The holidays are fast approaching…And so are those tasty, tempting holiday treats we love so much. This time of year is filled with family dinners and holiday parties all presenting opportunities to indulge. As the season approaches, many of my clients are expressing a bit of panic about staying in control over the holidays. “How do I avoid gaining weight?” or “how do I stay on track with my weight loss program?” are common questions that I’ve heard. There is no doubt that you will be faced with some difficult and tempting situations over the holidays. However, my response is usually...
“Take a break and enjoy yourself!”
Think about it this way: The holiday season lasts about 2 weeks. There are 52 weeks in a year. This is only 3.8% of the year. Seriously. Enjoy! No, this doesn't mean that you should binge on Nanaimo bars for two weeks. It means that you should allow yourself to enjoy the holiday treats that you love without feeling guilty. Besides, it takes an extra 3500 calories to gain one true pound of body weight. Those calories must be eaten above and beyond what you would normally consume. So, let's say that you consume 2000 calories per day normally. You would have to consume 5500 calories in one day to actually notice any true difference in your weight. That's a lot of Nanaimo bars. Like 100.
You may notice that your weight fluctuates daily, especially during the holidays. This is likely—no, most definitely—due to water retention. You're probably eating foods that are higher in sodium, therefore retaining more water. Your weight will return to normal once you're back into your old routine. Even if you did gain a true pound or two over the holidays (which is normal and OK), you would have to continue to eat poorly throughout the rest of the year to keep that extra weight on or continue to gain weight. Chances are, the little bit of extra weight will come off within 2-3 weeks after the holidays. If you've gained any at all.
Now that you have given yourself permission to enjoy your favourite holiday treats without guilt (hopefully), read on for some of my quick tips on how to indulge without going completely overboard:
Continue to be mindful about what you are eating and how much. Remember to make sure that you’re meals are balanced (always include some protein, veggies and/or fruits and whole grains). This will help to control your blood sugar and your cravings throughout the day. For dessert, choose one or two things that you NEED to have. Don’t waste your time on things that you don’t absolutely love.
Sample small portions of appetizers and treats for taste, but don’t go overboard (after all, you want to save room for dinner). For bigger meals, take a smaller portion to begin with and then go back for seconds if you are still hungry. Eat slowly and enjoy the company around you. Take a break when you're almost full and go to the bathroom. That way, you can give your body time to digest and re-evaluate whether you want to keep going.
I'm sure you've heard this before, but it's important. Never leave for a party or holiday function hungry. This is a recipe for mindlessly overeating. Have a snack with some protein (such as Greek yogurt or hummus or nuts) before going out so that you feel in control when you arrive.
Even though you may not have time to stick to your regular exercise routine, try to do something active everyday. Even if that means dancing to Christmas carols with your toddler in your living room. I'm serious—it's fun! Aim for 30 minutes of activity per day. Other ideas are going for a winter walk to check out Christmas lights in your neighborhood, ice skating, building snowmen in your backyard, or doing a quick exercise video when the kids are napping.
Above all, do not set a weight loss goal for over the holidays. It won’t happen and it’s an unrealistic expectation. The holidays are no time to be counting calories or sticking to a rigid diet plan (well, I think calorie counting is lame anyway). The holidays are meant for celebrating with family and friends (and we all know that food is a big part of this). Food is not only our fuel, but it is also comforting and makes us feel good, and it’s a way to honour tradition and custom. There are 52 weeks in a year—1 or 2 weeks is not going to make or break your weight. If you do set a goal for over the holiday season, set a maintenance goal. Maintaining your weight over the holidays is the same as losing a couple of pounds in my books!
Most parents worry about their child's nutritional intake at one point or another, especially when they are dealing with a picky eater. I see this almost daily in my practice—the cunundrum of picky eating. Know that you are not alone— almost every child a will go through a picky eating phase, if not many. As frustrating and worrisome as it is, it's normal. And nine times out of ten, your child is eating a more well-balanced diet thoughout the week than you think. So take a deep breath, and read on for some tips on how to deal with your little picky eater...
