Your Holiday Survival Guide

holiday survival guide

How I wish that I had a holiday survival guide to get me through the holidays of years past!  I don’t know about you but this time of year between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is the toughest time of year to get through and still stay on track with my healthy eating plan.  One day of bingeing can easily lead into weeks and months of bad habits.  But not this year!  Because this year, we’re going to get our rears in gear and be PREPARED!  Are you ready?  Let’s get started!

Did you know that the average adult consumes about 3,000 calories in one Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner?  Holy cow!  That’s nearly double what most of us should eat in a day, never mind in one meal.  So how do you go about eating smart without feeling deprived?  Here are some great tips to keep you on target:

SURVEY THE LAY OF THE LAND: When you arrive at your destination, check out what’s on tap – at the bar and at the table.  Ask what’s on the menu and begin to formulate a plan for what you want to eat and drink.  Having multiple courses?  Let’s break ’em down:

  • SOUP:  To reduce the number of calories, go for a broth-based soup over a creamy one.  Or just skip the soup altogether if you’d prefer to save your calories during a different course.
  • SALAD:  Just because it’s filled with greens doesn’t necessarily make it healthy.  Stick with your non-starchy veggies and limit the added stuff (like eggs, meats, cheese, croutons) and get your dressing on the side.
  • APPETIZER: This can be tough because we often think, “Well, it’s just a small bite” but before we know it, we’re 10 bites and hundreds of calories in.  Make your (mini) selection and put them on a small plate  then WALK AWAY from the table.  Instead of dipping chips, dip your veggies.
  • MAIN MEAL: Think of the MYPLATE method of filling your plate.  Using a 9 inch plate (this is a salad plate, not a buffet plate), fill half of it with your non-starchy veggies first.  On 1/4 of the other side of the plate, fill it with starches (potatoes, stuffing, sweet potato souffle, etc.) and the other 1/4 is for your lean protein.  Keep in mind that one serving of protein is about the size of a deck of cards.
  • DESSERT:  Yes, we all know that desserts offer very little in nutritive value… but if you’re into sweets like me, you know you ain’t just walking away!  Your best bet here is to keep your portions small and savor every single bite.  The slower you can eat your dessert, the more time your brain has to register the sweetness of it – which means you’re less likely to overindulge.
  • BEVERAGES:  If you can muster up the courage, try to stick with water as much as you can.  Staying hydrated will reduce your cravings and will help to fill you up faster.  Avoid sugary sodas and juices and if you must drink alcohol, go for skinny versions.  Check out some low cal options HERE.  Light beer, wine or wine spritzers, an ounce of spirits with a splash of calorie-free mixer, or champagne are also lighter options.  And never drink on an empty stomach.  The less of your wits you have about you, the more likely it is you’ll overindulge.

MASTER YOUR PORTIONS: One of the easiest ways to keep yourself in check is to use the MYPLATE method that I mentioned previously.  You’ll be using a smaller plate, so the myplate_bluetrick is to not pile your food high!  Kinda defeats the purpose that way.  There’s no measuring or time consuming thinking involved in this method which makes it perfect for your holiday gathering.  Don’t forget, liquid calories count too so limit the number of high calorie beverages you consume and drink water or sparkling water in between.  Fill your plate up with the healthiest options first and leave the less healthy choices last when there’s little room left on your plate.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION:  Not only is what you eat and how much you eat important, but so is where you place yourself at the gathering.  Hang out near the buffet table and guess what… you’ll be more likely to mindlessly eat. Park yourself next to your healthy friends who are more likely to make good food choices. Get involved in conversation but be aware of how fast you’re eating.  Nibble and savor each bite.  Pretend it’s foreplay without the sound effects (just making sure you’re still reading!!).

GET ACTIVE:  Get your workout in before you head out for the day.  Not only will you be more focused and more energized, but you’ll also be able to counterbalance any whoopsies you make at the dinner table. Want to get the whole family involved?  Clear a space, pump up the volume, and bust a move on the dance floor! Nobody’s expecting a professional dance routine so just let your crazy fly!  (or if you’ve been using Cize or Country Heat – show ’em how it’s done!)

PRACTICE FORGIVENESS:  Holidays are a special occasion and yes, you’ll be more likely to overdo it then you would on any other day.  So if your day doesn’t go quite as well as you had planned, let it go.  Tomorrow is a brand new day to get back at it!

Be safe. Be healthy. Have fun!

Cajun Spice Mix

imageLike your food a little spicy? Give this Cajun Spice Mix a whirl and let your tastebuds soar!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • dash of cayenne pepper (a little goes a long way!)
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 dried oregano
  • 3/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp Himalayan or sea salt

INSTRUCTIONS:

Blend all spices together
Store in an airtight container
This mix can be used as a rub or just add it to your favorite meat and/or veggies. I don’t even add the salt and it still tastes great!

Want more homemade seasoning ideas? Give these a try!

