The holidays are a time to be around friends, family, and of course, food. But many of our holiday treats and dishes can be high in calories but low in the nutrients and vitamins our bodies need.
One way to resist unhealthy sweets and foods this season is to incorporate more protein into every meal while cutting back on refined carbs and fat. You’ll feel more full, so you’re likely to eat less and cut down on unhealthy snacking.
The Role of Protein
Protein is important because it helps you build and maintain lean muscle mass. It’s the foundation for bones, muscles, skin, blood, and connective tissue. Protein also helps to make meals more satisfying and having some protein at every meal and snack helps with appetite control over the course of the day and can help ensure that everyone meets their protein needs, which vary depending on body size and composition, age, and activity level.
Protein-rich foods such as meat, poultry, eggs, legumes, and seeds also supply B vitamins, vitamin E, iron, zinc, and magnesium. So when you’re adding protein while cutting back on empty calories, you’re getting the benefit of extra nutrients your body needs.
How to Resist Overeating During the Holidays
Here are some ways to swap in protein as you navigate all the holiday temptations:
Have a Healthy, Protein-Rich Breakfast
Start the day with a high-protein breakfast – about 25 grams should do it. Instead of cereal, try a meal replacement shake or oatmeal with protein powder blended in. Studies suggest this not only helps keep you full until lunch but may even help curb your intake over the course of the day.
Incorporate Healthy Snacking
Try not to head to a holiday event with an empty stomach. Have a substantial snack prior, such as plain Greek yogurt or non-fat cottage cheese with fruit, or a protein-rich snack bar before you leave.
You can also bring some portable high-protein snacks with you, such as a handful of unsalted nuts or a protein bar just in case.
Be Selective About Holiday Food
Food plays a big part in Malaysian culture, all the more so during the holiday season with celebrations usually revolving around indulging in delicious festive treats. However, we can always opt for healthier options to avoid unhealthy holiday temptations.
For side dishes, cut out the starchy sides, such as white rice, bread, mashed potatoes, and white-flour pasta. Instead, put more vegetables on your plate, and look for protein-rich beans and grains such as lentils, quinoa, or bean-based pasta.
As the main course, try a holiday salad with a protein boost from lean chicken or seafood with edamame, tofu, or beans as a topper.
You don’t have to completely avoid your favourite holiday foods. One trick is to skip the foods you can eat year-round, like chocolate chip cookies, and instead, taste the special treats you can only get this time of year, like gingerbread.
And don’t forget to keep up (or kick-start!) your exercise routine – you’ll not only feel better, but you’ll look great in your holiday best.