The holidays are a dangerous time. It is dark and we are cold. Not only are our bodies searching for extra calories for the winter, our spirits are searching for comfort and familiarity. Mom's smoked turkey, Grandmas killer stuffing, Aunt Janet's gravy, and your sister-in-law's to-die-for pies. (Or maybe this is just me fantasizing...)
And it is all there, spread before you, filled with butter and cheese and wrapped up in a crisp of bacon. But there is more. All your favorite foods surrounded by a zillion variations of cookies, tarts, custards, chocolate-dipped everything and heavy cream drinks. And it doesn't stop until after New Year's Day, where one last sickening binge-a-thon sends us all to the gym for two weeks in January to pretend that "it is all going to change, starting THIS year!"
Well, what if I told you that you don't have to feel like a wad of lard, dipped in regret, come January? Because you don't. There is a way to indulge without over-indulging or sacrificing your favorite comfort foods to the gluten-free, sugar-free, fat-free altar.
It's all a matter of prioritizing the good stuff and avoiding the fillers.
First of all, do not make the holidays "healthy." No one, not even a vegan, wants to eat a to-fucking-furkey. Make a curried vegetable stew instead, they will thank you. Do not use sugar substitutes or smart balance in place of butter. If you feel you can make a dish with a little less of the bad stuff without sacrificing flavor, that is acceptable. But no substitutes. It's depressing.
AT THE DINNER
When you go to a holiday feast, think of what you really want. Make a list of your must-eats. As you pass the dishes, or stroll the buffet table, don't plop a glop of every mystery casserole onto your plate. And for god's sake, don't grab bread rolls (unless bread rolls are a must-eat for you, and if they are, my condolences on the lack of culinary skill in your family.) There should only be room for your priority dishes. This tip alone should save you about eight million useless calories.
There are two types of holiday dinners in my extended family. One is a large buffet where many contribute dishes and one is a sit-down, plated course-style dinner. At the buffets, I like to fill 1/3 of my plate with a salad or vegetable, then one turkey wing. This doesn't leave a lot of room, so I am careful about the portions of sides I choose. This way I never eat too many filling potatoes and starches that expand to 5x their size within a few hours and make me groan all the way home. At the other dinner, I've learned to only eat about half of what's on my plate for each serving.
To help you eat a reasonable amount, don't forget to move during the day. Get one of your micro workouts in, or a small challenge. Take a walk in the morning before you start cooking. And eat. Eat a small balanced breakfast, a small balanced snack, and a vegetable-laden light lunch (to help you expel dinner later). Keeping your blood sugars level and not starving yourself will help you avoid all the cheese logs and senseless appetizers before dinner, too.
DOWN TIME IN BETWEEN DINNERS
But that's just the meals. During the season, you are inevitably inundated with cookies, donuts, cakes, pies, tin cans of chocolate dipped caramel corn, liquor, cream and syrup filled coffees, and more liquor. Use the same filter. Munching down another shortbread cookie for no other reason than "this one has the red sprinkles on it" is going to cost you. Don't eat the junk. Dunkin' Donuts? Store-bought frosted sugar cookies? Little Hershey's chocolates? NO. Those are the same damn chocolates from Halloween, just wrapped in Christmas colors. They are not special. They will not make you feel good. They are there all year-round, do not be tricked into thinking otherwise. Keep on your sensible diet schedule. If you have to stay out of the breakroom, stay out of the breakroom. If you have to throw out that sleeve of holiday Oreos or candy that your neighbor brought you, throw it out (or better yet, donate it to a food pantry). I used to feel guilty tossing sacks of candy and cookies away, but we simply cannot (and should not) eat it all. What's more important? Your health or someone spending $3.99 on you?
And if you are a gifter, consider downsizing the cookie tray, or better yet, giving a healthy item like fruit or homemade almond butter? Better yet, how about a non-food gift?
It's not such a problem that we eat a few decadent dinners and a slice or three of pie in this two-month time span, but that we are mindlessly stuffing ourselves with nuts and fatty meats and cookies and treats in between.We are both tempted and guilted into eating tins and tins of cookies brought to us by well-meaning neighbors. All it takes is a filter. Pick out the best and avoid the rest.
Lastly, don't forget to keep moving!