Avoid the festive 15

The holidays can be a tempting time in terms of eating and drinking. All too often, we pay for our choices in the New Year when we step on the scale or find a favorite outfit a bit snug. By maintaining a balanced regimen, you can still enjoy the holiday festivities, avoid the aftermath, and launch into the new year ahead of the game.

There are things we indulge in because we want them and then things we indulge in because they are in front of us. Most people know which indulgence they prioritize — commonly sugar, salt, or alcohol. These may change from day to day, but like many things in life, knowing what you want is key.

Our bodies cannot store alcohol, and we make every effort to get it out of our system. Alcohol negatively affects our blood sugar and can cause low blood sugar, known as hypoglycemia. The hypoglycemia increases hunger, which results in the familiar munchies. Alcohol has no nutrients, fat, carbohydrates, or protein, but this blood sugar imbalance can greatly affect weight.

Follow these guidelines when consuming alcohol:

  • • Never drink on an empty stomach.
  • • Consider alcohol your treat, and maintain a clean diet consisting of vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats.
  • • Moderation is key — for men, no more than 4 drinks per day and no more than 14 drinks per week. For women, no more than 3 drinks per day and no more than 7 drinks per week.
  • • Drink a glass of water between each alcoholic beverage.
  • • Alcohol impairs nutrient absorption, so take a good B-complex before a night out to avoid or reduce a hangover.
  • • Avoid diet soda mixers and carbonated beverages, which actually increase the rate of intoxication.
  • • Drinking alters your liver metabolism, so consult your doctor if you are taking any medications.

Staying hydrated is key to maintaining a healthful weight and to eliminate accumulated toxins. A good general rule is to drink half your body weight in ounces. When properly hydrated, your body is more inclined to release toxins from fat cells to be removed from the body.

If you know you have particular dietary needs, bring a dish to your events even if it is not a potluck. People never say no to more delicious food and you remain guilt-free. Here is a crowd pleaser:

Spicy Pumpkin Hummus

Serves 12

  • 1-14 ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1¼ cups pumpkin puree
  • ¼ cup tahini
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ¼–½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place garbanzo beans in the bowl of a food processor. Process until very finely chopped. With the motor running, add the garlic through the tube and process until very fine. Add the remaining ingredients and process until smooth. Taste for seasoning, adding additional salt, pepper and lemon juice, if desired.

Serve with fresh vegetables or sweet potato chips.

Many people “bank” food for the day, so they can indulge more in the evening. This tactic usually backfires because you will find yourself ravenous by the time the evening comes. Eat healthful meals consisting of lean protein, healthy fats, and vegetables if you know you are going to indulge later.

The purpose of the holidays is to connect and spend time with those you love, so make sure to sit down and be present for the entire experience. Slow down by chewing your food thoroughly (approximately 30 chews per bite) to let your satiety signals keep up with your intake. This eating tip alone can make a giant impact!

The holiday season can bring about long evenings, but staying on top of your sleep will help you reduce stress and fatigue. The fatigue from lack of sleep can lead your body to crave more food, particularly sugar and salt, to maintain energy levels.

During the holidays, there is potential for last-minute exciting activities to derail your plans. Getting your exercise out of the way in the morning allows you to check it off your list and stoke your metabolism at the start of the day. By combining cardiovascular exercise like walking, cycling, jogging, or swimming with weight training, you can increase your metabolism and build muscle to burn more calories. If you are traveling, plan a body weight regimen ahead to keep you on track.

I will be kicking off the new year with a three-week detox with the Doc Workshop educating you on nutrition and personalizing a plan to your lifestyle. You will take away tools you can implement for the rest of 2014 to achieve your health goals. Please call 415-732-7029 for more information.

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Thalia Farshchian is a naturopathic doctor at Discover Health. Her background includes both conventional and alternative modalities, and her practice is primarily focused on weight management, hormone imbalances and gastrointestinal conditions. E-mail: [email protected]