As the holidays approach, there is much excitement about pulling out the decorations, catching up with friends and family you haven’t seen in what feels like eons, taking part in holiday celebrations, and indulging in delicious food that only makes its debut during this special time of year. At the same time, a ping of fear may cross your mind as you anticipate your waistline will surely suffer. With all of the delicious food placed on the holiday table and the mindless snacking while in deep conversation with friends and family, it is all too easy to overeat, leaving you feeling stuffed when it is all said and done.
Even the most health-conscious people struggle during the holidays; you are not alone. If you are looking to stay off of the food-coma bandwagon this year, Gabriel Patterson, Toronto fitness trainer and nutrition expert, shares a few healthy-snacking tips.
What Happens When You Overeat?
Well, for starters, you feel gross! Your stomach stretches out to compensate for the extra food, and your abdomen enlarges, often making it necessary for you to feel the need to unbutton your jeans or slip into your exercise pants to get comfortable.
Did you know that it can take up to 20 minutes for your brain to tell your body that you are full? By then, it is too late, you have already overeaten. Once overeating has occurred, your body goes into hyper-digestion mode, and your stomach releases excess hydrochloric acid to break down all of the food. This process can lead to a bloated feeling and episodes of heartburn. With all of your body’s energy being used up to breakdown excess food, you can be left feeling hot, dizzy, and lethargic.
How Not to Overeat
Holiday meals are often prepared with dense ingredients and lots of added fat. This, coupled with busy schedules, trying to organize out-of-town trips, keeping your kids busy, and making sure everyone gets out of the door in time to hit the road at a decent hour, and you have created the perfect recipe for an overeating storm. The unfortunate thing about life is that food looks much more irresistible when your body tells you that you need to eat…now! Instead of starving yourself all day because you are too busy to stop and eat or are saving your appetite in anticipation of the big holiday meal, snack throughout the day so you can make better food choices while at the dinner table.
Studies show that we eat with our eyes first and then our stomachs. If your body is already satisfied with having a couple of snacks during the day, you will be able to make better choices and control portions during your holiday meals.
Healthy Holiday Snacking
Snacking throughout the day will make you better able to survive holiday weight gain as well as any holiday get-together that comes your way. Whether you are planning to enjoy a quiet holiday at home or attending a large family gathering, healthy holiday snacks will give you the energy you need to make it through. In 2013, The National Institutes of Health reported that stress-related eating is a real issue; this can be especially true during the holiday season when everyone’s anxiety has bumped up a couple of levels. Avoid overeating rich calorie-loaded holiday food and snacks by filling your stomach a little ahead of time with snacks that are good for you.
The key to healthy holiday snacking is to make sure your snacks are portable. As a busy mom, you probably do not have time to cut up cheese, vegetables, and fruit, so it is important to choose snacks ahead of time that are grab-n-go friendly. Consider stocking your pantry and refrigerator with these beloved busy family healthy snacks:
- Fruit and vegetable bars
- Granola bars
- Dehydrated foods
- Fruit leather
- Meat, cheese, and crackers protein packs
- Baby carrots
- Assorted nuts
- Turkey or beef jerky
- Real fruit juice boxes
- Yogurt tubes
- Protein pucks
Snacks to Prepare Ahead of the Holidays
If you find that you have some time on your hands and would like to create your own healthy holiday snacks, Gabriel Patterson lists some helpful tips to help you get started.
- Find ways to use the whole fruit or vegetable. A lot of nutrition is lost when you peel off the skin and discard the guts of produce.
- Invest in a dehydrator. Dehydrated food can be stored for months and is easy to make during a quiet weekend afternoon.
- Bake granola bars in your oven. Homemade granola bars can be made with simple healthy ingredients and are easy to package individually.
- Bake vegetable chips in your oven. Vegetable chips are a tasty and healthy alternative to potato chips, and you can top them with herbs, spices, or cheese.
- Bust out your blender and create some real fruit smoothies. If you have picky little eaters at home, blending smoothies is an excellent way to add some veggies to their diet without them even knowing it.
- Make all-natural cereal packages. Dry cereal makes an excellent on-the-go snack and is easy to pack up in zippered bags ahead of time. Choose a cereal that is low in sugar and high in whole grains.
Your healthy lifestyle does not need to be moved to the back burner just because the holidays are coming. Follow Gabriel Patterson’s healthy snacking tips so that you are not tempted to overeat during your holiday meals. Be sure to eat during the day and pack some snacks in your travel bag so you are not starving by the time you get to the dinner table.