‘Tis the season for good natured shenanigans and social gatherings.
I absolutely love entertaining but I used to dread all social gatherings when trying to “perfect” with my diet.
Yes, It can sometimes be wise to limit festive commitments when we are looking to forge new healthy habits. It can feel more challenging to break free from unhealthy temptations when we are constantly surrounded by the same situations that made it so easy for us to break our wellness goals in the first place. I see this with my clients are always on the go for work, or chasing after their children.
The holiday season can just exacerbate challenges for many.
Ultimately, sometimes we really do need to nip social obligations in the bud and reset when we know the environment may not be good for our mental health (especially when trying to cut back on, or cut out, alcohol). However, a lack of camaraderie, also creates imbalance.
Humans need healthy human connection.
If your current “human group” lacks an interest in their own well-being, that’s tough. It is wise to be selective when choosing where, or with whom, you invest your energy. That said, if you don’t plan to run away and start fresh, no worries… isolation is not the key to well-being.
Instead, this is where you get to be the inspiration.
For starters, you can 100% be social, partake in sports and holiday festivities and still lose weight, hit your wellness goals and feel fabulous when you have a plan. That said, there is no need to overcomplicate a plan. The Plan is simply to focus on real foods and for starters, I mean focusing on wholesome sources of quality, whole proteins.
Whole proteins, like roasted chicken, salmon, beef, eggs, (or for my vegetarian friends, tofu) are going to keep you satiated, so that you will be less likely to start noshing on the bowl of inflammatory Tostitos, which, after a long day, or a Ranch Water (or four), might turn into chips and queso, tater tots and pigs in a blanket.
The problem with many “festive finger foods” is that they are carbohydrate-rich but they do not have the most impressive “resume” when it comes to nutrient density, aka: are almost always lacking quality protein, vitamins, minerals, etc.
So why do we reach for carby foods?
Simple carbs (like chips, crackers and bread), spike insulin levels, which in turn helps our body make serotonin and therefore light up the brain’s pleasure center. Because alcohol lowers our inhibitions and also acts as a depressant (outside of tequila, which is typically considered an “upper”, but still a poison) we reach for those quick, happy fixes— Carbs! Even if you are not drinking, but rather– tired, grumpy, unsatisfied, sad, stressed, did not eat, etc, those simple carbs become a quick “solution” to uplift your mood.
Carbs are not the problem but they are not the solution either.
A diet low in protein and high in carbohydrates will often be followed by weight gain, mood-swings and the constant need for carbs to feel emotionally satisfied.
Prioritizing QUALITY protein is how you hit your wellness goals and still have fun this holiday. I stress quality because I see clients pull out bars, chips and meal replacements, and/or snacks from their oversized bags that may be advertised as “protein-rich”, but are also laden with inflammatory oils, preservatives and various unfriendly ingredients that do not serve our overall wellness goals.
If the goal is staying youthful while maintaining a healthy weight, balanced blood sugar levels, restorative sleep and a balanced mood, then we do not want to invite ingredients that promote inflammation and therefore the very opposite of that.
So here is what we do during this fun festive season: If you are the one entertaining— be sure to offer off at least two whole proteins. Instead of the layered bean dip and chips, perhaps a taco station with ground beef, shredded chicken and beans and a mound of shredded lettuce and fajita veggies in case guests would prefer a taco ensalada.
Instead of, or in addition to, pigs in a blanket, why not chicken sausage and grilled veggies on a skewer, or toothpick with that same sausage, a cherry tomato, ball of mozzarella and fresh basil. The goal is to have more protein and fiber and less carbohydrate-rich options. Or! Have them all and let your guests pick and choose.
Given the opportunity, I almost always opt to bring a dish to a party, anything from grass-fed sliders on grilled zucchini medallions, or gluten-free buns, to big green and colorful salads to pair with proteins.
It pays to be prepared.
Whether you are a guest to someone’s home, a wedding, or being entertained in a business setting, you are never just stuck to someone else’s idea of a meal. In fact, traveling with simple, shelf-stable proteins can be a game changer and prevent you from later binging on the bowl of chips, or basket of bread. Packaged organic beef jerky (preferred brands: Chomps, The New Primal and Country Archer), bagged sprouted pumpkin seeds (preferred brand: Go Raw), or a clean protein bar (like: 88 acres) can be lifesavers, as you race to and from obligations. I would rather a client choose a protein option with a few less grams of protein and clean, simple protein, than an option with crumby, inflammatory ingredients.