Just like your appetite changes from day to day and meal to meal, so does your little one’s. If you notice that your child is cueing that he or she is full or not interested anymore, even after a few bites, don’t force feed and pressure him or her to keep going. Your toddler is respecting his or her hunger and fullness cues and so should you. Children are naturally very intuitive eaters, so as frustrating as it is to watch your gourmet meal go to waste, calmly remove it, stick it in a tupperware container and save it for later.
Establish a routine so that meal and snack timing is fairly consistent from day to day. This way your toddler will begin to know and expect when meal and snack times are. It will allow him or her to be hungry at meals (but not starving) and also know that if he or she doesn't finish the meal, there will be another chance to eat in a few hours. Because small children have small stomachs, they should ideally be offered 3 meals and 2-3 snacks per day so that they are eating every few hours. Don’t let eating be a free-for-all—it will exhaust you and your toddler will start to learn that he is in charge (YOU should be in charge of timing). As Ellyn Satter, RD (Guru in feeding children) teaches, you as the parent are in charge of what, where and when your toddler or small child eats and the toddler is in charge of whether and how much he or she eats. I know it would be so much easier if we were in charge of EVERYTHING, but unfortunately, we’re not. Also, offer water in between meals and milk at or just after meals (otherwise they may fill up on milk right before their meal and not have much of an appetite).
Part of becoming comfortable with a particular food is exploring it. When you see your child playing with, mushing up, or smearing food all over his or her highchair, consider it a way of your toddler learning more about the food and becoming comfortable enough with it to put it in his or her mouth. My son often tries a new food but then spits it out, only to put it back in his mouth if it is up to his satisfaction. Lovely, I know. It’s his way of feeling safe with it though, so we are trying to just go with it. Sometimes it ends up on the floor, in his hair, or smeared on his highchair, but that’s all part of it I guess! You don’t want to pressure your child into eating something that he or she is not yet totally comfortable with—the more you pressure, the more she will be turned off (children are smarter than we think!). Allow a warming-up period. Let your baby, toddler, or child try new foods without pressure.
Once you start rewarding your child with certain foods, or praising your child for eating other foods, you are starting to teach your toddler to associate certain foods as “good” and certain as “bad.” If you praise your children for eating broccoli, they is going to start to wonder what the big deal is…and then if you reward them with a cookie (after they’ve finished their broccoli), they will soon come to learn that cookies are the sought after “yummy” food and broccoli is "yucky."
It may take up to 20 tries before your toddler accepts a new food. I know that it’s tempting to skip right to the accepted and safe food at meal times—trust me—but he is not going to learn or have the opportunity to become comfortable with a food unless it’s introduced many times in a pressure-free environment. It’s frustrating and may feel like a waste, but it’s key to molding a balanced healthy eater. Try serving new or previously rejected foods with accepted, safe foods—your child may warm up to them quicker this way. And a quick note on vegetables—if your child refuses to eat vegetables (which is common), know that she is likely receiving similar nutrients from fruit (phewf!). That being said, continue to offer a variety of veggies in different shapes, textures, and colors.
It’s important that your child sees that you enjoy a variety of foods every day so that he or she will start to learn that this is normal. Family meals are key—at least one a day. Try not to hover over your children while they're eating. Imagine someone doing that to you! Try instead to include them in the family conversation and treat them the same as everyone else (even though every part of you wants to hover over them and shove food in their mouth).
If you’re really concerned about your toddler’s or preschooler's picky eating habits and nutritional intake, keep a one-week food dairy. Most toddlers will not let themselves go hungry. If they fall short on calories one day, they will likely make up for it the next day. Throughout the course of a day, you may worry that your toddler is only eating one or two foods. But over the course of a week, they are likely eating a more balanced diet than you thought. The point is, it would be unusual if your toddler wasn’t a picky eater to some extent. Try not to obsess or stress about it (trust me, I know it’s hard). Most picky toddlers grow to accept and eat a variety of foods. If you’re concerned about your toddlers growth or development, consult your doctor or a dietitian to explore further.
