Food and the holiday season are not mutually exclusive. Yes, you can have a bounty of food without a holiday on the calendar (and, boy, do we know that), but the festive period is not without its bone-warming, sugar coma–inducing, mulled, baked, (and truthfully) guilt-ridden eats.
But come the New Year, there's always a collective mindset change where we shift from eating our weight in cookies to googling how to successfully detox. It's a cyclical demon each year, really. But before you pledge to drop 10 pounds right away, NYC-based registered dietitian and nutritionist Amy Shapiro says to pump the breaks a bit.
"After the holidays, everybody’s ready to be so drastic, but if we take small steps, it’ll probably lead to us being more consistent and being able to keep our goals," she suggests. As such, we've paired attainable diet and weight-loss tips from Shapiro and fellow dietitian Alissa Rumsey to help you get back on track come January 1. Want to know their weight-loss tips for the New Year? Keep reading.
Flush Away Bloat
Shapiro says that some of the holiday weight can be flushed out. "If we stay hydrated, we can easily flush some of the extra sodium and bloat from our body," says Shapiro. "Additionally, if we drink a lot of water, we don’t get those false hunger cues. Water is very important for our metabolism, which is important for weight loss." And FYI, drinking 500 millilitres (roughly 17 ounces) of water increases your metabolic rate by 30%.
It's as simple as this: Every time you eat a meal, incorporate some fresh vegetables. "Start your day with veggies with your eggs or have a salad at lunch or at least one vegetable at dinner," says Shapiro. "It's important to have veggies throughout the day—they're really high in fibre, which will help keep you full, and they're really low in calories. They also have prebiotics, which helps you stay satiated and keep your gut flora going. I always say to fill half your plate with vegetables."
Nix Empty Calories and Simple Carbs
When choosing foods, Shapiro says to stay away from items that have low nutritional value, like simple carbs and empty calories. These types of foods include cookies, cakes, bagels, baked goods, breakfast cereal, syrups and soda. Instead, Shapiro suggests focusing on complex carbs and "brown foods" like whole wheat, quinoa and brown rice.
Keep Your Drinks "Clean"
"Skip all of those festive holiday coffee drinks and cocktails," warns Shapiro. "Those all have hidden sugars in them. It’s cold out, so people are still looking for things that are going to warm them up or for comfort food, but those pumpkin-spice lattes and all of those fancy coffee drinks are loaded with sugar." If you're itching for a drink that'll still give you that warm, fuzzy feeling, try naturally flavoured teas. Shapiro adds, "Give yourself a break from drinking. Cutting alcohol is a really easy way to cut calories, and if you’re not ready to cut alcohol, then at least cut the mixers. Try and keep it clean."
Think Before Going Gluten-Free
Do you have Celiac disease? Then yes, a gluten-free diet is important. However, if you're just looking to lose weight, gluten-free isn't necessarily going to help you. In fact, it could hinder your weight-loss goals. Shapiro says, "Gluten-free is great if you don't know how to cut out the carbs that are in your life, but the tricky thing about that is there are a lot of gluten-free substitutes that are full of crap."
She explains, "It's easy to say, 'Oh, I'm gluten-free but I'm going to eat these crackers,' and then you eat 15 crackers, but they're still carbs. Gluten-free items are usually made with potatoes, rice … more white, simple carbs a lot of the time, and a lot of fillers. So if you want to go gluten-free, kind of like the Whole 30, and cut out grains for a quick jump start to your diet, then that’s a different story than just saying you're gluten-free. Because today you can get a gluten-free muffin or bagel, so it's not always calorically beneficial to go gluten-free. It's also usually void of nutrients because it's still processed food. So if you want to go gluten-free, stick to quinoa, brown rice, beans and root vegetables. But the substitutes are where people go wrong."
Don't Forget Strength Training
Rumsey, who is also a personal trainer, says not to skip this crucial form of exercise. "Many people—women in particular—neglect resistance exercise. Women tend to stick to aerobic machines or group exercise classes. Weight training is crucial for women in order to prevent muscle and bone loss that occurs with age. More muscle mass also helps women to better manage their weight, maintain joint flexibility, and improve endurance," she explains.
Reminder: It's okay to snack. In fact, it's encouraged. Rumsey says, "Snacking during the day can help keep blood sugar levels steady and energy up—if you do it properly. Skip the processed and packaged snack foods as these have a lot of sugar, salt and additives. Instead, plan snacks ahead of time and choose fresh or dried fruit, cheese, raw vegetables, nuts or nut butter, hard-boiled eggs, whole grain crackers and hummus."
Constantly checking your email and refreshing your feeds on a nonstop basis is technology overload. Rumsey explains, "We are now tuned into our electronics 24-7, and it's making us more stressed than ever. More and more research is linking this overload to increased risk for depression, burnout, and social anxiety. Aim to spend at least an hour or two during the day without your cell phone, Blackberry, iPad or computer." Being sedentary on our phones or laptops is also a recipe for weight gain and heart disease, so use your phone for bettering your body instead.