As we gather with family and friends over the holiday season, our team knows how difficult it can be to keep it healthy while indulging in holiday meals. While the idea of a low carbohydrate, superfood enhanced, locally grown and organic based dinner sounds great to many, the truth of the matter is that it doesn’t always work out that way.
One of my biggest struggles with holiday eating is the sense of regret post-meal. Knowing that I would be destroying weeks or months worth of dieting and training for an extra slice of pumpkin pie or the shrimp fra diavola that my nonna (grandmother) spends hours cooking doesn’t sit well with me. Saying no to her last year when I was gluten-free was another challenge! While it’s possible to request a form of gluten free pasta or even spaghetti squash, trying to explain gluten and its deleterious effects to my nonna, who is straight off the boat Italian, would just end with a wooden spoon being thrown straight to my forehead.
So instead of experiencing regret during holiday dinners, I’ve come up with a few simple tips and tricks to keep healthy in the next few days.
Don’t drink your calories
The average American consumes over 4,500 calories between snacking, eating and drinking during a typical holiday gathering (1). Limit this by not reaching for the high fructose-containing soda and juices. Try sparkling spring water with lemon or lime or add a shot of apple cider vinegar to your apple cider drink (See Number 7: Apple Cider Vinegar)
Flex while eating
Okay, this one may raise an eyebrow for some but flexing your muscles prior to and while you eat brings glucose transporter type 4 (GLUT-4) to the surface of muscle cells (2). By doing so, this process allows the calories you’re about to eat go into your muscle cells instead of fat cells.
Cold showers prior to dinner
Cold thermogenesis is a known weight loss technique that causes your body to increase fat loss as well as recruit GLUT4 receptors to the surface of muscle cells. Notice we put cold showers and coldish/chilly showers (3).
Start your shower with warm water for a few minutes then blast it cold for a total of five to seven minutes max, especially if you live in an area where the temperature is below freezing outside. Make sure to focus on the water hitting your face, back of neck, and underarms.
Whether you’re eating a nutrient dense sweet potato or having dessert, try incorporating cinnamon into your meal. This spice is known to have a glucose leveling effect on your body (4). Quick tip: Go for Ceylon Cinnamon (true cinnamon) as the store brand is usually Cassia, which contains high amounts of coumarin, a compound shown to cause liver toxicity.
Protein and Fats before Carbs
Eating proteins and fats before carbs lowers post-meal glucose levels by limiting the rate of absorption of the carbohydrate and decreasing the amount of carbs ingested due to satiety (5). This can be achieved by loading your plate with veggies and meats prior to rice, pasta, potatoes, etc. Or you can make yourself a whey protein shake with a shot of coconut oil before a carbohydrate rich meal.
Chew Your Food
This may sound like a no brainer but you would be surprised as to how many people only chew 3 to 5 times then proceed to swallow. By increasing the number of chews per bite you break down your food properly and allow for a greater surface area which increases nutrient absorption. Aim for 25 to 30 chews.
Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
ACV is a beneficial supplement to incorporate into your daily routine, not just around the holiday season. ACV’s primary component is acetic acid. This compound has been shown to reduce body weight, body fat, and triglycerides while increasing the beneficial bacteria in one’s gut. ACV has also been shown to reduce food cravings, moderate blood sugar, and increase thermogenesis (6).
Start low (1tsp) and work your way up to around 1 tbsp. To improve it’s thermogenic activity, try drinking 1 TBSP of ACV with 2 cups of the coldest water your body can handle 15 minutes prior to your cold shower. Add a sprinkle of cayenne pepper if you want to turn up the heat and further increase thermogenesis.