Having a toddler in a daycare has its benefits and drawbacks. It has allowed me to work on my business and writing (which has been amazing), but it also means that my entire family is exposed to a plethora of pesky germs, viruses, and bacteria, weekly. This translates into more sickness in my house year-round. I swear, I've never been so sick—so frequently—as in the past two years.
Dear Parents: Please Stop Sending Your Sick Kids To School
And I've had it.
We know that there are several ways to help prevent colds and flu, such as regular hand washing, getting enough sleep, and getting your yearly flu shot, but what about nutrition? Are there certain foods that can help us naturally boost our immune system, therefore helping us to stay healthier throughout the year? The answer is YES!
Here are nine foods to help boost your immune system:
You've likely heard that the beneficial bacteria (probiotics) found in yogurt helps to maintain a healthy digestive tract, right? Well, there has been some promising research showing that those same probiotics may help to prevent colds and flu, as well. This is good news for me, because I love yogurt and so does my little guy. Some strains of probiotic may help to boost adult immune response and decrease inflammation, which could mean fewer colds and flu. Try to have 3/4 of a cup of yogurt per day.
Don't be shy when you add garlic to your foods, especially around this time of year. It is an immune-boosting superstar! The sulphur-containing compounds found in garlic, such as Allicin, help our healthy infection-fighting white blood cells flourish, and also increase the efficiency of our antibody production, which helps us fight harmful viruses and bacteria. So, to boost your immune system, add garlic to your foods regularly, if not every day.
The Omega 3 fatty acids found in oily fish—such as salmon, trout, halibut, and tuna—help boost our immune systems, by increasing the activity of phagocytes, which are white blood cells that combat harmful bacteria. Omega 3 also decreases inflammation, which may help to protect the lungs from infection and colds. Many varieties of shellfish also contain a substantial amount of Selenium, which can help prevent or clear flu viruses out of your body.
The Amazing Nutritional Benefits of Lemon
Yep, your Grandma was right—chicken soup actually does help to relieve colds and flu! According the the Mayo Clinic, it helps in two different ways: 1) It has anti-inflammatory properties that inhibit the circulation of neutrophils—cells that participate in the body's inflammatory response. 2) It temporarily helps to flush mucus out, possibly helping to alleviate congestion and decreasing the amount of time that viruses are in contact with the nasal lining.
Green tea boasts many health benefits, ranging from cancer prevention to fighting cardiovascular disease. But green tea also contains powerful anti-viral components that may protect against the Influenza virus. It's polyphenol content—particularly Catechins, a type of antioxidant—is thought to be the most important immune-protecting component. It is suggested that the consumption of 1-5 cups per day may help to prevent colds and flu. Green tea does contain caffeine, so it's important that kids and pregnant women don't overdo it.
Mushrooms may be dismissed as a less-than-stellar vegetable when it comes to health, but don't let its bland colour fool you—mushrooms are jam-packed full of good nutrition and immune-boosting qualities. Mushrooms have shown both anti-viral and anti-bacterial qualities in animal studies, and also contain the mineral Selenium, as well as antioxidants, which can help to decrease your risk of getting sick. Also, mushrooms contain Zinc, which protects the immune system.
Most of us know that stress can be an immune-system deflator. Don't worry, though, almonds contain Niacin and Riboflavin—B-Vitamins that may help ward off the negative effects of stress, by boosting the immune system. A 1/4 cup of these tasty nuts also contain your daily requirements for Vitamin E, an antioxidant that also protects the immune system.
Yams and sweet potatoes are not only extremely nutritious, but also a very important immune-boosting food. Yams contain Beta-Carotene, which is converted into Vitamin A in your body. Vitamin A plays a crucial role in skin health—skin being our first line of defense from bacteria, viruses, and germs that cause illnesses.
Oats and barley are high in soluble fibre, specifically one called beta-glucan. This type of fibre has anti-microbial and antioxidant qualities, which help your immune system protect you from influenza and other illnesses. Soluble fibre also decreases inflammation, which helps us heal faster from an infection.