One of the most integral associations with the holidays is food. When we close our eyes and think of Christmas, we immediately start dreaming up the beautiful cinnamon, sugar and butter flavors of gingerbread and cookies, or maybe it’s freshly made bibingka and hot chocolate. There’s also the crisp and crackling crunch of roasted lechon skin or, in my own personal experience, my lola’s salty and rich baked bacalao.
It’s also a time for celebration, and with the year we have had, it’s almost a duty to celebrate the small victories of the day: getting through homeschool, adapting to changing work schedules or, most importantly, knowing your loved ones are healthy and safe.
Celebration often comes at the expense of our diet. Food is so comforting, too, and after the year we’ve had, who wouldn’t want that extra bit of comfort? However, it has also become very clear that health is truly wealth, and that excess is no good for anyone. So how do we navigate the holiday smorgasbords and festive meals while keeping our wellness goals in check? Allow me and some other wellness and fitness advocates to share some of our tips and insights.
Personally I’ve learned that exercising your power of choice is key. This holiday season, I’ve decided to really select the events carefully where I would like to let go a little based on what is being served and it’s also never a free-for-all. Most items on that buffet are not really that yummy. Perhaps the lechon has been left out too long and is soggy; don’t waste your calories on that. Pick the food that you truly find delicious, drink the wine that is really special and indulge in deep and meaningful conversations rather than mindless eating.
When I’ve had a particularly heavy meal, I will take some activated charcoal to help with digestion and bloat. Make up for it the next day with lots of beautiful vegetables, probiotics and a good workout to keep that metabolism going!
NICO BOLZICO, Entrepreneur and wellness advocate
If I know I’m going to have a heavy dinner or meal, I try not to eat the whole day. That doesn’t apply to everyone. It does to me because I do intermittent fasting; my body adapts and it helps. I will drink a lot of water and maté, my Argentinian drink throughout the day.
I really prioritize working out and make sure to dedicate 30 to 45 minutes to exercise. I don’t need to outline the benefits and why it is so important, but I think what we are not doing today is to prioritize it. If you don’t prioritize working out at this stage, it will impact your health in the future and will catch up to you.
Try to keep the servings small. Don’t serve yourself a massive plate. Eat slow; make sure you enjoy your food with all your senses. Smell it, look at it, taste it, pay attention to the food that you are enjoying because it will take longer for you to eat it but you will feel full faster and you will enjoy your meal.
I love sweets so much! So I make sure I eat them far away from the kitchen. So if I want a piece of cake, I make sure I cut myself a small piece of cake and I go away to eat it. In my case, it’s the third floor in my office, so I end up becoming too lazy to serve myself another piece.
The most important is to drink a lot of water — a lot of water when you wake up. Before the meals, after the meals, not only because it’s healthy but it will also help you fill up and not indulge.
HARVIE DE BARON, Nutritionist and founder of the Baron Method
Choose your Christmas parties wisely. There are bound to be many parties and reunions, but that doesn’t mean you should pig out at each and every occasion. Plan ahead and choose which parties are worth the pig-out. For example, a party that features your mom’s heirloom recipes is probably worth the cheat compared to a micro office party that serves mostly trays of food from fast-food places.
Also, if you have decided not to cheat at a particular party, try to eat a heavy meal before attending the event. This will help you control your cravings.
CRISTINA CU, Fitness and wellness advocate, entrepreneur
Eating during the holidays is always a personal struggle and constantly filled with guilt. My personal reminders are “be kind to yourself” and focus on just maintaining your weight and you are already ahead in the game! Go for the protein and veggies first, carbs last and only if you’re still hungry. Protein not only helps keep your fuller for longer, it helps build muscle and it’s a more efficient use of calories in the day.
Add something green to your table! No matter how many dishes you plan, always make sure there is one easy vegetable dish on the table. It not only adds color to your spread but also makes sure to encourage your family to have some. My personal go-to is an easy salad from Hyperlocal Farms, which is not only highly nutrient-dense fresh greens but can last in your fridge for up to two weeks.
Limit and choose your sugar: sugar is inevitable during this season but pick and choose what you’ll have to save for your ultimate favorites. It’s okay to eat more but incorporate more movement. Make sure to use that energy by doing extra activities.
A fun and healthy alternative to a classic Noche Buena that we love to do with my family is hotpot! There are a ton of different styles and it’s mostly protein and vegetables. You will be very full without the guilt!
MARIE LOZANO, Host and lifestyle journalist
You got me thinking of what I will eat now and what to serve for the holiday gatherings! I don’t want to be a party pooper, so I always just say, don’t restrict yourself during the holidays... just enjoy in moderation. A few cheat days then back to clean eating! I am planning on doing a bone-broth cleanse in the New Year to give my digestive system a rest and reboot!
JACKIE LOU BLANCO, Actress and fitness enthusiast
What has always worked for me is portion control and food choices. If I go to an occasion and I see what the food is, I ask myself what I want to have more of. I don’t have everything in the same amount, just choose one. If it’s pasta I’m craving for, then I will have less protein or less sweets. If it’s the dessert bar that catches my eye and I want to have more of that, then I’ll have less of the other food choices. And if I want to try everything, then I have a small sampling of each. I can try four desserts but just have a bite of each.
It’s always a good idea to have a lot of veggies with any meal. Drink lots of water instead of carbonated drinks. Go easy on salad dressings and better if you can choose vinaigrette over the richer sauces. Don’t have them pour the dressing; put it on the side so you can adjust yourself. Sometimes you’ll realize you’ll only need a bit and you’re okay.
Never make the holidays an excuse not to exercise or move. Any movement is better than none at all. It doesn’t need to be strenuous exercise. It can be a walk, a stretch, dancing or household chores, as long as one moves.
If you feel bloated the next day, just drink lots of water, lessen your salt intake and have turmeric tea. Relax, recharge and listen to your body. It’ll tell you what it needs.
MARILEN MONTENEGRO, Former model and TV host; now a trained fitness and nutrition coach
Plan ahead and condition your mind on what you are allowing yourself to eat. “I will not be consuming the carbs but I am allowing myself to have two spoons of dessert.” Go for pure drinks like gin, sake or vodka without sugary soda, stick to sparkling water and fresh fruit as mixers instead of beer or cocktails, which have higher sugar content.