What do you think of when you think of the holidays?
Maybe it’s sparkling lights hung from trees, the ruckus of a big family gathering, or a break from the usual routine for something special. No matter what this season holds for you, it almost certainly involves access to a substantial amount of festive food.
While we should certainly be thankful that we have plenty to eat, we must also remain aware that many holiday traditions involve foods that do not support bone health. In fact, many are quite deleterious.
Everyone deserves an occasional treat in moderation, but it can be hard to strategize how to stay on track for your bones in the face of so many unhealthy choices.
Today we’ll have a look at nine effective yet simple tricks to help you enjoy the holidays while eating well to feel great and protect your bones.
1. Don’t Arrive With An Empty Stomach
Few displays are more bountiful than the spread on a holiday table. Be it a party or a dinner, if you’re attending a celebration this time of year you can safely assume there will be more food than the attendees could possibly eat.
If you show up hungry to a table full of less-than-healthy foods, odds are you’ll fill up on dishes that aren’t offering you much in the way of bone-building nutrients, or any nutrients at all. However, studies show that eating something substantial before you see desirable foods actually changes how your brain responds to that sight, triggering less motivation to eat excessively.1
Eat a little something before you go to the big family dinner or the office party and you’ll be more likely to listen to your body and eat only as much as you really need. This will help you avoid the “your eyes are bigger than your stomach” trap that is so temptingly set during the holidays.
2. Savor What You Eat
There’s no rush! In fact, eating quickly results in consuming more than you intended. Here’s why.
It takes the body about 20 minutes to register that you’ve had enough to eat, so if you speed your way through the buffet table you might not feel full until it’s too late and you’ve eaten too much.
Studies show that by eating slowly you feel more satiated while reducing energy intake during meals.2 Take small bites and chew your food thoroughly, taking the time to enjoy the bounty of the holidays. Your body will thank you, and you’ll also improve your digestion!
Relatedly, take a break after you finish for your first helping: walk around, visit with friends and family in another room, or just step outside for a few minutes. Give your body time to evaluate what you’ve had so far before you go for seconds.
3. Protein Helps You Avoid Overeating
Before you start considering the mountain of buttered rolls and you sister-in-law’s infamous cream-of-mushroom casserole, eat something with protein in it. A quinoa salad, lentil soup, or small portion of chicken can help prevent spikes in blood sugar levels while keeping you fuller for longer. With the extended feeling of satiety that protein offers, you’ll be less likely to go to town on that cookie platter.3
Plus protein (including non-animal protein) is an essential tool for building muscle, which as Savers know is essential to growing strong bones. Before your next holiday soiree, start with a healthy source of protein to prepare yourself to eat in moderation.
4. Stay Full With Plenty Of Fiber
You will stay fuller longer if you’ll include high fiber foods in your holiday indulgences.4 So don’t forsake that crudité platter. The fiber in those vegetables will stick with you, protecting you from impulsively eating acidifying foods later on. Plus fiber promotes bone health by supporting the liver.
5. Focus on Healthy Fats
It’s true that there are many unhealthy fats on the holiday table. Avoid the refined sugar and the fatty meats, but embrace the healthier monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that are found in avocados, nuts and olive oil. You need fats in your diet to absorb fat-soluble nutrients like vitamins A, E and even the bone essential vitamin D.
6. Shun The Sugar
Beware of the piles of chocolate chip cookies, the mugs of chocolate mousse and the other sickly sweets that are ever present this time of year. The refined, added sugar in these items contributes to many ills, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, and the destruction of bone.5
In addition to the obviously sugary choices, there is a surprising amount of refined sugar in many simple carbs like white bread, dinner rolls or buttery crackers. Opt instead for whole grains and try to get the complex carbohydrates in legumes, sweet potatoes, or quinoa.
And don’t forget that there are plenty of bone-healthy carbohydrates available in alkalizing fruits and vegetables!
7. Empower Yourself With Choice
Often we get stuck in a less than useful moral dichotomy when considering food, in which healthy foods are the only conscionable choice and everything that is not healthy is bad and forbidden. This leads to a sense that you can’t have certain foods, which tends to inspire a rebellious desire to have them anyway.6
Instead of playing these head games with yourself, acknowledge the power you have in the choices you make. Remind yourself that you can eat a giant slice of pecan pie, but you don’t want to, because you know it will make you feel bad later, and doesn’t help you accomplish your goals.
Shifting this frame from “I can’t have it” to “I can have it, but I don’t want it” empowers you to consider more than just the impulse of the moment, and embrace that you’re in control of your bone-healthy diet.
8. Take it Easy on Yourself
One of my favorite things about the Osteoporosis Reversal Program is that it isn’t a rigid all-or-nothing system that stops working if you occasionally deviate from the plan. The holidays are a special time, and it’s okay to allow yourself a special treat in celebration.
We are heavily influenced by our environment, and the environment of festivities provide us with an overwhelming number of unhealthy temptations. Just because you decide to break your normal diet and indulge doesn’t mean you’re a failure, or a weak person. You’re just human!
Getting down on yourself isn’t helpful, so accept your ability to break the rules every once in a while, then refocus on what’s most important to you.
9. Share The Good Health
Let’s say you’re going to a party or a dinner and you know it’s going to be dominated by acidifying entrees, empty carb side dishes and sugary desserts. You don’t have to play victim to the folly of others. In fact, you can come to the rescue!
Savers know about the many benefits of cooking at home. The holiday spirit of sharing and offering is an opportunity to show everyone how delicious healthy meals can be. Bring a dish (or two!) that you know will allow you to follow the 80/20 ratio that facilitates optimal bone growth (80% alkalizing foods, 20% acidifying). Chances are, your friends and loved ones will be glad you did!
Figuring out recipes can be a stumbling block that keeps you from following through on your healthiest intentions. That’s why I created Bone Appétit, the companion cookbook to the Program. With more than 200 recipes it provides a bone-bolstering dish for every occasion.
Eat Your Way to Stronger Bones!
Discover over 200 mouth-watering bone healthy recipes for breakfast, smoothies, appetizers, soups, salads, vegetarian dishes, fish, and plenty of main courses and even desserts!
I hope you’ll apply the tips we’ve reviewed today to make the most of your holiday without giving up the fight for stronger, healthier bones.
1 Leidy HJ, Lepping RJ, Savage CR, Harris CT. “Neural responses to visual food stimuli after a normal vs. higher protein breakfast in breakfast-skipping teens: a pilot fMRI study.” Obesity (Silver Spring). 2011 Oct;19(10):2019-25. doi: 10.1038/oby.2011.108. Epub 2011 May 5. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21546927
2 Andrade AM1, Greene GW, Melanson KJ. “Eating slowly led to decreases in energy intake within meals in healthy women.” J Am Diet Assoc. 2008 Jul;108(7):1186-91. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2008.04.026.
3 Clifton P. “Effects of a high protein diet on body weight and comorbidities associated with obesity.” Br J Nutr. 2012 Aug;108 Suppl 2:S122-9. doi: 10.1017/S0007114512002322. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23107523
4 Howarth NC1, Saltzman E, Roberts SB. “Dietary fiber and weight regulation.” Nutr Rev. 2001 May;59(5):129-39.Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11396693
5 Welsh JA, Sharma A, Cunningham SA, Vos MB. “Consumption of added sugars and indicators of cardiovascular disease risk among US adolescents.” Circulation. 2011 Jan 25;123(3):249-57. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.110.972166. Epub 2011 Jan 10. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21220734
6 Herman CP, Polivy J. “Normative influences on food intake.” Physiol Behav. 2005 Dec 15;86(5):762-72. Epub 2005 Oct 21. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16243366