From Our Chefs

Top 5 Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight

As temps cool down outside, our kitchens are heating up. Many of us share holiday traditions that are centered around food. Here at College Chefs, we’re firm believers in the power of sharing a meal. The story telling, goal sharing and inside joke making that occurs with family and friends around the dinner table creates memories to last a lifetime.

‘Tis the season of indulgence. Even after your 5th sugar cookie, you can almost hear the whisper of “treat yourself” coming from the desert table. Family recipes and traditional foods you only see once a year are out in full force. It’s simultaneously amazing and terrible for those of us who seem to gain 10 pounds just smelling the pie in the oven.

We’re here for indulgence. We’re here for holiday food and your grandmother’s secret recipe. However, we’ve compiled some tips and tricks for those who wish to stay in the same jean size come January.

Holiday Tip 1: Move ya body!

Yes, snuggling on the couch watching Elf is a valid tradition we’re not asking you to give up. But this year, break up the family movie marathon with some physical movement. Whether that looks like taking the family on a walk, assembling a game of basketball, or swapping the next holiday film with an online yoga class, it doesn’t matter. The point is to incorporate a little movement into the festivities. We all know the physical health benefits of working out, but a recent article from Class Pass even details how group physical activity can bring you closer together. Inspiring camaraderie and increasing dopamine, working out as a family may even be better than therapy. Which is good news for everyone!

family walk, fitness
Photographer: Annie Spratt | Source: Unsplash

Holiday Tip 2: Be mindful

It’s so easy to inhale the plate of goodness you’ve served yourself at the holiday meal. We would never tell you to skip out on the fun, but slow down and recognize the work that went into creating each dish and the amazing feat it took for each ingredient to find its way to the grocery store shelves near you. Experience the burst of flavor and texture within each and every bite. Minimize distractions that come from your phone or the TV. Slowing down to appreciate the small things, in turn slows down the disappearance of food on your plate. This gives your body more time to process fullness signals and, in turn, consume fewer calories.

holiday meals, yum, dessert
Chef Leslie's roll for the men of Beta Theta Pi at the University of Mississippi

Holiday Tip 3: Shrink your plate

This tip may sound silly, but it’s for real! We’ve all had those “oops- my eyes were bigger than my stomach” moments. By simply picking up a smaller plate, you’ll have less surface area to consume your grub from which, theoretically, leads to less grub consumption. This is a simple way to visually control portion sizes. By the time you’re ready for seconds, you still haven’t eaten as much as you would with a larger plate! This brings us to…

Holiday Tip 3.5: go for the sample size. We love to try a bite of everything as much as you do. The trick here is to keep it to a bite. Don’t worry about offending Aunt Sue if you’re not devouring your casserole this year. You’ll know in a few bites if it’s worth praise or to be quietly pushed around the plate. Taking on a taste testing mindset will let you engage in all of the amazing flavors of the holiday, without inducing yourself into a food coma.

Holiday meal and white wine
Photographer: Jay Wennington | Source: Unsplash

Holiday Tip 4: Protein Power + Fiber Fuel

So many holiday dishes are rich in carbs and low in protein which means your body burns right through the calories (we’re looking at you: dinner rolls). Including some protein and fiber in each meal will help keep you out of the ‘fridge for that leftover midnight snack. Protein has been proven to increase metabolism and promote appetite reducing hormones. Fiber is known to keep you feeling fuller longer. Great sources of protein are lean meats, fish, or plant-based sources such as quinoa, chickpeas, nuts/seeds and dark leafy greens. Great sources of fiber are vegetables (artichokes, broccoli and carrots), fruits (avocados, raspberries and pears), legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds.

Pro tip: air popped popcorn with a drizzle of Olive Oil or MCT oil instead of butter is an excellent snack packed full of fiber.

Can’t watch a movie without a little Orville.
Photographer: Charles | Source: Unsplash

Holiday Tip 5: Keep it Zen

Ahhh, holiday stress. Gift giving, family dynamics and dancing around the topic of politics paired with cooking, cleaning and the ever moody weather can create the perfect storm of stress. In even worse news, high levels of cortisol (the hormone produced by the body in response to stress) are linked to weight gain and increased cravings for fatty, sugary foods. On the upside: practicing mindfulness, meditation and a regular exercise schedule can help reduce stress.

But to keep it real, we know how easy it is to get swept away in the whirlwind of the festivities. Our best piece of advice to keep it zen? Just breath! Try it now. Take a deep breath through your nose expanding your belly (for real- try this!). Pause at the top for just one moment before exhaling completely through your mouth. You’ll be amazed how conscious breathing can impact your overall mood and experience.

Photographer: JD Mason | Source: Unsplash

Connect With Us

Our dm’s are always open. Let us know if you’ve tried any of these College Chefs Holiday Tips yourself and how they worked for you! If you have any more advice for how to avoid a Santa belly this holiday season, share your idea and tag us online @collegechefs. Or maybe you just want to troll those of us minding our figures this season with your fresh baked casserole or batch of cookies? Tag us in your best holiday dish photos and we’ll be salivating from this side of the screen. Always remember no matter how chaotic it gets, a mantra of gratitude goes a long way. Happy Holidays from our family to yours!

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