According to an article by the New York Times, most of us tend to gain only one to two pounds during the holiday season, even though many media outlets report much greater gains, ranging upwards from 5 to 7lbs. However, these couple of pounds can accumulate and lead to age-related weight gain over our lifetime. There is no doubt that the holidays is a high risk season for weight gain. High-carb holiday treats and overstuffed plates quickly lead to a bulging waistline. In addition to kicking-up your workout frequency, you can do more damage control by using a few simple tricks to lower the glycemic impact of your meal to blunt the increase in your insulin and blood sugar levels, which in turn fuels fat gain. Believe it or not, this is the secret to staying slim.
1. “Whey” less. Protein slows the release of sugar into our blood stream, which leads to less insulin release. So the trick to blunting the effect of your high-carb treats is bumping up your protein. For best results, eat equal amounts of protein and carbohydrates during meal times (like 20 to 25 grams of both protein and carb). Enjoying a protein shake for breakfast and a second as a mid afternoon snack can give you a quick source of nutrients without promoting weight gain. Here’s a simple recipe: blend one serving of whey protein isolate, half a cup of frozen berries, a tablespoon of almond butter, a tablespoon of ground flax or chia seeds and water. Another benefit of this drink is that protein tends to keep you full longer. And for better appetite control at meal times, try consuming your protein first, your veggies second and your starchy carbohydrates last.
2. Stay steady. Eat every three to four hours to maintain blood sugar levels, prevent overeating and avoid excessive cravings. Skipping meals, irregular meal times and excessive caloric restriction will only lead to increased risk of binging later in the day. Before attending your next holiday dinner or party, try to have a snack such as a handful of walnuts or a few olives. The healthy fats in these foods can help cut belly fat and reduce the tendency to overeat. Finally, travel with snacks such as a piece of string cheese, raw almonds or cashews, or a balanced protein bar.
3. Dress up your salad. Studies show that a few teaspoons of vinegar added to a meal lowers the glycemic index by 20 to 40 percent. Vinegar (along with foods such as pickled cucumber) also help to lower the insulin response to a starchy meal, possibly by slowing the rate at which the meal leaves your stomach. Vinaigrette dressing (one tablespoon of vinegar and two teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil) works just as well. You can also use lemon juice if you prefer or try using a supplement of apple cider vinegar in capsule form.
4. Add a little roughage. Consuming more fibre is another secret weapon in your arsenal against holiday weight gain. Fibre causes our stomach to stretch and increases the amount of time it takes for food to pass through the digestive tract. Both of these lead to better appetite control and make us less likely to keep munching away. While most people take in 10 to 15g of fibre per day, the amount that is required for optimal weight management and bowel health is 25 to 35g. Like protein, fibre also slows the flow of sugar into our bloodstream, which causes less insulin release yet still provides us with a steady supply of energy. The easiest way to increase your fibre is to add ground chia or flax seeds to your meals and protein shakes.
5. Start the day off right. Your first meal often sets the pace for the rest of the day. Cereals which are marketed as “healthy choices” may contain more vitamins and minerals than other cereals, but they also contain a ton of hidden sugar. Choose thick, dehulled oat flakes to make your oatmeal – these have a lower glycemic index than rolled oats or one-minute oats. Top with berries, one of the lower GI fruits, rather than a banana, a fruit with a higher GI, and toss a few nuts or seeds over the oatmeal. Finally, sprinkle a little cinnamon over your oatmeal and enjoy it with an egg or two. Recent studies have found that compounds in cinnamon can lower insulin within just 30 days and eggs improve appetite control.