym, Trail, or CrossFit Box
Continued physical activity helps balance blood sugar levels, reduces tension, and boosts energy. All of this reduces your desires for sugar.
Tip #5: Find Time to Relax and Get Your Sleep
How long and how well we sleep plays a role in our susceptibility to hyper-palatable foods. The worse we sleep, the more likely we are to overeat. So no matter how stressful the holidays may seem, be sure to make adequate sleep a priority.
Tip #6: Host the Holidays at Your House
If you’re hosting omnivores and you don’t have a moral objection to having meat in your house, let them know they’re welcome to bring their own meat dish but that you’ll be preparing exclusively plant-based dishes. Most holiday dishes can be made healthfully anyways, so being at home and in control of the food, although stressful in its own right, is really your best option. Two of my favorite resources for plant-based holiday recipes are Happy Herbivore and Fat Free Vegan. If you don’t want animal products in your house at all, just go nuts with the recipes in the links above and you’ll be covered. Those who demand turkey will just have to find it elsewhere. Not only will you be ensuring a healthy holiday meal for yourself, you’ll be giving the most important gift to your friends and family.
Tip #7: Bring Your Own Dishes
If you’re going to someone else’s house but don’t have to travel to another city, bring at least two of your own dishes. Let your host know in advance that you’ll be bringing extra, and try to take as much pressure off of him or her as possible. Most people are happy to have the additional food, and they’ll be relieved they won’t have to worry about what your food parameters are, trust me. A good strategy is to bring one hearty main dish or side and one healthy dessert. That way you’ll be able to make good choices at all points during the meal. If you’re going somewhere where you know the host is an awful or a particularly unhealthy cook, well, you might need to bring more than two dishes, but keep it simple. This is a great opportunity to demonstrate to your friends and family that healthy food can be filling and delicious, and you might be surprised at how popular the dishes you bring will be!
Tip #8: Eat Before You Go
If you don’t feel comfortable bringing food along or you won’t be able to, pre-eat. I know this probably goes against everything you’re used to, but it works. Eat food before you go to a Thanksgiving or Christmas party so you won’t be as tempted to eat the food you know is bad for you. A huge plate of steamed greens, a baked potato with salsa, some oatmeal, or a big green smoothie is always a good option, and even if you end up eating some unhealthy food, the chances of you overeating are minimized. This will also come in handy if you have to go to any office holiday parties with platters or tempting snacks everywhere.
Tip #9: Remember Your Goals
Shore up your nutrition knowledge and remind yourself why you’ve decided to make healthy changes to your lifestyle. In the next week or so, read or re-read an inspiring and informative nutrition book (here are some good options) or watch a film about nutrition (here are some suggestions). When information is fresh in your mind and you’re inspired to stay committed to your principles, it’s easier to navigate any potential pitfalls or temptations.
Tip #10: Abstinence Is the Best Policy
If you can really eat one cookie or piece of candy and leave the rest, have at it, but most of us are unable to do this. It turns out that consuming foods with a high glycemic index may fuel addictive cravings and hunger. So instead of telling yourself “I’ll just have one,” you’re better off staying away from the sweet stuff altogether.