As we leave the relative quiet of summer behind, we enter the fall/winter holiday period, which brings many food challenges. It starts with Halloween, which could be called the “festival of candy”, then rolls into Thanksgiving, which is perhaps our most food-centric holiday, then the December holiday parties and celebrations, with many temptations, food gifts, holiday baked goods and other distractions, and finally New Year’s eve and day. And it’s not just the food. The holidays can be a stressful time as well, with travel, weather, friend and family visits, and increasingly longer to-do lists.
What’s an iDieter to do? Rather than resign ourselves to 2 months of straight weight gain, there are many strategies that help with weight maintenance and weight loss even during stressful times. Enjoy this recent cooking demo with Dr. Roberts, and the tips and recipes below.
Avoid adding stress
One key suggestion is: don’t make things harder on yourself than necessary. Many iDieters are actually able to sail through holidays while continuing to lose weight, because once you are “in the zone” with iDiet, it’s easy to stay on track. But if you are in a maintenance phase, or you feel great pressure to indulge, try to think of holiday events as times when you will not gain weight, rather than times when you must continue losing as though it’s just another day. This can take some of the pressure off, because we know how triggering pressure can be.
It’s also important to avoid re-triggering your most powerful cravings. If you do feel triggered by specific foods, there is enough time to plan ahead so you can make iDiet versions of familiar favorites — versions that are lower in calories and higher in fiber, so they help with weight control while still giving you familiar flavors you enjoy. In this article, we share a number of recipes that could help.
The preemptive strike
Using the principles of familiarity and scarcity, we can trick ourselves to avoid over-indulging on Thanksgiving day. If you eat controlled amounts of iDiet-friendly holiday foods in the week leading up to the big event, it can help you eat healthy amounts at Thanksgiving, rather than pigging out. For example, in the video above, Dr. Roberts demonstrates making stuffed chicken breasts, which use high-fiber stuffing and are iDiet legal. This can give you the taste of Thanksgiving dinner any time, and if you eat this a few times before Thanksgiving, it will teach your brain that these foods are not scarce or confined to one day of the year, so it makes eating past fullness at the holiday meal less attractive.
In addition to confining your holiday eating just to the holiday day (e.g.: not eating Thanksgiving food for a whole week, but just for one night), you can also think of the holidays as days when you are maintaining your weight and avoiding big triggers, rather than as days in which you must lose weight like any other. This can reduce stress and anxiety. And if you want to indulge a little, you can save up some calories for dinner by eating greek yogurt and high-fiber cereal for both breakfast and lunch. If you only do that a few days a year, it can be helpful when faced with a big party meal.
Are leftovers a problem? Send the leftovers home with your guests. Stockpile plastic containers and baggies, or ask guests to bring their own, so you have plenty of containers on hand to distribute all the leftovers. Then get right back on track with your regular eating.
Will you be a guest rather than a host? Feeling concerned about caloric foods on the table? It’s common. You can bring an iDiet dish, so you will be guaranteed to have at least one safe food to eat (then be selective about the others, sticking to lean protein and vegetables without sauce). You can also focus on helping the host, preparing drinks, tidying up, introducing people and starting new conversations. The more you focus on others, the less you focus on your cravings and triggers.
Take it easy
If stress to entertain is a trigger, then be strategically lazy. All the better grocery stores create meal-prep kits at the holidays, providing pre-chopped vegetables and other forms of streamlined meal preparation. They also let you order many dishes in advance. Avoid letting your pride get the better of you and avail yourself of these opportunities to save time and add a wider variety of healthy vegetable dishes. If washing and prepping are barriers for you, then outsource that work to the store!
Choose only a few of your favorite foods, and have just enough to satisfy the craving. Use sensory-specific satiety to your advantage. This is the principle that each bite of food tastes less and less special the more you eat. The first 3 bites are the best, so savor those, and then stop! You can also remove calories as Dr. Roberts does in the video above. Instead of making a full pie with thick crust, make a nice crust, but roll the crust thinner, and omit it from the top. This cuts more than half of the crust calories out, while still allowing for a beautiful dessert with an artfully-arranged filling.
Leverage the season
White-meat turkey is lean and iDiet friendly. Many traditional dishes, like green beans with almonds are also iDiet-safe. And even traditional foods like pumpkin pie can be easily prepared as low-calorie indulgences. Canned pumpkin is high in vitamins and fiber, and low in calories. Check our free recipes for a pumpkin-pie parfait recipe, and you can make a low-cal pumpkin pie filling either by googling for recipes, or by blending a can of pumpkin with pie spice and a package of prepared low-cal butterscotch or vanilla pudding. Here’s a sample recipe. https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/pudding–pumpkin-pie Delicious, easy, and low-calorie. Top with low-cal whipped topping from the freezer section, and no one will be the wiser while they are reaching for seconds.
Fun is not just food
We have a saying at iDiet: focus on the family and the fun, not the food. The holidays are about more than eating. If you bring some party games, or set a personal challenge to learn more about the other guests and make them feel special, it can help take the focus off the food and keep it on the fellowship, where it belongs.
What do you do?
Send us an email or comment on Facebook with your own tips and tricks, and we’ll share them with the iDiet community. With a little planning and care, you can enjoy the holidays and meet your personal goals too.
Please enjoy the Thanksgiving cooking demonstration, as well as these related recipes: