It’s that time of year when extra calories lurk around every corner — frosted cookies at the office, eggnog at your neighbor’s, jelly doughnuts for Hanukkah or chocolates in your stocking. All these extras add up, and if you’re like most Americans, you’ll likely pack on anywhere from 3-15 pounds by New Year’s Day, yikes!

So what’s the harm in a little holiday weight gain, especially if it’s just a few pounds? But here’s the deal: According to researchers at the NIH, most Americans never lose the weight they gain during the winter holidays. The pounds add up year after year, making holiday weight gain an important factor in adult obesity. But you don’t have to fall into this trap. Below are my top 12 tips for enjoying the time-crunched, temptation packed holiday season sans the sugar and stress so you can outsmart the holiday weight gain:

  1.  Think outside the cereal box & start the day with protein. Still think Wheaties or your favorite cereal/granola is the breakfast of champions? Think again. Most boxed cereals are loaded with refined grains, sugar and/or artificial sweeteners that massively spike your blood sugar levels.  And that spike is followed by an equal and opposite crash, meaning you’ll be hungry in a couple of hours and on the prowl for more sugary snacks. If you’re only going to do one thing, then make sure to eat some protein at breakfast as that will set you up for “normal” blood sugar for the rest of the day. The simplest and easiest way to do this is to whip up a low glycemic smoothie with a fistful of greens, 10 oz nut milk, one frozen banana and a scoop of whey or hemp protein. If you don’t have protein powder at hand, you can always use a handful of raw almonds, cashews or any type of nut butter to amp up the protein content. Other smart breakfast options include eggs scrambled in butter with some peppers or plain Greek yogurt with a handful of fresh berries and walnuts.
  2.  Nosh on pre-party snacks before heading out. Your fingers won’t be quite so likely to wander to the calorie laden hors d’oeuvres tray when you are already full with protein rich “safe” foods. Try any of these options: celery/carrot sticks dipped in hummus; 12 almonds; tuna stuffed cucumbers; or apple slices dipped in raw almond butter, yum!
  3.  Crowding Out.  Adding in nutrient dense foods such as dark leafy greens will provide sustained energy to tackle your demanding to-do holiday list and also “crowd out” nutrient deficient crap masquerading as “food” and sugary sodas/energy drinks that cause wildly fluctuating blood sugar levels. Bottom line: You simply can’t eat five fruits/vegetables a day and still have room to binge on cookies and ice cream at the end of the day. It’s really that simple! The easiest way to get these nutrient dense foods in your diet is to whip up your own signature green smoothie elixir. You can make a gazillion combinations of the basic green smoothie by adding in 2-3 pieces of fruit, 2 cups leafy greens (think kale, spinach, chard) and 2 cups water or nut milk. So experiment and find the flavor profile that makes you come alive! Bonus Tip: Did you know the pure exhilaration of trying something new will actually decrease your need for and dependence on artificial stimulants like caffeine and sugar? So, go forth and seize the possibilities, but I must warn you that you may experience massive improvements in physical well-being, mental acuity and motivation, plus a full portfolio of fun!
  4.  Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. You may sometimes think that your body is asking for sugar, when in fact it’s dehydrated and really craving water! Try this simple delicious cravings-buster lemonade: In 8 oz. of water, add the juice of ½ lemon and 5 drops of stevia. You could also try a warm cup of green tea, sweetened with stevia with your meals—you’ll find this often does the trick and you won’t crave that post-meal holiday dessert. Also, if you’re going to indulge in holiday cocktails/wine, aim to drink 2 glasses of water for each glass of alcohol; you won’t feel as dehydrated and you’ll drink less as you fill up on water. Of course ideally, you want to avoid drinking too much alcohol at holiday parties. It’s not just about liquid calories but about control, so if you drink a lot, you won’t have as much control over what you eat. If you feel out of place without a drink, try sipping sparkling water or unsweetened cranberry juice, so you have something to carry like everyone else. 
  5. Sweet vegetables to the rescue. Experiment with sweet vegetables such as carrots, corn, onions, sweet potatoes, beets and winter squash that have a deep sweet flavor when cooked and will quell your holiday cravings. Roast some slices or chunks of sweet potatoes rubbed with coconut oil, salt and cinnamon for a yummy sweet treat, courtesy of Mother Nature!
  6.  Carry Stevia to go. The all-natural plant sweetener, stevia, has zero calories, does not raise blood sugar levels and is 300 times sweeter than sugar. If you have sugar cravings and want to satisfy your sweet tooth safely, stevia is your best bet. I like the Nu-Naturals brand as it doesn’t have any bitterness, unlike some of the other brands. You can carry it in your holiday purse to sweeten your beverages and you’ll find you’ll be less inclined to indulge in those sugar plum cookies. Stevia is safe for diabetics or anyone watching their blood sugar level. It’s also a powerful antibiotic, antioxidant (5 times stronger than green tea) detoxifier and immune enhancer to boot.

See you next week for part 2!

Article by Rupina Meer