It’s that sometimes dreaded, yet simultaneously celebrated, time of year. You know what I’m talking about. Where everything has suddenly turned pumpkin-flavored or caramel-flavored or peppermint-flavored. And then, just when you think you have found the strength to not order the latest spiced pumpkin latte at your favorite coffee shop, here comes the sugar cookie and snicker doodle flavors to woo your weakened will.
But STOP! Don’t succumb because there IS a way to get through this temptation-around-every-corner time of year. And for me, it has been what I call the Big 3: preparation, moderation and substitution. These three “-tions” have become my absolute go-to for this time of year. Without them, I’m not sure I’d survive the holiday season without completely falling prey to every must-try cookie recipe and steaming hot latte on the winter scene. So, without further ado, here are some key reminders on how to enjoy the upcoming holidays without completely stopping, dropping and rolling off the healthy living wagon you’ve been fighting so hard to stay on!
Preparation: First off, let’s talk about the sneak attack scenario. Let’s safely assume you’ve survived Thanksgiving. You kept your plate proportioned by focusing on the protein (turkey) and going light on the sugary carbs (ooey-gooey candied sweet potatoes). You kept your pumpkin pie sliver to just that, a sliver, and you’re walking away from Turkey Day feeling like a success. Good! But then prime sneak attack time creeps up (cue the ominous music)—it’s holiday shopping time! And before you know it, you’re in the midst of a mall, you’ve been shopping for hours and the smell of the food court, which is a stone’s throw away, is calling to you. It would be so easy to assume that the hours on your feet will negate the calorie intake of a tall caramel frappucino (300 calories!) and a single slice of Sbarro Pizza (480 calories!), but we’re dealing with more than calories; we’re dealing with the unraveling of your efforts to stay on the healthy straight and narrow.
So why am I planting pizza and caramel frappuccinos in your head? The idea here is to already envision the scenario BEFORE you are in the situation. Think and plan. If you’re spending a day shopping, sneak in a short workout that morning, have a filling breakfast packed with protein and throw some healthier snacks in your bag to get you through the non-stop shopping day. Not sure what constitutes “healthier snacks”? (And no, we aren’t talking about a reduced-fat Snickers Bar!) Try a nutrition bar to ward off the food court munchies until you can have a more proper sit-down lunch or dinner. But be warned: not all nutrition bars are created equal! Ideally, look for ones that tend to be less than 200 calories. Labels should reflect more fiber, less sugar, and solid protein (about 5 to 10 g). And natural sugars—for example, evaporated cane juice or honey—are a better option than added sugars. Nuts are always a healthy source. I tend to go for Uber Bars and Kind Bars. Yes, the calorie counts are higher on some of these, but they are made with ingredients I can pronounce, good sources of protein and are satisfying both for the taste buds and the tummy!
Moderation: Are you groaning yet? Yes, this is one that so many people struggle with. The theory of moderation always sounds ideal. A little of this, a little of that, but then it turns into a little more of this, a little more of that, and before you know it, moderation went out the window. You sit there, left wondering why people say it works. Well, here’s the secret: MINDSET. Stop going into moderation thinking, “I can’t have more than this scoop of mashed,” or, “I can’t have more than just a sliver of that pie.” Your inner holiday foodie will instantly rebel and want to have one more “sliver” simply because you planted the seed of “can’t.” Truth is, you CAN have as much as you want. You CAN do whatever you want. But you are choosing to do something different this time. And you know why? Because you already know how choosing too much is going to make you feel afterwards. Groggy, regretful, defeated, not to mention you’ll feel your pants growing tight and you’ll need the belt instantly loosened. Sounds familiar? I’ve been there. But how about this? How about owningmoderation and saying, “I CAN try ALL these awesome flavors and foods today and there’s nothing I can’t have a few bites of.” And let’s face it, holidays are made for indulging. But you can choose how that indulging happens. There’s something about food that when we plant the “can’t” bug, we go haywire. So with moderation, it is about kicking can’t right out from the start. It is about going into your holiday with a POSITIVE mindset. I can try this, I can try that. The winning approach here is, “I’d love a sliver of that pie and a small scoop of ice cream on the side,” versus, “I can’t. I can’t. I can’t,” and then eating half the pie later that night and digging a spoon directly into the half gallon of ice cream in the freezer. You OWN moderation. Make it work for you!
Substitution: Here is the latest addition to my list of “-tions.” And it’s a KEY one for those of you that are members of the same club I’m in. I’m a self-confessed sugar addict. So let me admit it right here on the pages of RI Fit Magazine. “My name is Rachel, and I’m a sugar addict.” And although I’m a four-day-a-week strength training and healthy eating gal, I love my sweets. The problem was that I had a tendency when the holidays rolled around to undo all that healthy living with cookie and cake overindulgences. I had to find a way to incorporate that love in a form that wouldn’t sabotage the healthier efforts I’d been making in my lifestyle throughout the year.
Enter Pinterest. Yes, Pinterest. You’ve heard of it? Of course! I began looking up lower-calorie, better baking substitutes for classic sweet desserts…and boy oh boy did I open up a Pandora’s Box of substitution solutions! For example, love a good cheesecake but not the calories and sugars that come with it? There’s a recipe that can provide you with a cheesecake fix for 100 calories and is a piece of bite-size heaven for your mouth! You can find that Skinny Mini Cheesecake recipe link in the “Sweets for the Heart, Mind & Waistline” album on myHeart, Mind & Muscle Facebook Page, along with a few other super yummy, but also healthier alternatives I’ve discovered. But don’t stop there; below are some ways to substitute your most favorite baking recipes with healthier options.
You can substitute the following*:
· Whole wheat flour for whole flour in cookies, brownies and breads
· Ripe bananas for oil/butter in brownie and cookie recipes
· Stevia/Truvia for sugar (note: you usually can use less than called for in recipe as Stevia/Truvia tends to be sweeter than white sugar)
· Applesauce for oil/butter in sweet breads, muffins and boxed mixes
So, now that you are thoroughly armed with the knowledge of preparation, moderation and substitution, you are ready to embrace the most important “-tion” of them all: CELEBRATION!
Rachel Langley is a certified Personal Trainer, a health coach and passionate fitness enthusiast. She is the founder of Heart, Mind & Muscle (formerly Body Made Better). Currently, Rachel is working on a project with New Balance Fitness Ambassador and Fitness Expert Holly Perkins, CSCS called Women’s Strength Nation. The mission of WSN is to educate and empower women with the benefits of strength training and change the stigma surrounding their place in the weight room. You may follow Rachel’s health and fitness tips and daily gym adventures on her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/heartmindmuscle.