Do you ever feel like all year you are struggling to either lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, only to find that come the end of November it becomes nearly impossible because of all of the festivities? Well, you are not alone. I have clients who complain about these issues daily, so I thought I would suggest some slightly better alternatives to those delicious snacks and beverages we love during the holidays. Keep in mind that these are just suggestions, and if you indulge on certain foods, but then use the below substitutions for a couple of items, you are already ahead of the curve!
1. Hot Chocolate
Ok, so we all love to drink something warm and tasty by the fire in the winter, and unless you're allergic (I'M SO SORRY), who doesn't love chocolate?! Here is a better version of a Hot Chocolate, and I swear it tastes amazing...
Get a dark chocolate with an above 70 percent cacao in it. Anything milk chocolate or below 70 does not have the healthful benefits of chocolate that people like Dr. Oz rave about. I buy a Belgian version. Next, get a milk alternative. Yes, I know you think that is a horrible idea because almond milk is not the same as a rich cow's milk, BUT if you get a milk that is half coconut and half almond, it WILL be delicious. Coconut milk gives the creamy thickness that you'll need for consistency, and the almond milk cuts some of the healthful coconut fat. Finally, none of this has a lot of sugar SO....I add honey. Honey is a natural sweetener that is higher in fructose than glucose which means that you DON'T NEED AS MUCH OF IT AS YOU DO WITH SUGAR. Also, it has antimicrobial properties that can help kill off germs. Combine 2 tablespoons of chocolate, 1 1/2 cups of coconut/almond milk, and 2 teaspoons of honey and voila! HEALTHY HOT CHOCOLATE.
2. Instead of mashed potatoes and gravy, bring butternut squash and yams with pomegranates to the party
So most people have a potato on their holiday table, but you can get the same feeling with more healthful benefits if you make a festive squash and yam combo instead. First off, most mashed potatoes have cream and butter, and don't get me started on the gravy! SO, begin with a baking dish and sliced yams. Next cube a bit of butternut squash and lay all of this out in the dish. Next take diced shallots and garlic and cover the vegetables. Add olive oil to just cover the veggies and a small amount of salt and black pepper. Bake at 450 degrees in the oven, turning the veggies over once at about 15 minutes, AND add pomegranates. Bake for 5-10 more minutes, depending on your oven, and you're done! Butternut squash has vitamins C and E as well as folate. Yams have potassium and manganese. Pomegranates have antioxidants that help combat a variety of diseases. Shallots help reduce cholesterol, garlic has very few calories and combats sickness, and olive oil protects against heart disease and has healthful fats. By the way, this tastes amazing!
3. Parsnip and celery root latkes instead of potatoes and sautéed broccolini instead of green bean casserole
My husband is Jewish and I was raised Christian, so growing up he had potato latkes while I had green bean casserole. Latkes are fried, and green bean casserole traditionally has butter and sometimes bacon and cheese. Healthy alternatives to the high starch pf a potato latke would be to use parsnips and celery root instead, AND to sauté broccolini in a pan with lemon, garlic, and olive oil instead of that whole casserole thing. You could use green beans if you like, but broccolini adds a heartiness to the dish in its consistency and fibrous quality that will make you feel full. Parsnips and potatoes are similar in health benefits, BUT parsnips have way fewer calories than potatoes. Broccolini is high in calcium, so it's good for those at the table that might have developing osteoporosis.
There you have it! A few SUGGESTIONS to make you feel a bit better about eating and enjoying your food this season. Remember, the thing is to ENJOY...if you indulge a bit, so what. It is the holidays after all. You can always revisit my blog last week to get your body moving if you had too many cookies at the office party the other night!
Happy Eating, Happy Living
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It’s December, a month for celebration, nostalgia, and cultural traditions...which means a lot of delicious food and drink! Naturally it is important to maintain some health conscious effort as much as possible. The best way is to let yourself indulge and enjoy but also GET YOUR WORKOUT ON. Even if it’s just a quickie! :-) The above video illustrates my version of just that! It gets the whole body moving and though it says here it’s two minutes and one second, it’s really about 15 to 20 minutes :-) I sped up the video to keep you motivated. Here is also a list of the exercises I’m doing with some tips: REMEMBER, use caution when attempting new movement, do what you can, and get inspired. Happy Holidays!