Italian Spice Mix

imageWho wants just boring basil and oregano in their pasta sauce? Heck no – this fitchick wants a zesty Italian Spice Mix!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 Tbsp dried basil
  • 2 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 2 Tbsp dried thyme
  • 2 Tbsp dried marjoram
  • 1 Tbsp dried rosemary
  • 1 Tbsp dried sage
  • 1 tsp Himalayan or sea salt

INSTRUCTIONS:

Blend all spices together
Store in an airtight container
This mix can be used as a rub or just add it to your favorite meat and/or veggies. I don’t even add the salt and it still tastes great!

Want more homemade seasoning ideas? Give these a try!

All Purpose Spice Mix

imageAdd this all purpose spice mix to your favorite dish when you’re just not sure what flavoring you’re hankering for.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp mustard powder
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp Himalayan or sea salt

INSTRUCTIONS:

Blend all spices together
Store in an airtight container
This mix can be used as a rub or just add it to your favorite meat and/or veggies. I don’t even add the salt and it still tastes great!

Want more homemade seasoning ideas? Give these a try!

Eating Clean on a Budget

living well on a budget“I can’t afford to eat healthy”… That, my dear friends, is total BS.  The truth is you can’t afford NOT to eat healthy.  A recent study done by Harvard School of Public Health showed that the difference in cost between healthy & unhealthy eating habits was only $1.50 a day.  But let’s face it, if you have a really, really tight budget, $1.50/day might as well be $50.  So here are some very realistic ways to eating clean on a budget without totally ripping apart your wallet.  Here are some of the most common ways to save some dough:

  1. Reduce the amount of spending you do on convenience foods:  those 100 calorie snack packs might be easy but they are certainly way more expensive than a DIY project of pre-packaging those same snacks yourself.  Dressings and sauces fall in this category too.  Do some research and learn how to make your own in a tasty, healthy, and more economical way.  Fresh is always best!
  2. Be wise with your organics:   Not EVERYTHING you buy needs to be organic.  Be picky and choosy when it comes to your selections and you’ll save some cha-ching in the process.  Have you heard of the “Dirty Dozen”???  These are produce that tend to absorb the most pesticides, so they’re the ones you should concentrate on purchasing organic.  Then we have the “Clean 15” which is where you really want to focus your savings.  These are produce that absorb the least amount of pesticides and are therefore, not as urgent on the list of “must haves” when it comes to buying organic.
  3. Buy in bulk:  It’s true that many items can be purchased in bulk to save you quite a bit of cash.  But only buy in bulk if you’ve got the storage space for it.  Otherwise, you’ll end up wasting all those extra goodies if the mice or other varmints get into them!
  4. Buy in season:  When your produce is in season, it’s much more readily available and therefore, often times cheaper.
  5. Fresh is best. Frozen is next:  Can’t find something in season?  Don’t be afraid to buy the frozen version, especially for veggies.  Just avoid the stuff with added sauces or ingredients.  All that stuff just adds sodium and calories that you just don’t need.

Anywhere you do research on eating clean on a budget, you’ll see some version of those items listed above.  But what else can you do to curb your spending on healthy foods?  These are some of the items I find the most helpful in my house:

  1. Plan ahead:  Nothing will save you more time and money in the long run than having a plan and sticking to it.  Start your week off right by putting together a menu, writing out your grocery list based on that menu, and then prepping ahead of time.  Chances are, you’ll be less likely to pick up that extra something-something from the convenience store or vending machine because you’ll already have healthy snacks/meals right at your fingertips.
  2. Organize, organize, organize:  Take a weekend to clean out your spice rack and re-organize it.  Put them in alphabetical order or sort them by savory vs sweet.  Whatever floats your boat, just make a mental note of what seasonings you have available, how long have they been sitting in there, and what you can use them all for.  (not sure how long those spices are good for?  Check THIS OUT.)  Now what about your fridge?  Do you know what’s lurking in that back corner or how long it’s been there?  And how about that pantry?  Go through it and know what you already have.  Now use all of this information to develop a menu that uses all of these resources before going out and buying more stuff.
  3. Technology can be a lifesaver:  And it can save your wallet too!  I’m sure you’ve heard to “Shop the Sales”, right?  Well, these apps take this concept to a whole new level:
    1. Did you know that specific stores have their own apps to tell you what’s on sale and at what price?  Check out Whole Foods, Aldi, and Target as some examples.  Do a Google search of your favorite store(s) to see if they offer an app too!
    2. Key Ring is another fantastic app that shows you sales at a variety of stores, no-clip coupons, a place to put in your shopping list, AND it holds all of those stupid loyalty key cards all in one place.  No more bogging down your car keys with those little plastic cards!
    3. Ibotta is another that touts its ability to save you money thru cash back rewards.  It supports a variety of big and small supermarkets including Target, Walmart, Kroger, Price Chopper, and Stop & Shop.
  4. Eat leftovers: Waste not, want not!  Eating leftovers saves you tons of time AND money by having foods readily available for times when you’re on the go.  I find life so much easier when we plan ahead and make enough food the night before to pack away into my lunch for the next day.  Don’t want to eat exactly the same thing 2 days in a row?  Consider taking the main ingredient from dinner and transforming it into something new the next day.  Here are some examples:
    1. Take a whole chicken roaster and make chicken salad or pulled chicken sandwiches from it for lunch.  Depending on how much chicken you have left over, this could give you lunches for days!
    2. Grill a steak for dinner then slice up the rest for a steak salad or steak fajitas the next day.  Just by adding a few ingredients, presto chango, you have a whole new meal!

