This year, enjoy the holidays without gaining weight

eatmoreThe holidays are a wonderful time of year to gather with friends and family and to give thanks for the many blessings that we have in our lives. First and foremost, we must be thankful for our health. We often take our health for granted – until something happens to us or a loved one. That’s when we realize the importance of good health.When we are in poor health, every aspect of our lives becomes more difficult. Please take a moment to consider what you can do to protect your health.

More than being thankful for our health, we are also so thankful for our loved ones. With a strong connection to others, we can enjoy a better quality of life. We have so many blessings, and although we all have struggles and obstacles as well, staying positive and hopeful is the best way to overcome them.

At this time of the year, many of us worry about weight gain. So many of our holiday traditions and gatherings are centered on food. We want to enjoy all of the festivities with our families and friends, but those extra calories can add up. Unfortunately, the average American gains five pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s! Five pounds of fat equals 17,500 calories. That’s a lot of calories that you have to burn off later in order to reverse that holiday weight gain! Instead, try to avoid gaining weight altogether. You can do this by adding in some extra exercise and making better food choices. Here are the top ways to avoid holiday weight gain:

Stick to your workouts, no matter what!

Even if it means getting up earlier in the morning to fit in some extra cardio, get it done. These are busy times. Prioritize your workouts just like you would any other important appointment.

Eat protein. Protein is the best way to stabilize your blood sugar, prevent hunger pangs and avoid fat storage. Protein makes you feel fuller, longer and ensures that you don’t fall into the “hunger pang – I’ll eat anything” trap.

Limit alcohol. Alcohol contains empty calories and even more importantly, it slows down fat burning. As I explain in my book, Eat More to Lose More, alcohol must be metabolized by the liver, immediately. While your liver is busy dealing with the alcohol, other metabolic processes are halted. At parties, limit yourself to one drink and sip slowly. Wine is the best choice. Mixed drinks made with sugary mixers or fruit juices are the worst.

Plan your food and keep a food diary. If you know you will be having a slice of the pecan pie, include it in your calorie count and keep the serving size reasonable. Don’t kid yourself! Instead, plan for the occasional treat by working out a little extra or eating super clean the next day.

Don’t go to parties hungry. Eat a small, healthy snack at home before going out to avoid overeating at parties. Never, ever starve yourself all day because you know you will be going to a party that is serving food. Instead, make sure to eat light, small meals throughout the day to prevent overeating unhealthy party food later.

Carry a snack when you run errands or shop. Inevitably, you will get hungry while you are out running errands. Getting things done during the holidays take longer than usual, as traffic gets hectic and malls fill to the brim. Carry a healthy snack with you to avoid having to buy something you don’t want to eat, or worse yet, not eat at all, thereby stimulating fat storage.

Here are some delicious recipes to try this year that are lower in fat and calories than the traditional recipes.

Cranberry Balsamic Green Beans

Green beans are a staple at the Thanksgiving feast. This recipe adds some zest without calories. Makes about 4 servings

2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed

1-2 tablespoons coconut oil

1 medium red onion, thinly sliced

1/2 cup dried cranberries

Zest and juice from 1 medium orange

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons pomegranate juice or cherry juice – not from concentrate

Almonds, slivered

Steam or blanch the green beans until fork tender, 5 to 15 minutes depending on the size of the beans. Drain and set aside. In a large skillet, melt the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent. Turn up the heat slightly and caramelize the onion until golden, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

Add the cranberries, orange zest, orange juice, vinegar and pomegranate or cherry juice. Simmer until the liquid is reduced by about half. Add the green beans and toss to coat. Add slivered almonds. Serve immediately.

Quinoa with Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Squash and Grapes:

Quinoa is a wonderful high-protein grain to add to the Thanksgiving feast! This year, forget the bread stuffing and try this healthy, tasty alternative.

1 1/2 cups dried quinoa (I like a mix of red & white)

3 cups water or chicken broth

1 cup black or red seedless grapes (do not use green)

1 cup Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved

1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut up into 1-inch cubes (If you find squash already cut up, use about 1 lb.)

Olive oil Kosher salt & pepper

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup pecans, toasted

On a large baking sheet, lay out the squash pieces with the halved Brussels sprouts and the grapes (left whole). Drizzle with some olive oil and sprinkle liberally with kosher salt. Roast in a 400F oven for 20-25 minutes, keeping an eye that the squash doesn’t burn.

While the vegetables are roasting, prepare the quinoa. Add the quinoa to boiling water or stock. Turn down to a simmer and cook about 20 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed and the little germ kernels are open.

Place the cooked quinoa in a large bowl and toss in the roasted vegetables and grapes. Pour in the balsamic vinegar while everything is still hot and season to taste with salt & pepper. Add the toasted pecans at the end, and drizzle with some good olive oil. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Enjoy the wonderful holiday season and stay focused, healthy and strong.

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