Your Holiday Meal Game Plan

 This week is by far one of the hardest weeks to stay on track.  But just because it is a holiday week doesn't mean that you can just throw all caution to the wind.  Thanksgiving is 1 day and only 1 meal.  It's not a week long binge-fest!  You still hold the power to control what goes into your mouth and whether or not you do your workouts.  So just because the kids are off school doesn't mean you cannot work out.  I am still getting up in the am doing my workouts, eating my 5-6 small meals a day and on Thanksgiving picking and choosing what I really want to eat!  You can stay healthy and still feel satisfied!!!

You don’t have to give up eating “clean” just because it’s the holidays. Many of your favorite special-occasion treats can be “cleaned up” simply by swapping whole grains for refined ones, choosing low-fat dairy products (almond soy, and rice milk), and using minimally processed sugars like honey, Agave or Xylitol brown or white sugar over granulated white or brown. Even if you do splurge on a few items, be smart and don’t overindulge. Follow these nine tips and you can eat well, feel great, and celebrate the season without feeling guilty or deprived.

1.   Search Out Healthy Offerings
While most people associate the holidays with rich, high-calorie foods, there are plenty of other options available. Zero in on produce first by loading up on raw vegetables found on crudite platters and salads. Instead of high-fat dressings, drizzle your greens with balsamic vinegar or a squeeze of lemon. Cheese is another good choice, but beware of going overboard, one to two ounces is all you need (about the size of a pair of dice or a 9-volt battery).
Recipe:  Make a big batch of air popped popcorn with spray butter or light parmesan cheese to share at parties.

2.       Make It Yourself

Preparing your own holiday “clean” meal is the perfect way to ensure that you’ll be eating delicious, healthy recipes. This is ideal for potluck parties, but even without an official invitation many hostesses welcome homemade food. If you know you’re going to a holiday party where “clean” options are slim, offer to bring your own dish. Choose items you can make ahead that lend themselves to large gatherings. 

Chocolate Macaroons

3.       Hone in on Whole Grains

Choosing whole wheat or whole grain breads over white is one of the easiest ways to stick to your “clean” diet during the holidays. Prepare traditional stuffing with stone-ground cornbread, whole wheat, or whole grain breads and be sure and load up on the vegetables. If you prefer rice stuffing, substitute brown or wild rice in place of white. For an interesting twist, try experimenting with different grains like quinoa, millet, or barley. This American version of the Middle Eastern tabbouleh uses bulgur and offers a unique and tasty alternative for standard stuffing.

4.       Celebrate Your Sides

Side dishes add color, flavor, and texture to your menu as well as pump up your healthy quotient. Make your vegetable side dishes just as attractive as your main entrée by using fresh, wholesome, seasonal produce. Keep them simple by roasting vegetables until they’re caramelized and crispy then top with a sprinkle of toasted walnuts, balsamic vinegar, or kalamata olives. Avoid loading up mashed potatoes with butter and heavy cream and instead liven them up with roasted garlic, fresh herbs, or horseradish.

5.       Downsize Your Dishes

Small plates are essential in the clean eaters’ kitchen because they help keep portion size under control and calorie overload to a minimum. This is particularly important during the holidays when temptation is everywhere.

A good portion control trick for cocktail parties, when we all can go a little crazy over a pan of hot dip, is to stick to something in a self-contained package.
I actually don’t even use my large dinner plates anymore in my house.  I packaged them up and put them away.  When you use smaller plates you absolutely do not eat near as much as normal.  The good part is that you still feel satisfied because the plate is full.

6.       Don’t Skip Meals

Resist the urge to “save up” your calories and skip meals in lieu of a big holiday feast. The practice leads to overeating and making poor food choices. Instead, follow the “clean” eating plan and eat small meals and snacks throughout the day even when going to a party. This keeps energy high, blood sugar stable, and fatigue at bay.
Tip:  To avoid an overdose of starchy foods at meal time start the day with a satisfying clean staple.  I have oatmeal for breakfast with 1 scoop protein powder, blueberries, 1 tbsp flaxseed and wheat germ to keep me full.  Then, I'm not tempted later in the day.

7.       Pay Attention to What You Eat

Clean eaters focus on fresh, unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, and poultry prepared without loads of fat, sugar, and salt. But, when it comes to the holidays it’s okay to indulge a little. The key is to choose a small amount (think about taking a “taste”) and make sure the food is worth the extra calories. Something as simple as beautiful long-stemmed strawberries dipped in dark, bittersweet chocolate can make the perfect indulgence.

8.       Don’t Ditch Dessert

Everyone likes a sweet treat, especially this time of year. Don’t deprive yourself of dessert just because you’re eating clean. Make desserts that highlight fresh whole fruit and search for lightened-up recipes of more traditional dishes. 

9.       Drink to Your Health

Alcoholic and beverage calories can rack up fast. To stretch your drink quota, spritz your wine or juice with mineral water or seltzer. At your own party, consider serving up flavored unsweetened teas, which make an interesting alternative to sugary drinks.   My tip is to always have 1 full glass of water for every alcoholic drink that you choose to have! 

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