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50 Healthy Holiday Tips

By Tana Amen

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail! This is never more true than during the holiday season!

The best time to start preparing for a healthy holiday season is now!  The more energy and clarity you have prior to the holiday season, the less likely you are to fall prey to advertisers, food pushers and well meaning (but unhealthy) relatives.

  1. Make a decision today to take control of your health and don’t allow others to blindly lead you to poor health.
  2. Start every morning with prayer, meditation and journaling at least 5 things you are grateful for. Focusing on what you are grateful for actually alters brain chemistry!
  3. Serve others who are less fortunate than yourself. Get your family involved a community service project. This will usually do wonders for shifting the focus from gluttony to thoughtfulness and gratitude.
  4. Be an example to those you love.
  5. Break your sugar addiction prior to the holidays so you will be less likely to fall victim to gorging on sweet “death” traps.
  6. Eliminate simple carbs, sugar, pasta, bread, white rice and white potatoes immediately. For most people it takes about 3 days to kill the craving for sugar. For some of you, it can take a couple of weeks.
  7. To help eliminate the craving for sugar during your “detox” phase:
    • increase your water intake
    • eat LOTS of fresh vegetables
    • Never allow yourself to become too hungry. Eat 4 or 5 small meals throughout the day.
    • Don’t go more than 3 hours without some protein. Protein increases satiety.
    • Eat small amounts of healthy fat from avocados, nuts and seeds throughout the day. This also increases satiety.
    • Eliminate fried fats, trans fats and most animal fats. They contain toxic material.
    • Drink green drinks such as wheat grass or “green cocktails,” but avoid the fruit in them.
    • Minimize fruit intake for two weeks (no more than one piece each day).
  8. Have 70% of your daily diet consist of whole, living foods including raw or lightly cooked vegetables, fruit, raw nuts and seeds. The other 30% can be “concentrated” or cooked foods such as lean protein, whole grains and starchy vegetables.
  9. Always plan ahead and have an ice chest prepared with healthy, nutritious food.
  10. Have one day each week that you prepare some short cuts for your week.   If you are busy, this can help you and your children make healthier choices.
    • Boil a dozen eggs so they are ready to grab for your ice chest. They are also a great snack for your kids.
    • Chop up vegetables and fruit a couple days each week and keep them in an air-tight container- ready to snack on.
    • Prepare a couple healthy treats for the family, so they don’t cheat during weak moments. I usually try to have some “Goji Nut Truffles” or “Avocado Gelato” in the freezer.
  11. Prepare enough food for dinner so that there are always “leftovers.”
    • Immediately pack left over food from dinner in small, “to go” containers and put them in your ice chest when you are cleaning up from dinner.  Put the ice chest in the refrigerator so all you have to do is grab it in the morning.
    • My ice chest always has raw nuts, chopped vegetables, fruit, lean protein (either a hard boiled egg, fish or chicken), hummus or guacamole and a protein bar.
    • I always pack whatever salad and food I have left over from the previous night.
  12. Know the local “safe spots” in your neighborhood to stop and eat in case you get caught without your ice chest, or if you need to schedule a social event.
    • “Sharky’s” has wild salmon and steamed broccoli.
    • Wahoo’s also has wild fish.
    • “Chickfila” has  low calorie, low carb, and low sugar menus.
    • “True Foods” and “Seasons 52” have organic, locally grown, hormone and antibiotic free foods.
  13. If you are going to cheat, cheat with PROTEIN AND HEALTHY FAT!  Cheating with sugar sets you and your hormones up for a vicious fall, sending the signal to your brain that you are still hungry, even though you just finished gorging!  But if you eat lean protein and healthy fat (even if you eat too much of it), hormones are released that tell your brain that you are full and satisfied.
  14. Drink at least 8 glasses of water each day. This is not only healthy for your brain, skin and body, but it will help you not to feel hungry. Often, we feel hungry when we are actually thirsty.  Americans are chronically dehydrated.
  15. Move your body! Diet is about 80% of your weight loss success. But exercise has MANY other benefits besides weight loss. You don’t have to sit on a stationary bike for hours. Find an activity you love such as tennis, dancing, karate, yoga, etc.  Here are a few reasons exercise should not be an option in your life:
    • Going for a walk when you feel the “munchies” will often reset your mind.
    • Walking after a meal helps the body utilize insulin that has been released. Excessive insulin in the blood makes you fat!