Now, how are you feeling about eating clean on a budget?  Is it doable?  What tricks and tools do you use to get you and your family eating clean on a budget?

Tips for Eating Healthy on the Road

eating healthy on the roadThe key to success at ANY TIME is to plan ahead and be prepared.  That doesn’t change when you’re heading out on vacation or to a party.  In fact, it’s even more important to plan healthy eating on the road.  Here are some tips that we use to keep on track… well, at least 80% of the time!

1.  Pack snacks that make sense:  I’m not talking about 100 calorie snack packs of crap here.  Just because they’re “only 100 calories” doesn’t mean they’re good for you.

  • Oatmeal is the perfect breakfast.  Pre-portion out 1/2 cup oatmeal with a little bit of raisins, some cinnamon, and add a little flaxseed or chopped nuts for a protein punch.  Put this heavenly mixture into a snack bag and it’s a perfect portable for breakfast or a mid-day snack.  Any place you stop along the way will have hot water and a coffee cup to do your mixing and eating.
  • Nuts and fruit go hand in hand.  Measure out a small handful of unsalted almonds, cashews, or peanuts into snack baggies and keep some fruit on hand to pair it with.  Apples, oranges, or bananas work well.  Mixing the protein and healthy fat from the nuts with the carbs from the fruit will give you energy that lasts.
  • String cheese and fruit is another great combo if you’re not into the nut scene.  But note, I only mention string cheese here.  It’s lower in sodium and in fat then it’s hard cheese counterparts which makes it a healthier option to choose from.
  • Don’t like string cheese?  What about Greek yogurt?  Pair some of that with some fruit and a smidge of cinnamon and a sprinkling of stevia and you have another wonder snack on your hands.

2.  Pack & drink plenty of water.  I know, this may mean a couple extra pit stops along the way, but staying hydrated will help you feel fuller longer, you won’t mistake the thirst you’re actually feeling for hunger signals, and it will keep you energized for the trip.  (who can sleep when you have to pee???  just kidding… not really)

3.  Stay committed to your exercise plan. No EXCUSES!  There is really no reason for you not to workout to the programs you’ve committed to.  With streaming access through any WiFi enabled device and your BOD account, you can take your workouts on the go.  Even if you’re doing a strength training based workout, bring that resistance band with you instead of lugging around heavy weights.  Believe me, those bands work!

4.  Skimp on the alcohol.   I’m not saying NEVER have it, but limit yourself and select alcoholic beverages that are low in sugar and empty calories.  Alcohol is also a diuretic (which means it makes you pee!) so be sure that for every alcoholic beverage you drink, you’re adding another full glass of water as your chaser.

5.  Ask for what you want.  It’s no secret that restaurants add salt and saturated fats to their foods to make them taste good.  But those fats add way too many extra calories which means you’re more likely to pack on the pounds while you’re away.  Don’t be afraid to ask for substitutions – steam your veggies instead of sauteing them. Ask for dressings and sauces on the side so that you can control how much goes on your food.  Stick with baked, grilled, or broiled main dishes.  Ask for more veggies and less starchy stuff – like skipping the bread basket or loading up on pasta.

What about special events???  The same 5 items listed above pertain to these fun gatherings too, but here are some other tips to keep you sane and in control while still partying it up with friends and family:

  • Eat before you go – fill up on healthy stuff so that you’re less likely to be tempted once you get there.
  • Got your eye on a sweet surprise?  Then choose just ONE happy ending and make the portion match your goals.  Savoring every single bite will make that smaller portion seem like it’s much bigger and is lasting much longer.  It also gives your tastebuds time to register with your brain and stomach to say when enough is enough.
  • Select from healthier fare first – go ahead and fill your plate up with the healthier stuff first.  If you’re still hungry and want to dabble with the other stuff after that, go ahead… but again, keep those portions in check.
  • Be social – the whole point behind going to these types of events isn’t to get sucked in by the buffet table; it’s to spend time with friends and family and socialize.  So go ahead, be that social butterfly you always wanted to be.  Spend time catching up with the people in your life and you’ll end the night realizing it wasn’t all about the food.
  • Nobody will notice what you are/aren’t eating – when you’ve been busy flitting about the room talking with one person after another, no one is going to be paying attention to what you did or didn’t eat.  Even if they did, you have to decide what’s more important – the dessert table or that smokin’ hot body you’ve been working so hard towards.

Eating healthy on the road won’t be easy but you’ll feel so GREAT knowing you were able to stick to your goals at least 80% of the time!