A Dietitian's Choices When Slimming Down After the Holidays
- Dec 29, 2019
- Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN
I’m a dietitian who loves food, especially when someone else is doing the cooking, ha! After working with clients for almost 20 years, I’ve realized we tend to make food more complicated than it needs to be. It’s just food. I don’t believe in dieting, I don’t count calories or track my food with a phone app, I do set my pantry and refrigerator up for success, and I do allow myself “treats.” When I was a nutrition student in college, I was fortunately introduced to the idea of intuitive eating and incorporating mindfulness into food choices. For me, this is the cornerstone behind feeling great!
As a dietitian, here are the food and behavior choices I make (most of the time) to feel great after the holidays:
#1: Eat A Breakfast High in Protein and Healthy Fat & Never Skip Breakfast
I make a point to start my day with protein and healthy fats. First and foremost, I swallow a tablespoon of fish oil immediately up waking up (a liquid version -- not capsules). This provides about 15 grams of fat which is enough to immediately stop a drop in blood sugar levels. By regulating my blood glucose levels, my body halts the release of the stress hormone, cortisol. About 15-30 minutes later, I eat my go-to breakfast, which is eggs and a yummy Bulletproof coffee made with grass-fed butter and MCT oil. When I want to change up my breakfast routine, I make a protein shake because it adds so much nutrition and keeps me feeling full for hours. Plus, shakes are delicious! I aim for 20-25 grams of protein at breakfast. Place value on your body by choosing habits that feel good and nourish you.
Here's another tip I've learned from my own mistakes, and because I meet a lot of breakfast skippers...make time for breakfast! If you're in the habit of skipping breakfast, it messes with your stress hormones (cortisol) and blood sugar regulation. If you drink coffee but skip eating breakfast, this can be even more stressful on the body because the impact caffeine has on stress hormones is much greater on an empty stomach. Eating a breakfast high in protein and fat is crucial for glucose regulation the rest of the day! Eating breakfast also supports healthy insulin levels throughout the day compared to breakfast skippers. This is why I take the oil upon waking up and then eat breakfast. When you stay off the blood sugar rollercoaster you will have stable energy levels throughout the morning, and be less likely to experience sugar cravings later in the day.
#2: Purge Your Refrigerator, Freezer, and Pantry of Your "Trigger" Foods.
It’s no secret for those who know me that I have a sweet tooth! If there’s anything in the house with even a small sugar content, I’ll eat it the moment my willpower declines. It's my "trigger" food, and the other issue with this sweet tooth is the portion control, or lack thereof. My first strategy, and the one I’ve found most effective, is to remove any tempting foods from my freezer, refrigerator, and pantry. For me, that means “bye-bye” ice cream, cookie dough, and jelly beans. They can’t be accessible and in the house because I’m not capable of monitoring my portion sizes.
When a sweets craving hits, I turn to dark chocolate or cacao (80% or greater cacao content). It’s the purest form of chocolate you can consume and is also high in polyphenols, which are potent antioxidants good for cardiovascular health. Plus, since the chocolate is so strong, I can't eat as much.
#3: Drink Hot Tea.
I love all types of tea—black, white, oolong, green, matcha etc. I’ve really been into Moringa tea, which has been used in Ayurveda medicine for thousands of years. Moringa leaf contains over 90 nutrients and 46 types of antioxidants. I use 1 teaspoon of Moringa powder in hot water, but you can also buy moringa in tea bags. Why does tea help me get back on track after the holidays? More sugar during the holidays triggers more sugar cravings, and tea is the perfect solution for decreasing those nagging mid-afternoon or evening cravings. It helps me reduce unnecessary snacking because the liquid is temporarily filling, it gives some satiety, and it’s hot so it takes time to drink.
#4: Focus on Being an Intuitive and Mindful Eater.
There is a lot to be said about intuitive eating. In fact, too much for a short blurb here, but in a nutshell, it's about trusting your inner body wisdom to make choices around food that feel good in your body, without judgment, and without influence from diet culture. It's a peace movement. This means no beating yourself up when you decide to eat a "treat," and certainly doesn't involve incorporating a diet or restricting mentality. Over the years, I've learned to tune into my hunger and fullness cues, which I didn't always do, and it is definitely a journey that takes time and practice, and a constant reminder.
To keep my body weight in check, I really focus on honoring my body’s signals and tuning into what my body wants and needs (ie: salty, sweet, thirst, sleep). If I’m not truly hungry, I avoid eating until that physical feeling of hunger emerges. I truly believe dieting is NOT the key to losing weight.
#5: Drink a Ton of Water.
I make a point to have my water bottle or mason jar everywhere, especially in my car, on my desk at work, and by my bed at night. Drinking water increases metabolic rate, and after the holidays this is key. The carbohydrates and protein your body uses as fuel are metabolized and transported by water in the bloodstream. Without water, our metabolism would certainly suffer.
#6: Make Half My Plate Veggies.
This time of year, my carb choice at dinner is always vegetables. Any and all kinds are great. My favorites are a big green salad, steamed broccoli with a vegan cashew cheese sauce, and spaghetti squash. Regardless of what you've heard about "starchy" carbs not being good for you, I beg to differ. I call these nutrient-rich starchy foods "slow" carbs, and they're a much healthier alternative to white rice, white pasta, and white bread. You honestly can’t eat too many vegetables — they're bursting with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients, which your body wants and needs. I always fill at least half of my normal size plate with vegetables. The fiber and high water content are excellent for filling you up so ultimately you eat less, and eating less will help you achieve those slimming down goals.
What it comes down to are the tiny habits and decisions we make every day. It's not about magic bullets or massive changes that have to be made because the littlest changes done consistently really make a difference.
What works for you to slim down after the crazy holidays?
In Health and Happiness,
Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods