Holiday Challenge: Eat Smart, Burn More, Maintain Balance!

Holiday Oatmeal‘Tis the season to be jolly! It’s December and we are in the heart of holiday season, a time filled with love, joy, rich food and decadent desserts. We attend holiday parties with friends and dine out at some of our favorite restaurants with family and significant others. Weight gain is one thing that is feared the most during the holidays. Consumers have one (or a few) “bad day(s)” of eating and want to “throw in the towel,” which is the wrong approach! Life is about having balance, not about being perfect. We all have our own weaknesses to face and obstacles to overcome.

 

Finding a way to incorporate nutrition and exercise into your lifestyle presents a different challenge for each person, which is why I always provide customized nutrition and fitness consulting expertise to my clients. Every individual has his or her own food likes and dislikes, food allergies and/or dietary restrictions based on past medical or family medical history. No one is exactly alike, which is why each body is unique and requires different nutrients and proportions. You should never compare yourself, and following the latest “diet trend” will not solve your problems. It is about learning what nutrients your body needs, and how to incorporate them into your daily lifestyle. You’re in for a treat because this month I have a challenge for you! It’s called the Holiday Challenge to “Eat Smart, Burn More and Maintain Balance. My challenge is focused on lifestyle as a whole, not just the eating component. It includes the following:

 

Make ½ your grains whole: Make sure at least ½ of the carbohydrates you’re consuming are high in fiber (>3 grams of fiber per serving). Fiber is important for healthy digestion, regular bowel movements, reducing bloating, maintaining good blood sugar control and increasing satiety (which can help you maintain or lose weight).

 

Sleep at least 7 hours per night: Lack of sleep can contribute to depression and increase rate of aging. When our bodies don’t get enough sleep, we produce more of the stress hormone called Cortisol, which can increase abdominal adiposity. Shortened sleep time is associated with decreases in leptin (a hormone that signals satiety) and elevations in ghrelin (a hormone that stimulates hunger). Your cravings will be revved up for high fat, high carbohydrate foods due to this shift in hormones. Our brain does not function as well with a lack of sleep, therefore we do not have the “mental strength” to make healthy food choices. For example, if we are presented with an option of a donut or veggies with hummus for a snack, consumers will be more likely choose the donut if they are sleep deprived.

 

IMG_7856Fit physical activity into your day: Goal of 30 minutes of activity 4 times per week (at least). If you are advanced and exercise at a high intensity on a regular basis, than 1 hour of physical activity 5 times per week is a good goal. I realize that we all have very busy schedules, which are even more compacted during the busy holiday time. However, we can’t make excuses everyday. I love the saying, “It’s not about having the time, it’s about MAKING the time.” We need to be strong and get it done! I encourage you to set goals, create a support system and grab a workout buddy to hold yourself accountable. Find a sport or activity that you enjoy, and make it fun, instead of a chore.

 

Eat fresh, whole foods: Avoid processed foods that are heavy in preservatives and saturated or trans fats (the unhealthy fats) because they will add calories quickly and contribute to weight gain. Eating whole, fresh foods (especially fresh vegetables and fruit with the skin on) that have a higher water and fiber content will fill you up more quickly and help you maintain or lose weight.

 

Asian SaladAdd a lean protein to each meal: Protein is an important component of every cell in the human body. Protein aids in muscle recovery, repair and rebuilding on a daily basis. Although protein is crucial, I do not recommend overdoing it and following an extremly high protein, low carb diet. Excessive amounts of protein put a strain on the kidney and liver, which have to filter the excess amounts. Lean proteins (i.e. fish, chicken, eggs/egg whites, turkey, lean cuts of meat, nuts/nut butters, seeds, Greek yogurt, etc.) that are low in saturated fats are best for heart health and weight control.

 

Add one protein shake or superfood shake per day: Protein shakes are a great way to get an easily digestible form of nutrients and antioxidants into your diet. When making a smoothie, you just want to make sure to avoid adding juice, or sorbet, or excessive amounts of fruit because it will spike your blood sugar. A few of my favorite protein powders are Jay Robb’s whey protein, Designs for Health Pure Pea protein, Vega One Vegan protein, or Trader Joe’s Hemp Protein. Here are a few of my favorite homemade shake recipes for you to try:

 

Berry ShakeEnergizing Berry Blast (Great for Breakfast)

  • 6-8 ounces Simple Truth unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 scoop protein powder of choice (i.e. Jay Robb’s whey, Vega One vegan, pea protein, hemp protein)
  • ½ cup organic frozen blueberries
  • ½ cup organic frozen strawberries
  • ½ cup pomegranates
  • 1-2 tablespoon Bob’s Red Mill ground flaxmeal
  • ½ cup organic spinach
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Add 3-4 ice cubes, blend and enjoy!

 

 

Chocolate ShakeAlmond Butter Blast (Post workout Smoothie)

  • 6-8 ounces Silk unsweetened Almond milk
  • ½ banana
  • 1 scoop protein powder of choice (i.e. Jay Robb’s whey, Vega One vegan, pea protein, hemp protein)
  • 2 tablespoons nonfat Greek yogurt (preferably plain)
  • 1 tablespoon raw, unsalted almond butter
  • 1 tablespoon raw 100% pure cacao powder or nibs
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1-2 pitted dates
  • Add 3-4 ice cubes, blend and enjoy!

 

IMG_2036Check back in with me and let me know how your Holiday Challenge to “Eat Smart, Burn More and Maintain Balance” turns out! To learn more about holiday eating, healthy holiday recipes and how to maintain your weight during this holiday season, contact Courtney Sullivan, Registered Dietitian, Certified Personal Trainer and Founder of Nutrition for Body and Mind.

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