Clean Eating During the Holidays

By: Stefanie Heath

Let’s face it. We’ve all been there. The holidays arrive and suddenly we’re faced with sweets, cookies, pies, and more. We know the New Year is around the corner, which means we’re faced with the potential of those dreaded post-holiday pounds. It’s happened to so many of us. The question is – how do we satisfy those cravings without jumping ship on our clean eating?

Aside from the potential weight gain during the holiday season, there’s a phenomena known as the “holiday heart attack.” According to a study that was released in 2004 by Robert A. Kloner, MD, PhD, cardiac related deaths increase between Christmas and New Year’s Day. This is attributed to a host of reasons, but one in particular is due to the fact that we tend to lax on our healthy eating during the holidays.

When we combine that with neglecting regular exercise routines, it can equate to an unhealthy recipe for disaster.

Enjoying a diet full of vegetables, legumes and whole grains is the key to keeping your heart healthy and happy. Harvard Health Publishing released an article that found one of the most effective ways to maintain a clean bill of heart health or even reverse cardiovascular disease is by eating less meat and more plants.

The holidays can be a joyous time for many. But don’t let the temptations steer you too far off course causing you regret as you start off 2018.

Here’s some advice to help avoid overindulging:

Fill up before you hit the party scene –

Holiday parties and dinners are a blast, but they are full of temptation. Most bear dishes that are full of heavy, fatty foods and sugary desserts. Depending on the time of your event, be sure to have a meal at least two – three hours before arriving at the party. It’s important to eat foods that are fiber-rich, like vegetables, beans or whole grains. Not only are these foods great for your heart, but the fiber will help you remain feeling full for longer. Another pro tip to staying full – drink plenty of water leading up to and during the event. Water tricks your brain into feeling full, so keep a glass of water with you throughout your party and sip on it as a way to keep your fingers from grazing.

Pack a dish to share –

I know what a supreme challenge it can be to politely turn down high calorie, indulgent meals at a party. My solution: make a dish or two to pass. I’ve learned that I can control what I eat at holiday gatherings if I bring a delicious and exciting veg-centric dish. Not only can I choose to bring something on the lighter side, but I also see it as an opportunity to showcase the tasty side of plant-based dishes. Try making a seasonal vegetable like winter squash, the superstar. A side dish like roasted Brussel sprouts with a balsamic glaze and toasted walnuts is sure to be a crowd pleaser. Winter squash is packed with vitamins A, C and B6 while Brussel sprouts contain fiber and protein. The best part is that dishes like these won’t make you feel like taking a nap after having a helping or two.

The holidays are the time of year to cherish family and friends. But if we are not vigilant, it’s also a time that we can jeopardize our health with bad eating habits. Utilizing these simple tips can help increase your plant-based food consumption all while eating delicious and satisfying foods during the holidays.