Sharmi on the Trot

Travelling, Exploring, Eating…

Guest Post: Enjoying Holiday Food, Staying Guilt Free

Holiday food can inspire anxiety or ecstasy or both. The good news — average weight gain in the holiday season is just one to two kgs. The bad — while that might not sound much, research shows that if we don’t lose it that adds up year after year. Sweet treats and rich meals can be landmines for health-conscious people, yet no one wants to feel deprived during this time of the year. There’s no need to fear as there are sensible ways to navigate this territory. Here are my tips for making it through the holiday season without feeling guilty:

My Christmas plate. Enjoying everything in small quantities!

My Christmas plate. Enjoying everything in small quantities!

Eat what you love, leave what you like

Instead of piling your plate a mile high with things that don’t really tantalize your taste buds (fruit cake, we’re looking at you!), pick only the foods that give you true enjoyment. If something doesn’t make you swoon, leave it.

Keep your treats to one day a week

The biggest mistake we make is feasting on all days instead of a one-day indulgence. Rather than letting your holiday feast roll into pie for breakfast, limit your splurges to one event per week.

Nix the guilt

Feeling guilty after eating foods you don’t usually allow yourself to eat can breed more unhealthy behaviour. So abandon those negative voices in your head, give yourself permission to enjoy the indulgence guilt-free, and then remember to get back on track the next day.

Indulging in one brandy butter frosted red velvet cupcake!

Indulging in one brandy butter frosted red velvet cupcake!

Eat low to high (when it comes to calories)

Start with a broth-based soup or salad, then move on to lean protein, and by the time you reach those triple fudge brownies, a few bites will be all you need to feel satisfied.

Alternate alcohol with soda water

On an average, most adults consume almost 100 calories a day from alcoholic beverages. Since avoiding alcoholic beverages altogether may be hard during this time of merriment, alternating between alcoholic and a zero-calorie lime water can help you avoid pouring on the pounds. Bonus: You’ll avoid entering the hangover zone, a not-so-happy holiday tradition!

Balance acid with alkaline

Holiday foods are full of ‘acid formers’ like sugar, alcohol, and meat; so make sure you balance all those rich foods with plenty of ‘alkaline formers’ like lemons and greens. To not upset the Ph balance, eat plenty of greens with heavy dishes.

Veg-out on veggies

Try swapping light pureed cauliflower for carb-heavy mashed potatoes and add side dishes with more vegetables, like bell peppers and broccoli, to bolster nutritional value.

Don’t be fooled by the ‘health halo’

File this under sad-but-true: You can gain weight even if you eat healthy. You can overdo it with the veggies and dip or creamy asparagus soup, just like you can with ice cream. Make sure you’re not eating something based solely on its health-food aura. Keep in mind PORTION SIZE.

Bring out the skinny jeans

Elastic waistbands, ‘relaxed fit’ sweaters, and other loose clothing are practically an invitation to overeat. Bring out the dresses, skinny jeans, slim-fit suits. Not only will you look good but the outfits will stop you from over-indulging.

Just say NO… to food pushers

Whether biscuits or chocolates, you may feel forced to keep eating because people keep offering them to you. Put on a smile, politely decline and then offer a compliment. “These chocolates look amazing. I’m too full now but could I take them home?”

Be a snack smuggler

Traveling, shopping, and running errands during the holidays can lead to fast food and skipping meals. To keep your appetite in check, never leave home without a snack. Choose options like nuts, protein bars, fruits and greens.

Detox your taste buds

Over time we adapt to eating ‘hyperpalatable’ foods (high fat, high salt, high sugar or all three). We often erode the ability to appreciate subtle flavours, and train our taste buds to accept hyperpalatable as normal. You can reset taste buds by cutting out processed foods for just one week. Then, when you indulge, you’ll be able to appreciate all the flavours and be happy with just a few bites.

Three bites and good night

For desserts, the first bite is the best, the last the grand finale, and every bite in between is the same. In three bites, you get the full dessert experience.

Trim the trimmings

Most traditional holiday dishes are not that unhealthy—think lean chicken, vegetables and nuts—but adding in all the additional trimmings make the calories soar. Simply eliminate extras like gravy, cream sauces, butter and pie crusts.

Eat mindfully

It sounds silly, but lots of people don’t even realize when they’re eating. Taking the time to choose foods you really want to eat and then actively focusing on enjoying the smell, taste, and texture of each bite will naturally help you slow down and stop when you’re full.

Eat breakfast

Don’t skip breakfast as that leaves you more likely to overeat later. Start with something that has lean protein, complex carbohydrates, and some healthy fat to give you energy until your next meal. My favourite is an omelette made with one egg and two to three egg whites; easy-to-cook veggies like spinach, mushrooms, or sautéed onions; fresh herbs and a touch of grated Parmesan cheese. Add fresh fruit and whole-grain toast to round of the meal.

Use the ‘fork trick’

It’s hard to be able to tell when one is full. So try this: Once you take a bite of food, place your fork down on the plate and let go. Chew your food, swallow, and then pick up your fork again. The key to this trick is actually letting go of the fork so you eat slowly and realize when you’re body is telling you to stop.

Drink half of your body weight in ounces of water

It’s easy to confuse thirst with hunger leading to mindless snacking. Drink half your body weight in water.If you weigh 70kgs, aim for 70 ounces of water in a day.

Deepa Nandy is a Mumbai-based consulting nutritionist and diabetes educator. She can be contacted on deepanandy@yahoo.comFollow her Facebook page — Deepa Nandy’s Nutriguidefor day-to-day tips!


Happy New Year folks! Hope it was a great year for you all. See you in 2016 with new travel stories, food recipes, reviews and much merriment. Thanks for tagging along with me this year 🙂

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