    • The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism to burn calories.
    • One of the major predictors of longevity is the amount of lean muscle mass you have on your body after the age of 40!  Start lifting weights!
    • Exercise is beneficial for you mental clarity, bone density, agility, flexibility and mental well being.
  16. Find healthy alternatives to make the journey fun. Human beings are not designed to seek pain and deprivation. If you make this journey one of deprivation, you will guarantee failure. Being healthy and taking care of the body gave you is an honor. With a little creativity, you will find this is about abundance. Here are a few suggestions:
    Swap This for That:
    • Green tea with a few drops of stevia instead of coffee.
    • Sugar free, steamed almond milk with a bag of “Green Chai Tea” and a few drops of cinnamon flavored Stevia.  This is guilt free “Tea Latte. ”
    • “Light Coconut Milk” in your tea or coffee instead of half and half or soy creamer.
    • Drink sparkling water sweetened with root beer flavored Stevia instead of diet soda.
    • Try sparkling water with a squeeze of lemon or lime and a few drops of lemon flavored Stevia in place of wine. This is a great drink for parties when you want a “drink” to be social but you don’t want to consume alcohol.
    • Try almond milk instead of dairy milk and soy milk.
    • Replace ice cream with “Avocado Gelato. ” Recipe online.
    • Eat ½ apple with almond butter instead of cookies and candy.
    • Eat ¼ cup raw, unsalted nuts and 1 piece of 70% low-sugar dark chocolate instead of muffins, cookies and candy.
    • Try salsa or sugar free catsup instead of the catsups and barbeque sauces that are filled with sugar.  You also can look online for great sugar free catsup recipes.
    • Use Vegannaise, guacamole or hummus instead of mayonnaise.
    • Avocados, nuts and seeds are great alternatives for cheese on your salads.
    • Use lettuce instead of bread for sandwiches and wraps.
    • Try Shiratake noodles instead of pasta.
  17. Know your triggers and have a plan. Do not be caught off guard at the movies, amusement parks or parties.
    • Take a small ice chest filled with healthy foods.
    • Carry nuts and a protein bar in your pocket or purse.
    • Take green tea, fruit or veggies to the movies and skip the popcorn and licorice.
    • Eat before going to parties or anywhere there will be trigger foods.
    • If birthday cake is a temptation, stay for the singing but leave before they serve the cake.
  18. Kill the ANTS and negative self talk that do nothing to empower you. Your subconscious does not have a sense of humor.  Sow the seeds with your mind that you expect to reap!
  19. Remember to be gentle with yourself. Grace goes a long way in overcoming mistakes. Make a better choice the next time and don’t focus on it. Perfection is unattainable, and an excuse not to try.
  20. When traveling:  Try to take enough healthy food with you until you can get to a store.
    • A small ice chest with veggies, fruit, nuts, protein bars, canned wild salmon, hummus or guacamole and a couple chicken breasts will usually do the trick.
    • Go online and search for restaurants that serve wild fish, grass fed meat or some form of organic cuisine.
    • Find three restaurants in the area you are staying that fit your needs.
    • Ask the concierge for a list of restaurants and grocery stores that fit your needs.
    • Ask for a small refrigerator to be brought to your room for storing healthy snacks.
  21. Clean out your pantry and your refrigerator… And keep it that way!! Pay extra attention to what you allow to make it’s way into your home during the holidays. There is no law that says you must eat fruit cake and candy just because people send it to you.
  22. Don’t give gifts of baked goods and candy to people you love.  Begin changing the culture and leave a legacy of health.
    • Send fruit baskets
    • Gift cards for a bowling alley (or other family fun ACTIVities)
    • Gift cards for wild fish or meat farms, etc.
  23. Use spices and herbs to flavor foods instead of heavy sauces.  Many herbs and spices have been shown to have amazing health benefits, and they taste great!
    • saffron: improves memory and helps to support positive mood.
    • curry: is a potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory agent and helps to decrease the plaques thought to be responsible for Alzheimer’s disease.
    • oregano: potent antioxidant and may help with PMS and insomnia.
    • basil: potent antioxidant, improves blood flow to the brain and may help memory.
    • cinnamon: improves working memory and ability to pay attention
    • garlic: improves blood flow to the brain, increases immunity
    • ginger:  potent anti-aging properties, anti-inflammatory
    • thyme: Increases DHA (an important fat) in the brain
    • sage: improves memory and overall mental functioning
    • rosemary: antioxidant, anti-inflammatory
  24. Work with a mentor or buddy to add accountability.
  25.  Be sure you are getting enough Vitamin D and essential fatty acids. It is very difficult to lose weight without them and your energy and mood can suffer greatly.
  26. Minimize alcohol consumption.  Alcohol not only contains a lot of calories (in the form of sugar), but it decreases your judgment and impulse control.  Next thing you know, you’ll be flirting with that second piece of pie… And regretting it in the morning.
  27. Be proactive when you are out with friends and be the one to choose the meeting place or restaurant when possible. Try not be caught off guard by letting others choose establishments that serve only unhealthy foods.
  28. Have a plan for making the healthiest choice possible when you are in less than ideal situations. Most restaurants will try to please you.
    • Order a salad with lemon or balsamic vinegar and olive oil on the side.
    • Steamed veggies and baked potatoes (go easy on potatoes) are fairly universal.
    • Check out the appetizers, the “Small Bites,” and the side order menus.  You often will find things like brown rice, sauteed veggies (request light oil), sashimi style fish, miso soup, vegetable soup (but watch the sodium), etc.
    • Non-vegetarians can request a simple piece of grilled chicken or fish without sauce.
  29. Get a physical and have your important numbers checked.  It is virtually impossible to experience maximum health and vitality if your hormones and blood chemistry is sub-optimal.  Know at least these numbers:
    • Blood pressure and resting heart rate
    • Complete Blood Count—to check the health of your blood.
    • General metabolic panel—to check the health of your liver, kidneys, fasting blood sugar, and cholesterol.
    • Cortisol- a stress hormone that increases blood insulin and suppresses immune function.  It also causes that nice, soft “muffin top” around the middle.
    • Fasting insulin- An early indicator of inflammation, and used to detect insulin resistance.  Chronically elevated levels of blood insulin are associated with many diseases including cancer.
    • AA/ EPA ratio- tells you the ratio of fatty acid in your system.  This is another indication of inflammation.
    • 25 Hydroxy Vitamin D-  If it’s low take Vitamin D3 or get some sunshine.  Low levels of vitamin D are associated with depression, diabetes and cancer.
    • Thyroid- An overactive thyroid can mimic symptoms of anxiety that make you want to eat as a way to calm down.  Having low thyroid levels decreases overall brain activity, which can impair your thinking, judgment, and self-control, and make it very hard for you to lose weight.  Have your doctor check your free T3 and TSH levels to check for hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism and treat as necessary to normalize.
    • C-reactive protein—This is a measure of inflammation that your doctor can check with a simple blood test.  Elevated inflammation is associated with a number of diseases and conditions and should prompt you to eliminate bad brain habits and get thin.  Fats cells produce chemicals called cytokines that increase inflammation in your body.  Normal is <0. 1
    • HgA1C—This test shows your average blood sugar levels over the past two to three months and is used to diagnose diabetes and prediabetes.  Normal results for a nondiabetic person are in the range of 4 to 6 percent.  Prediabetes is indicated by levels in the 5. 7 to 6. 4 percent range.  Numbers higher than that may indicate diabetes.
    • Waist to Height Ratio (WHtR) – Another way to measure the health of your weight is called your waist to height ratio.   Some researchers believe this number is even more accurate than your BMI. BMI does not take into account an individual's frame, gender, or the amount of muscle mass versus fat mass.  For example, two people can have the same BMI, even if one is much more muscular and carrying far less abdominal fat than the other; this is because BMI does not account for differences in fat distribution.
    • The WHtR is calculated by dividing waist size by height, and takes gender into account.  As an example, a male with a 32 inch waist who is 5'10" (70 inches) would divide 32 by 70, to get a WHtR of 45. 7 percent. The WHtR is thought to give a more accurate assessment of health since the most dangerous place to carry weight is in the abdomen. Fat in the abdomen, which is associated with a larger waist, is metabolically active and produces various hormones that can cause harmful effects, such as diabetes, elevated blood pressure, and altered lipid (blood fat) levels.
    • Many athletes, both male and female, who often have a higher percentage of muscle and a lower percentage of body fat, have relatively high BMIs but their WHtRs are within a healthy range.  This also holds true for women who have a "pear" rather than an "apple" shape.
    • The following chart helps you determine if your WHtR falls in a healthy range (these ratios are percentages):

