Tis the season to eat jolly! I look forward to this one month out of the year that I can enjoy food indulgences and still feel good about it. Totally avoiding holiday food temptations is unrealistic – and unnecessary. Holiday food is everywhere, so it’s difficult to observe “out of sight, out of tummy.” But, you don’t need to be a food Scrooge – here’s how to enjoy your holiday eating.
- BE A GRAZER MORE THAN A GORGER
Imagine you’re glaring at that “wow!” appetizer and thinking how good that nutty, cheesy, creamy, fruity, or sweety dish will taste. So, you gobble up a heavy helping and it’s off to gut-rumble time, or what our kids call “yucky tummy.”
Rather than eat a large helping, instead put a smaller portion on a small plate and enjoy the savory mouth feel of chewing longer. Keep chewing until the food is mostly liquid. Notice how much pleasure you get by eating less of the treat but letting it linger longer in your mouth. Picture this pleasure pathway. The taste buds register “pleasure” while the holiday treat is resting on them. The tongue taste buds then text the pleasure center of the brain how good this food feels in the mouth and the brain registers “like!” So, give this tongue-brain connection time to better enjoy every bite. The Japanese have a term for this pleasurable eating custom – umami (think: “oooh mommy”)
Umami – enjoy a good gut feel for the rest of your meal!
- PUT MORE COLOR ON YOUR PLATE
When your body metabolizes junk food, it produces biochemicals, called “oxidants,” that cause wear and tear on your body and your immune system. (Remember, you don’t want to be sick for the holidays). Enter “antioxidants,” those beautiful biochemicals in colorful foods – blue, red, green, yellow, orange, and purple. As Dr. Mom preached: “Put more color on your plate!” Double that sage advice during holiday eating time.
The more colorful your meal, the better you’ll feel!
Of course, “colorful” means the nature-made color in real foods, not the factory-made red #40 in red velvet cake – a top food on our holiday “naughty list.”
ENJOY MORE SCIENCE-BASED SUPPLEMENTS
To keep your body in balance instead of being “oxidized” during the holidays, get extra antioxidants from science-based supplements. Our favorite five are:
· Vitamin D
· Omega-3 DHA/EPA
· Hawaiian astaxanthin (a concentrated extract from microalgae, and the powerful antioxidant that makes salmon pink)
· Hawaiian spirulina (a vegetable protein that is also super-rich in the powerful antioxidant beta-carotene)
· Fruit and vegetable extracts in a capsule
- SPICE UP YOUR HOLIDAY EATING
I sprinkle turmeric and black pepper on my big, green holiday salads. Besides being flavorful, turmeric is a spicy antioxidant. Or, try TumericAstin, a supplemental blend of the two powerful antioxidants, turmeric and astaxanthin, in capsule form.
- THINK BEFORE YOU EAT
Before eating, think: “Do I really want to insult my beautiful body with that artificial factory-made food coloring?” In some ways healthy eating is like smart thinking. Take time to enjoy the food and let your thinking sink in: “Will this food help or harm my body during this joyful time of the year?”
- PRE-EAT BEFORE THE PARTY
Avoid thinking: “I’ll fast for a few hours before the party so I can eat more.” Being over-hungry triggers over-eating. Arriving at a party famished sets you up for eating too much of the wrong foods. Instead nibble on a healthy snack on the way to the party or as soon as you arrive.
- RUN IT OFF!
Burn more to eat more. This is one of my holiday mantras. Of course, I could simply eat less, but hey, it’s holiday time – enjoy it! Unfortunately, holiday time is when many people suffer from what we doctors call “the sitting disease.”
A custom in the Sears family adventures at holiday time is to dance at our family gatherings. Think of dance as your “M&Ms” for holiday health: movement and music. While writing this article, I was watching and listening to our children and grandchildren dancing in our living room and I thought, “Our home is alive with the sound of music – and the sound of children.” Music pleasantly diverts your attention away from worrisome thoughts and into the happy centers of your brain that register “like!” (For a scientific trip on how music mellows your mind, see one of our newest books, The Healthy Brain Book by William Sears, M.D.)
- BE A HEALTHY HOLIDAY PARTY HOST
When it’s party time at the Sears family holiday inn, our guests have learned to respect our healthy-eating wishes. Without sounding holiday preachy, simply ask your guests to bring something homemade. Dress up your healthy dishes with colorful plates and enjoy a big veggie plate with dips. Savory holiday eating begins with what your eyes see and your nose smells, even before taking your first bite.
- BAKE AND BRING YOUR OWN TREATS TO HOLIDAY PARTIES
When going to a holiday party, bake your family’s favorite cakes, pies, breads, and a veggie plate with dips. This gives your family at least a few healthy options to choose from.
- STAY HYDRATED
Holiday foods tend to be oversalted, which is a big prompt for overeating. Add the fact that alcohol and caffeine can dehydrate your body, and dehydration makes for less energy to enjoy the holidays. So, drink water till your thirst’s content. And since thirst is not a reliable indicator of hydration, after your thirst has been quenched drink one more glass of water.
- DRINK SMART
Alcohol, especially wine, pairs with, or enhances, the taste-pleasure of certain foods. Yet, drinking alcohol on an empty stomach is on the holiday “naughty list.” Eat before you drink, since alcohol is rapidly-absorbed on an empty stomach. (Read our 20+ page chapter on how to drink smart in The Healthy Brain Book.)
Dr. Sears serves on Nutrex Hawaii's Medical Advisory Board.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Contact your healthcare provider prior to beginning any new exercise or diet plan.