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holiday eating

Host a Healthy New Year’s Eve Without Wrecking the Party

Written on December 30, 2013 at 10:13 am , by

Enjoy your party and your waistline, too.

Written by Alena Hall, editorial intern

Tonight is the night—a time for us to remember all of the great things that 2013 brought us, and to celebrate the fresh start that begins at the stroke of midnight! However, these fiestas oftentimes don’t factor in all of the hard work we put into maintaining our healthy diets (even through the holiday season!). With help from celebrity nutritionist Heather Wilson, we have the perfect solution to this party diet dilemma: a delicious (and surprisingly healthy) menu for your table, tips for indulging in alcohol without the caloric consequences, and ways to snack smart and stress-free at a friend’s soiree. So slide into that LBD, add a little extra shimmer to your makeup and get ready to shake it into the New Year!

First things first: the last thing you want is for your guests to feel like they have to eat before your party because of an over-the-top healthy menu. Focus on revising the classics with good-for-you ingredients so they won’t even notice the difference, and introduce a few new recipes that are loaded with flavor, along with incredible health benefits.

Appetizers:

  • Devilled eggs are a must, but swap the traditional mayo for an olive-oil based version to cut calories and fat.
  • Class up your chip-and-dip display by adding a few health benefits: trade chips and pretzels for rice crackers, which work with a wide variety of dips and give a nice, satisfying crunch. Swap sour cream for Greek yogurt in any classic dip recipe for an extra protein boost.
  • Bring on the healthy fat spreads. Guacamole is one of Wilson’s go-to spreads at holiday parties due its hefty dose of monounsaturated fats and satiety power. She also makes a chopped olive tapenade that is loaded with flavor and omega-3s (recipe below).

Dessert:

  • Fruit platters are the way to go! If you want to upgrade your spread, trade apples for Asian pears. They are in season this time of year, taste great and provide twice the amount of fiber that apples do.
  • Bust out those Asian pears again and turn them into a dessert of their own by slicing them into bite-size wedges and sprinkling them with cacau powder. So easy but so yummy!

Drinks:

  • Start with red wine—we all know about its heart-healthy benefits by now. If possible, go organic to avoid any preservatives or pesticides that could cause unintentional bloating.
  • When drinking hard liquor, go for top-shelf vodka and infuse with fruit. Flavoring it yourself ramps up the taste and removes any artificial flavoring or sweetener from the equation. Wilson serves her watermelon and pineapple-infused vodkas on ice with fresh blueberries.

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Cheer Up! How to Nix Holiday Stress and Diet Disasters

Written on December 23, 2013 at 12:19 pm , by

Keep those spirits bright! Co-author of Hijacked by Your Brain, Dr. Julian Ford has the de-stress dos and don’ts to keep you from overindulging during the holidays. (Photo courtesy of Sara Forrest)

‘Tis the season to be jolly—right? With last-minute presents to purchase, cookies to bake and traveling woes up the wazoo, the holidays can be just plain stressful. And when we’re stressed, we eat. But don’t worry, we’re here to help! It’s the most wonderful time of the year, after all.

“We overeat because the alarm center in our brain hijacks the thinking center—it’s an ancient mechanism, built to protect us from danger when food was scarce,” says Dr. Julian Ford, professor of psychiatry and director of the University of Connecticut School of Medicine traumatic stress center. “It tells us we have to keep eating even if we know we shouldn’t or no longer feel hungry.”

The external “joyful” holiday pressures, in addition to those we put on ourselves, cause our noggin to go into over-drive, explains Ford. “It’s a perfect storm for putting our brain’s alarms on high alert, leading to a feeling of constant pressure, exhaustion and ultimately disappointment when we can’t duplicate the Jimmy Stewart/Donna Reed wonderful life.”

Eating can be a break from the hullabaloo hassle, as well as a source of more stress. As we all know, indulging in our favorite sweets and savories can lead to a downward spiral and the residual guilt always outweighs the joy we get from that temporary fix. To make matters worse, colder temps play into these mental games, setting us up for a diet disaster. “Our bodies may need more calories to keep us warm in the cold weather,” says Ford. ”Eating more in the winter is also often a way to cope with feeling bored when cooped up inside or depressed with the long, dark nights and short days.”

So how can we stop all the stress? Follow Ford’s top tips to tackling holiday H-E-double hockey sticks and the overeating that seemingly comes with the territory:

Make Your List, Check It Twice. Write down all of the foods you enjoy—those that give you that warm and fuzzy feeling with every bite, says Ford. Include both naughty foods and nice options so that you have a complete menu of what hits your pleasure zone. Keep the “good” ones handy in times of trouble (a low-cal granola bar is the perfect munchie for those long, winding checkout lines!) and prioritize those items at your seasonal soirée.
Want vs. Need. When you find yourself about to eat as a reflex reaction, take a few seconds to get off auto pilot and focus your mind by asking yourself, “Is eating this, right at this moment, going to really satisfy me and give me a sense of personal control?” If the answer is no, don’t eat it. “Remember that it’s your choice, based on valuing yourself,” says Ford.
Silent Flight. What’s the best way to avoid temptation? Distraction. “Look for ways to free yourself from the holiday (and day-to-day) pressures and demands,” suggests Ford. Carve an hour out of your busy schedule to find your center in your fave yoga class or sweat it out with some cardio. “Besides burning calories and reducing the feeling of hunger, exercise can help focus our minds by providing the quiet time we all need to think carefully about the choices we’re making,” says Ford. It’s all about seeking enjoyment and having a sense of self control.

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