10 Healthy Habits to Take You Through the Holidays
Florence Comite MDDec 9, 2021
If you’re reading this, the chances are you’ve realized that you may not always make the right choices nutritionally. That’s great news! Most of us don’t. We’re not perfect, and it’s even more challenging around the holidays.
With that in mind, here are 10 ideas to help you to stay on top of your nutrition over the holidays and into the New Year. You’ll be surprised just how much of a difference even one or two small improvements will mean to your overall health.
1. Start the Day Right
An all-carb breakfast of a muffin and a banana will leave you reaching for the cookie jar or a doughnut before lunch, so get into the habit of fueling up with a low-carb morning meal like Greek yogurt or cottage cheese with berries, a protein smoothie, whole wheat toast or a banana with almond butter, a veggie omelet (2-3 free-range eggs) if you want to avoid a mid-morning slump due to low sugar and high insulin.
2. Stay Hydrated
The effects of dehydration on your body, mind, and cognitive health are well-documented. Alcohol is a powerful diuretic, so with festive cocktails around every corner you could easily become dehydrated. Plan ahead and drink one to two glasses every day when you rise in the morning, plus one or two with every meal and snack. Your urine should be a light straw color, so let that be your guide.
3. Move Toward High Protein, Low Carb
This muscle-building macro should always be a key ingredient of your diet throughout life. Conventional advice is that individuals should consume 0.8-1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, though this depends on physical activity and goals. Remember not to overdo it, as excess protein is converted and stored as fat. The body can’t appropriately utilize more than approximately 35 grams of protein in one sitting—that’s about a 6-ounce steak.
4. Fill up on Fiber
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that the body cannot fully digest for use as energy. Instead, it is utilized by the body to regulate a variety of physiological processes. Fiber promotes satiety, slows the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream following a meal, maintains digestive health and bowel function, and lowers cholesterol. It’s all good! The daily recommendations for adult males and females are 38 grams and 25 grams respectively. Hit your targets by eating lots of vegetables, plus beans, nuts, steel-cut oats, and quinoa on a regular basis, which will help you to avoid piling your plate high at the buffet!
5. Watch Your Alcohol Intake
Some folks do drink, and their bodies handle alcohol well. Cutting back or eliminating alcohol is one of the most effective ways to lose weight and stabilize your sugar. The CGMs that we employ for Groq Health members have clearly shown that beer has one of the highest glycemic values of any beverage, followed closely by wine. This means that it can be easily and quickly digested and converted to sugars, causing your glucose to spike, then drop precipitously disturbing your sleep, ultimately leading to a diabetes trajectory over time. Try alternating alcoholic drinks with water or opting for low-sugar options such as clear spirits with low-cal mixers.
6. Avoid Carbs at Bedtime
Sleep is vital as a restorative for your immune system; during that time, your body and brain are producing many key hormones and metabolites that keep you healthy. When you eat adequate protein, healthy fats, and fiber throughout the day, you may feel less driven to eat sweets at night. There are many exceptions—a genetic propensity with insatiable carb cravings is one of the most common—and the basis for metabolic syndrome. With so many treats on offer, children and adults will find it almost impossible to curb their carb intake, so weight gain is almost always an issue. If you do find yourself hungry after dinner, opt for Greek yogurt with berries or a small handful of nuts. Try to avoid eating within two hours of bedtime to maximize your body’s potential to sleep, trigger your immune system function, and get what needs to be done effectively!
7. Eat Alkaline Foods
No type of nutrition is a cure-all, but we do know that foods have either an acidic or alkaline effect on the body as they’re digested. Foods with an acidic profile include meat, grains, nuts, alcohol, and dairy, it is thought that many of these will cause inflammation. The best highly alkaline foods to counteract these effects are—you guessed it—fruits and vegetables. Any food that’s organically grown and vibrant in color is good. Salads make it easy. Dressings are important, especially to absorb some of the nutrients such beta-carotenoids that require fat (such as olive oil). Moderation is recommended, but don’t avoid healthy fats like avocados. The new saying as you go into a health-focused 2022 should be: “An avocado a day will keep the doctor away!” They’re delicious as a spread on whole grain (with seeds!) bread or sliced into a salad. Check them out!
8. Increase Omega-3 Intake and Reduce Omega-6
The average person doesn't consume nearly enough omega-3s and have too much omega-6s, which are pro-inflammatory. The biggest culprits containing omega-6s are processed foods. If you lack omega-3s and are heavy on the omega-6s, you likely promote inflammation and may raise your risk of heart disease. Excellent sources of omega-3 include oily fish like salmon (the biggest source but not the smoked variety), then tuna, cod, halibut, and herring, as well as avocado, seeds, and nuts. Walnuts pack the biggest omega-3 punch, followed by almonds, cashews, pistachios, and Brazilian nuts. Try walnut butter, almond butter, and cashew butter, ground yourself at a natural food store. Delish as a snack on slices of apple or banana.
9. Snack Creatively
Snacks should not be confused with “snack food”, which are typically high-fat, high-sugar, ultra-processed foods. Follow the same high-protein to low-carb ratio as your meals, though a lesser amount. Try apple slices with a small handful of walnuts or a tablespoon of nut butter such as walnut, almond, cashew; Greek yogurt or cottage cheese with berries, an apple, or a peach; a pear with a couple of mozzarella cheese cubes; a hard-boiled egg. Where possible, select fruit such as berries, apple, pear, or kiwi, rather than fruits such as pineapple, mango, and watermelon. The latter fruit- with thick skin, are generally higher in sugar, and eaten alone will acutely elevate glucose, leading to insulin spikes. There’s no need to avoid them altogether, especially when they’re in season, but limit intake and be sure to grab some protein when enjoying these higher-glycemic fruits.
10. Plan Ahead & Monitor Habits
Plan and prepare healthy meals and snacks ahead of time, and track what you eat to whatever degree you are comfortable. Use your smartphone or go old-school with a notebook and pen. CGM apps usually have a section that allows for notes in relationship to food, exercise, and any interactions. Studies have shown that people who keep a record of their food become more cognizant of their food intake and ultimately develop healthy habits. This one is definitely a good one to take with you into the New Year.
Keep these healthy habits going in 2022, and they will make a huge difference to optimizing your health and preserving your health span and wellbeing overall. Even more importantly, you will be proactively reversing age-related disorders like diabetes, heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, neurodegenerative disorders, and Alzheimer’s, even cancer. That’s what I call a Christmas miracle!
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