November 2, 2010

Stay-Full Foods and Fabulous 'Fakes' for a Healthy Holiday Season

Especially as the holidays sneak up on us, even the healthiest of fitness gurus can't deny it: junk food is everywhere. Delicious pumpkin treats, sugary Halloween candy, and the promise of a gluttonous Thanksgiving feast are enough to make a fitness-minded person want to throw up their hands in defeat.

But not you, loyal bene-fitters!  We want to equip you with the same tools and tricks we use throughout the year to help bust those holiday-snack cravings and transition your age-old favorites into healthier options.

For example, around this time of year I can't get enough pumpkin - however, even a small Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks sets you back 240 calories and 36 grams of sugar - not so festive.  Try indulging in a black coffee brewed with the same pumpkin-spicy ingredients - like Dunkin' Donuts Pumpkin Spice coffee - with a bit of nonfat milk - about 5% of the calories and none of the waistline-busting sugar.

Speaking of pumpkin, let me tell you this: pumpkin pie is by far my biggest weakness in the fall treat department.  However, I can satisfy my craving by blending the very nutritious plain canned pumpkin and zero-cal pumpkin pie spice with one of my two favorite mix-ins: 0% Greek yogurt (layer with pumpkin and granola for a parfait!) or my morning old-fashioned oatmeal (add unsweetened applesauce, ground flaxseed and cinnamon for an extra-warm, fiber-packed treat).

Sometimes the best defense around not-so-healthy sweets (for example, that bowl of candy in the office or the leftover cookies at your child's school play) is a full stomach - which is why I always keep hummus and a bag of pre-cut, pre-washed veggies on hand.  You can eat an entire bag of broccoli florets (which, mind you, is nearly impossible) for only 100 calories - and 50 extra for every 2 tablespoons of hummus!  Not so bad for those of us who need a snack that feels as filling as its calorie count would have us believe.  On a budget to boot?  Cut your own veggies and make your own hummus for a filling snack at pennies per serving!

Need to feel fuller as you work to reduce portion sizes in your daily meals?  Try sparkling water - either plain (like club soda) or flavored and sugar-free (like Arrowhead).  Carbonated water expands in your stomach and makes you feel fuller, especially as a complement to a healthy meal.  Not a fan of the bubbly?  Make sure to stay hydrated throughout your day to cut through hunger pangs and fight "phantom famish."

Finally, take some small measures to prepare yourself for the holiday "rush" - research and plan tasty meals in your slow cooker so you aren't tempted to hit the drive-thru after a long day of work and holiday shopping.  Leave the treats at the party and resist the urge to stock your shelves with unhealthy holiday-themed sweets and products.  Eat a small snack before heading out for a marathon session at the mall or going on a three-hour decorating session in your home - make sure you allow time to plan, eat, and digest your food.

The holidays should be a restful time of fun, festivity, and the love of friends and family.  Don't distract yourself with unhealthy habits and you'll be ready to embrace the bene-fits of an exciting and healthful new year!

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