It starts with the Halloween candy every year, and it's hard to discern where to draw the line. If you see the line sometime in March, you've probably gone too far. That's right. I'm talking about holiday eating, which by some coincidence flirts with holiday weight gain. No, not just flirts. Not even just dances. It has a full on affair with weight gain every holiday season, if your wintry eating habits are like mine. There's absolutely nothing wrong with giving into a little temptation when you just really want one more of Grandma's special peanut butter balls. The problem is we completely turn off our resistance between October and, possibly, sometime after Valentine's Day every year. That's an entire third of the year. All it does is put us on the same cycle of gaining weight, lamenting our weight gain, fighting off the addiction we've developed during those four months, and getting serious about healthy eating and healthy living just in time to look "presentable" for sun dresses and sleeveless shirts, whiiiiich we think gives us just enough leeway to have a few Reese's pumpkins after dinner by the time October rolls back around.
I'm not telling you what you don't already know. I, like some of you, have lived it. On Oct. 31, 2014, I was a healthy weight for my body. I looked away for just a second, and when I looked back at the end of March 2015, I was 13 pounds heavier. For a young woman who's only 5-foot-3 (and a half), 13 pounds of chocolate-covered almonds, sweet potato casserole, and biscuits make a big difference. It certainly hasn't been fun every second getting those 13 pounds off, but I'm happy to say that I did.
I'm sure you're thinking, But what can I do? It's the holidays! With so much delicious food around us for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, and Valentine's Day - and most of these foods only coming around once a year - we want to enjoy it. And we will. But aside from the suggestion to you as much as to myself that we dish out smaller portions of some of our holiday favorites, here are some alternatives to food we might eat all year round. Switch these out for the regular food items every so often so you don't feel as disgusting going back for your second piece of chocolate pie at your third Christmas party in a week.
1. Spaghetti squash instead of spaghetti Cut a spaghetti squash in half longways, scoop out the seeds and pulp, rub a dab of olive oil inside both halves, sprinkle desired seasonings on each half, and lay them face down on a cookie sheet or other pan. Cook at 425 degrees for one hour. A cup of this is only 42 calories. Add a little bit of sauce to make it more like the regular carby stuff.
2. Egg white and mozzarella wrap instead of an egg and cheese biscuit Scramble two egg whites with a dash of salt. I also add a lot of parsley flakes. Put an ounce of mozzarella cheese on a whole grain wrap, and heat it in the microwave for about 20 seconds. Put spinach on top of the mozzarella. Scrape the scrambled egg whites onto your wrap, and roll it up. Only 206 calories. I like carrots with mine for a light lunch.
3. Brown fried rice instead of Chinese takeout Cook 1/2 cup of instant brown rice (which will make about 2/3 cup). Drop 1/2 tablespoon of coconut oil into a skillet, followed by an egg (or substitute an egg white or two) to scramble. Add the rice, a fourth of a bell pepper (diced), 1/3 cup of spinach (torn by hand into smaller pieces), 1/2 can of cut green beans, and 1/2 tablespoon of soy sauce. Stir it all up in the skillet on medium heat. Enjoy for about 343 calories.
4. Cookie dough yogurt instead of ice cream Dump 1/2 cup of plain yogurt into a bowl. Add a tablespoon of peanut butter, 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla, 1/4 teaspoon butter flavoring (optional), and a tablespoon of chocolate chips. Eat it as is, or pop it in the freezer for a few minutes; about 190 calories. Add a tablespoon of cocoa for 10 calories more.
5. Egg white chocolate pancakes instead of pancakes Put two egg whites, two tablespoons of cocoa, two scoops of plain protein powder, two teaspoons of baking powder, and a little less than 1/4 cup of almond milk in a bowl. Mix with a fork until batter is thick. Pour mixture into two pancakes in a greased skillet over medium heat. Add five chocolate chips to each pancake if desired. Flip when they've cooked on one side. Cook briefly on the other side. Transfer to a plate. Put five more chocolate chips and a tablespoon of peanut butter between the two pancakes if desired. Two plain pancakes are a total of 195 calories; 325 calories after peanut butter and extra chocolate chips.
Try to keep getting at least a few minutes of exercise a few times during the week - which is hard, but will reduce stress during the already stressful holiday season - but also swap "normal meals" with healthy alternatives like these, or meals like them if your own cooking wheels are turning now. The more often you do that, your body can have the rich holiday food as a treat and not as a lifestyle that has no clear end.