      • Ratio less than 35: Abnormally Slim to Underweight
      • Ratio 35 to 42: Extremely Slim
      • Ratio 42 to 49: Healthy
      • Ratio 49 to 54: Overweight
      • Ratio 54 to 58: Seriously Overweight
      • Ratio over 58: Highly Obese

      • Ratio less than 35: Abnormally Slim to Underweight
      • Ratio 35 to 43: Extremely slim
      • Ratio 43 to 53: Healthy
      • Ratio 53 to 58: Overweight
      • Ratio 58 to 63: Extremely Overweight/Obese
      • Ratio over 63: Highly Obese

Avoid Pitfalls at Parties Holidays Festivities

  1. Start with a heart of gratitude for the health you have been given… and take responsibility for it!
  2. Prepare in advance by having healthy, delicious recipes available for the holidays. Eating healthy during the holidays doesn’t have to be boring.
  3. Be sure you have a healthy, nutritious breakfast before being tempted with the less healthy options presented at most holiday meals.
  4. Continue to follow the 70/30 rule:  Have 70% water rich, live foods, and 30% concentrated foods on your table.
  5. Fill half of your plate with a fresh, salad (light on the dressing) first.  Add a second vegetable. Add the turkey and other cooked food last.  If the turkey and other cooked food cover about 30% of your plate, you are doing great!  You will be more satisfied and less likely to gorge, even if you do decide to have a second helping of turkey.
  6. Watch portion sizes. Since it is virtually impossible to count calories on food that you haven’t prepared, use the portion method.
  7. A piece of protein the size of your palm (length and width) is a good amount for most people.
  8. Don’t eat more than ½ cup of grains with a meal.
  9. Salad and raw vegetables are “freebies”, as long as they are not loaded with candied nuts, cheese and dressing.  Raw vegetables are a great way to fill up prior to a meal.
  10. Avoid processed dips.  Most of them contain a long list of ingredients that you likely can’t even pronounce… except of course, high fructose corn syrup!  That’s right, most of your favorite dips contain sugars that are toxic to your liver.
  11. Opt for more wholesome dip choices such as hummus, guacamole or salsa.
  12. Don’t dip into sauces and spreads unconsciously.  Dish a portion of about 2 tablespoons of guacamole or hummus onto a plate so that you don’t overdo it.  Salsa doesn’t contain a lot of calories or fat, but it usually does contain a significant amount of sodium.  So a word of caution to those of you on a sodium conscious diet.
  13. Avoid the bread and mashed potatoes.
  14. Wait 10 or 15 minutes after finishing your meal before breaking down for seconds.  Chances are you will lose the desire.
  15. If you will be celebrating the holidays with your well meaning, but “food pushing” family or friends, call ahead and find out what is being served so you can be prepared.
  16. Ask the hostesses if they mind if you bring a dish (or two) to accommodate the way you eat.  Most people appreciate the help, and this gives the hostess a “heads up” that you don’t eat a typical diet.  Be an example!
  17. Take a wholesome, healthy dessert with you to the party. There is an amazing “raw” food restaurant near me that serves the most outrageous desserts.
  18. Always carry some healthy food with you “just in case”.  This rule never changes.  Have a lunch box with nuts, vegetables, hummus, fruit, etc.
  19. If you know there will not be healthy food served, eat something in advance.  This will stabilize your blood sugar, decrease cravings and increase your resolve.
  20. Skip the fancy trimmings and opt for the more wholesome staple foods such as turkey without stuffing, salad, fruit, nuts, etc.  Most of the calories and inflammation come from the fat, sugar and salt filled additions such as gravy, stuffing, dressings, candied yams, etc.  You will potentially cut the calories of your meal by up to 2000 calories or more!
  21. Have fresh berries for dessert instead of pie.