By Pure Matters

We’re in the thick of the holiday season and our advisory board has all the right tips to keep both your mental and physical health in tip-top shape. Over the next few days we’ll be sharing tips to survive the holidays from the doctors, dietitians and health experts from the Pure Matters Scientific Advisory Board.

To kick things off, we have Dr. Marc Meyers’ five tips to combat the holiday stress, calories, and fitness struggles that come along with the season. Dr. Meyers is an accomplished speaker and author with more than 20 years of experience and numerous accolades in developing and launching innovative products in the confectionary, baking, and dietary supplement industries. He has a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in food science from Rutgers University and is credited with having over 35 patents in new ingredients, new technology, and finished product applications.  Check out his holiday survival guide below.

Tip #1: Plan Ahead

Make the decision that you will not allow the holidays to get in the way of your diet and exercise program. Choose to make a commitment to yourself right now (write it down or put it on your smart phone calendar to remind you as planned parties start to fill your schedule). If you set specific goals in advance it will be easier to maintain them for the rest of the month. Stick to your exercise plan, choose how much you would like to exercise as your schedule permits when you travel to visit family and give yourself alternate choices of activities (Be flexible: take long walks if you can’t run on the treadmill that you left a 1,000 miles behind).

Tip #2: Make Some Rules

Set up eating rules in advance of a party or holiday dining–use portion control and don’t deny yourself the foods you love.

Eat the great foods that you only get this time of year–but in moderation and only eat those that are your favorites. Pass on the ones that you really don’t enjoy or you know are high in sugar/fat/calories. Only eat when you are hungry, enjoy your favorite foods fully, and stop when you are satisfied. Do not continue to eat until you are full. Try to leave 20 minutes between food items to allow your brain to catch up to your stomach.

Also try using portion control in place of calorie counting. Instead of excessive attention to calorie counts that won’t make the holidays much fun, focus and be aware of portion sizes. It usually isn’t the type of food that is eaten that causes the problem–it’s the amount. Try to use your closed fist as a guideline for caloric and fat/sugar dense foods. Nothing on your plate should be bigger than your fist (or half of your fist, etc.) and try to use smaller plates so you won’t be tempted to fill the excess spaces with more food. Don’t go back for seconds and use the 20 minute rule to help you if you really want to go back for more. Try to stretch that to at least two hours before you go back for seconds if you are at an all-day event at a relative’s house. Sip on a few cups of hot herbal tea to keep you feeling satisfied between meals.

If you go out to a fancy restaurant, try to eat only 1/2 or 1/3 of what is on your plate–then take the leftovers home and try to eat the remaining food over the next 2-3 days as smaller portions for lunches or dinners. That way you won’t feel bad about not eating all the food on your plate at an expensive restaurant. By eating consciously, you can avoid feeling overfull, and the resultant guilt that follows it.

Try to eat a healthy meal before you leave for a party so you won’t be hungry at the party and make bad choices because you are “starving”. Drink a high protein shake before you go. Make sure you are at least half-full before you go–so your decisions are based on your stomach and not on your eyes.

Tip #3: Alcohol and Food Intake: Do Not Mix!

Drinking alcohol tends to lower your mental resistance to excessive food consumption -- especially where tempting, good foods are present. A few drinks will lower your inhibition and your ability to eat sensibly. If you choose to drink, try to do so far away from the food. Limit consumption to a few drinks–alcohol will still contribute to your caloric intake as well as making bad eating choices while you are in a “festive” mood. Having 3-4 alcoholic drinks and eating 20 small appetizers at a cocktail reception can contribute about 2000 calories–half from the drinks alone! As with food portion sizes, know the correct portion sizes for beverages to minimize caloric intake at parties. Use the smallest drinking glass you can at parties and limit yourself to 2-3 small drinks. Use diet soda to replace regular soda in mixed drinks.

Tip #4: Create Healthier Holiday Recipes

It is easy to adapt many recipes with alternative ingredients that are healthier. Get some recommendations from friends or online sources. Contribute a healthy dish to holiday potlucks. This way you can ensure there will be something both tasty and nutritious for you and the guests. In addition, many guests will appreciate your attention to healthy eating. When asked to take a dish to a party, prepare a healthy item that is enjoyable such as fruits and vegetables and a low fat dip. That way, if you have leftovers, you won’t continue eating high caloric foods the next few days to clear out your refrigerator.

Tip #5: Forgive Yourself

If you do surrender to temptation, forgive yourself and get back on track the next day. One overindulgent evening will not destroy all the previous days that you maintained your healthy habits. Build up some exercise credit by a longer than normal workout before going to the party, so you burn off more calories and have less guilt about indulging. Work off some of the excess calories by building in an extra hour or extra day of workouts after the party. You will feel better about yourself and get back on track faster with these tips.