1. Energy breathing squat variation on yoga salutation
- use your breath to guide the motion… Inhale and reach the arms out to the side and up above your head, gathering up all of the positive energy in the room as you open your hips and squat down. Then exhale as your hands come together above your head and press good energy down through to your center. Next bring your feet together and circle the arms above your head with a little backbend arch looking up at your hands as you inhale, and as you exhale drawl your palms together down to your heart center. Repeat this four times. Note, it is important to begin any work out by getting in touch with your breathing. Your breath helps to generate the fire that warms your body inside and out.
2. Hip stabilizing lunge balances
- using opposing arms to legs, take your right ball of your foot back into a lunge while bending the front left knee keeping the hip bones square to the front, take a breath here, and then lift the back leg up through your center to Touch opposite elbow to knee as you exhale. Repeat this eight times and then switch to the other side. If you have trouble lifting the leg up through the middle without falling over, tap the foot in next to the other foot instead until you can maintain more stabilization through your center. This exercise is especially good to strengthen the glutes and hamstrings while lengthening the quads.
3. Side to side cardio inducing punches
- using a “chasse “ movement, or step together step, move first to your right step together step then stay wide as you twist and punch left then right. Repeat to the other side punching right then left so that you are always alternating sides. One revolution is to the right and to the left. So do 4 to 5 revolutions total. Note, if you pull your abdominals in while executing this movement especially the twisting, your abs will be feeling it. Also twist all the way from your back just above the waist for a smaller trimmer waist. This quick burst of movement helps get your heart rate pumping. Inhale as you step together step, exhale as you punch twice.
4. Twisting pull ins
- reach up to the right diagonal with both arms and pull your left knee up as you twist your elbows to meet your knee and back out. Repeat this five times than switch sides. This is taking the side to side cardio inducing punches and increasing your heart rate a bit more with just the twisting part. We are still working the abs and the core muscles around the back as well.
5. Jog up and back drops
- still utilizing your cardiovascular muscles, jog four steps backwards and touch the floor in a mini lunge, then jog four steps forward and lift a knee twisting your torso towards the knee. Remember to keep breathing and repeat this about four times back and four times forward.
6. Plank pull ins with pushups
- beginning in a plank pose with your wrists directly under your shoulders, pull your shoulder blades down your back and pull your belly button up and in. make sure you are flat, tail bone in line with your head, and pull the right leg knee towards your right elbow five times. Then either stay in full plank or drop to a knee plank as I have done in the video above, and execute 10 push-ups. Then pop back up into the plank and pull the left leg in five times and repeat 10 push-ups. You do not have to do this very quickly. It is more important to execute the movement as technically correct as possible. Be careful that you do not collapse your torso as you perform the pull ins. Be careful that you keep your core engaged as you execute the push-ups.
7. Plank to downward dog spinal stretch
- wherever you finished the previous exercise, press into a plank pose again and take a big breath. As you exhale slowly move your body into a downward facing dog, initiating with your core and lifting your sit bones up to the ceiling. If you can, drop the heels on the floor to stretch through the back of the legs. Inhale and initiate again from the core but also with the sternum as you stretch your spine back through into a plank. Repeat this 4 to 5 times. Be sure you are not jamming into your wrists by keeping a slight bend in the elbows and your shoulder blades drawing down your back. It’s Really important to keep the belly button engaged the whole time and remember to let go of the head as you stretch into the downward facing dog looking at your feet.
8. Back extension stretches
- lie on your stomach and relax the tops of your feet to the floor. Pull your thumbs in line with your breastbone and your elbows in toward your rib cage. Pull your shoulder blades down your back and lift your chest pulling your abdominals in and keeping your hips on the floor. Only come up as high as you can maintain without pinching your lower back. Repeat this five times. Note, back extensions are very important to maintaining a healthy core. It is very important to stretch The front of the body as well as the back.
- this is a mat Pilates exercise that I find to be very effective as swimming gets the whole body working as one unit. Reaching your arms out in front of you, palms facing down, inhale and lift the heart as you pump the arms and legs in a swimming motion, then exhale and keep pumping. The idea is to inhale for five counts, then exhale for five counts. As you inhale, be sure to lift as high as you can through your sternum off of the floor and as you exhale, think of lengthening out through your limbs in both directions as far as you can. Repeat this for about five breath cycles, one cycle is both a five count inhale and a five count exhale.
10. Finish in child’s pose
- it is very important to end any back extension exercise with child’s pose in order to let go of any tension that might’ve gotten stirred up in the lower back. As you relax in this pose, think of stretching your arms out in front of you, dropping your forehead to the floor, and letting the weight of your hips drop towards your feet so that your lower back is nice and long. Take a big breath in through your nose, and as you exhale, sigh it out. Do this three times.