Holiday Survival Tips- Tips to add the health back into your holidays

Holidays are a wonderful time to share with friends and family. And what’s the one thing we all seem to be centered around? (Besides the Christmas Tree) That one thing is food ...delicious comforting food.

You know this time of year when you say ‘ahh it’s the holidays, I’ll have a little more of that pecan pie’ or ‘I’ll get back on track on Monday.’ Your self talk gives you permission to overeat, overindulge and send your blood sugar and blood pressure through the roof.

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What you eat has a huge impact on your overall health and it’s something to remember when you have a health condition that can be affected by the food you eat.

You have done a good job at working on slowly changing your diet but with the holidays approaching you have a lot on the line.

It’s the time where vegetables seem non-existent and bread, casseroles, and pie are the center of attention.

In this post we’re going to review some of the top tips for surviving the holidays with high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

These tips will help you add a little health back into your holidays. They’re perfect for traveling a lot over the holidays, eating out more with friends and family, or attending potlucks. Eating with your friends and family during the holidays does not have to derail your efforts for your health.

Being prepared and having a strategic plan will allow you to eat out at almost any family gathering and still stay on track.  

TIP 1 - Plan ahead. If you are traveling for the holidays, GPS some healthy pit stops along your route.

A grocery store is a great place to pick up fruit and cut veggies to munch on.

If dining out, most restaurants have their menus online and some even have the nutritional info posted (chains mostly).  

Go online, search for the nutrition information of the restaurant you want to go to, and plan out your choices.

Pick the foods that are higher in protein (at least 20-30 g per meal) and have moderate amounts of carbohydrates (less than 30 g per meal).

Tip 2 – Pack snacks. Keep a few healthy snacks in the car for long rides or bad traffic.

A trail mix of seeds, nuts and dried fruit is an easy, non-perishable option. Granola bars with protein and less than 6 grams of sugar also work.

TIP 3-  Drink please! Keep a filled water bottle with you at all times.

With the high carbohydrate and high sodium meals around the holidays, we tend to get dehydrated quickly so make sure to drink at least 3 liters of non-sweetened fluid during the day.

We often think we're hungry when we are just thirsty. Try brewing up a warm drink such as hot water with some fresh lemon slices. You’ll be surprised how this warm calming drink can fill you up and soothe the craving/hunger beast. Herbal tea is also a great option while coffee tends to throw off blood sugar levels and may lead to cravings and bad decisions later on.

TIP 4 - Be an assertive orderer. When eating out, don’t be afraid to modify the menu.  Trust me, in this age of “nutritionism”, waiters are used to it.

Ask questions and know the terminology.  Grilled, steamed, broiled, boiled and baked are fine but beware of terms such as creamy, smothered, lightly breaded, deep fried.

Ask for sauces on the side and leave out the fries/rice/pasta/potatoes that usually come with the main and ask for extra veggies instead (most restaurants are happy to do this). It’s easier to make the decision ahead of time when you are ordering rather than telling yourself you just won’t eat as much.                                  

TIP 5 - Start with soup or salad. Both can be filling and satisfying.  Get the dressing on the side and dip your fork lightly in the dressing before every forkful.  Stay with non-creamy soups.

The holidays can have a skewed view of vegetables, like using them as tools for the butter and cheese in casseroles. A salad can provide fiber and nutrition that might be lacking in some of your other meals. Pile on the veggies and it will help you eat less when it’s time to dig into the main course.

TIP 6 - Appetizers as the main course. Try ordering from the appetizer menu if you don’t find anything you want on the main menu such as grilled calamari, Caprese salad, or shrimp cocktail.  Order from the appetizer menu saves calories with smaller portions and is less expensive.

TIP 7 - Liquor Control.  Alcohol can stimulate hunger so never drink on an empty stomach (this really throws off blood sugar) and try to follow the 1:1 rule; follow a glass of wine with a full glass of water.  

Even try to cut the wine with ½ club soda or Perrier in a wine Spritzer or mix vodka with soda water.

TIP 8 -  Portion Control/Leftovers for the next day. Most holiday meals are on huge plates-take a look at the size of the plate or bowl!  Eyeball your serving size (palm of your hand) and divide your portion accordingly.  

Ask the wait staff to bring a to go container with your order and pack it before you start your meal. Bonus: Less for you to cook the next day.

TIP 9 – Eat protein before a long trip. Protein helps to stabilize blood sugar which, in turn curbs hunger. Eat a meal with protein before embarking on a long journey. Healthy protein meals include at least 3-6 oz of protein.

TIP 10 – Keep to regular meal intervals. Eat a meal every 4-5 hours regardless of what time other people eat.

A lot of times there is a lot of waiting for the food to be cooked or waiting for everyone to arrive. If the wait doesn't allow for a real meal, be prepared with a substantial snack like pre-portioned out seeds, nuts, dried fruit or cheese.

TIP 11 – Move more. During the holidays we gather to eat and then we sit.

If you know you will be eating a larger meal for dinner, go for a 20 minute walk before you show up for dinner. Then after you eat, gather up some friends and family so that you can do an easy 5-10 minutes of walking.

A lot of times just getting started is the hard part so just say you are going to go for 5 minutes and I guarantee you’ll enjoy yourself and walk for longer.

You will also feel a lot better instead of sitting on the couch in agony from all the food you ate. This increase in movement will help you utilize all that extra blood sugar running through your veins.

I hope these tips help you find a little balance between all the food and all the fun.

Enjoying yourself and spending time with friends and family is the most special part of the holiday season.

If you found these tips helpful then leave a comment below with your best tips!