December 24, 2012

Healthy Eating for the Holiday Season

Happy Holidays from Chickpeas & Chocolate! Enjoy this time with family, friends and GOOD FOOD.

Here are 10 tips for keeping on track this holiday season:

  1. Remember it’s a holiDAY – Just because there are numerous holiday parties and celebrations from Thanksgiving through New Years, doesn’t mean it’s a free for all. Let loose and enjoy your favorite foods on Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and one day of Hanukah or Kwanzaa and then get back on track the next day. One day of overindulgence isn’t the problem; it’s weeks of poor eating, drinking and lack of exercise that lead to setbacks.
  2. There’s no need for restriction – On the holidays themselves, eat the specialty foods that you look forward to all year. It would be cruel to deprive yourself of latkes, eggnog, stuffing, gravy and other holiday-specific delicacies. Instead, steer clear of fried foods, heavy pasta dishes and rich desserts that you have access to year-round.
  3. Use the Plate Method as a guide – During holiday celebrations with friends, family and work use the plate method as a guide to stay on track. Fill ½ your plate with veggies/salad, ¼ of your plate with starchy items, and ¼ with protein – This method is the perfect way to stay in check. Click here for a great example of the “My Plate” Method from
  4. Watch the alcohol intake – Alcohol contributes seven calories per gram, which is almost as much as fat. This doesn’t account for mixers and juices that are typically added to cocktails. And let’s be honest, once we get a few drinks in us, the late night munchies are almost inevitable. And what about that “hangover breakfast” you crave that is filled with fat-laden breakfast potatoes and oily/fried foods? Basically, drinking can really sabotage your plans to stay healthy during the holiday season. Keep in mind that dehydration can mimic hunger, so it’s important to stay hydrated. Try drinking a glass of water in between alcoholic beverages. I love adding seltzer to some white wine for a refreshing spritzer; this provides less alcohol and fewer calories. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans defines moderate drinking as up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks for men. Note, one drink equates to 12oz of beer, 5oz of wine, and 1.5oz of 80-proof distilled spirits (gin, whiskey, vodka, etc). See chart below, which breaks down caloric content of various types of alcohol.  Give yourself a weekly limit and stick to it!
  5. Slow down – When has there ever been a shortage of food or drinks at holiday events? Eat and drink slowly and allow your brain to catch up to your stomach.
  6. Step away from the food table – Take your conversations away from the food table – it’s hard to stop eating when it’s right in front of you!
  7. Eat REAL food – As always, avoid processed baked goods and foods with artificial colorings, artificial flavors and preservatives that definitely don’t hold a dime next to the delicious homemade items. They are not worth the chemicals, calories or stomach space!
  8. Don’t skip meals – It may seem like a good idea to cut back and eat less during the day so that you can indulge at a party later, but this typically backfires. First off, your body needs fuel so don’t deprive it. Secondly, if you show up starving you’re more likely to overeat. Third, if you start drinking on an empty stomach you are going to be “that guy.” Before going to your umpteenth holiday party make sure to have a snack.
  9. Walk it off – There’s nothing better than a good meal surrounded by the people you love. Instead of collapsing onto the couch with your guests after dinner, suggest a short walk [or if it’s the right crowd, put on some music and have a dance party]. Exercise is not only great for your overall health, but also can be extremely helpful for stress relief during the holiday season. Plan fun activities with your friends to stay active and motivated: go for a walk/run, bike ride, ice skating, rock climbing, take a dance/zumba class or hit the gym – whatever you like… just move that body.
  10. Just because it’s free doesn’t mean you have to eat it – Let’s face it, it’s nearly impossible to turn down a free ice cream sample on the street (or any type of free food sample for that matter); it’s exciting and unexpected. But, if we all ate everything that was offered to us during the holiday season we would undoubtedly have a fight with our scale…and pants. There is usually tons of free food displayed in the workplace throughout the holidays and the combination of stress, boredom and hunger make it easy to turn to the convenient and FREE food table. Make sure to stock your desk with some healthy snacks so you don’t fall prey to those holiday calorie traps. Some of my personal favorites are nuts, granola, rice cakes and peanut butter, fresh fruit and dark chocolate. If you are going to select something from the spread of free treats at the office, choose a small piece of chocolate that you can savor and enjoy.

Here’s a fun recipe to try out with your kids in honor of the holiday season: Popcorn Snowmen via

Happy Holidays!

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