‘Tis the season of delicious, high-calorie, high-carb temptation, and let’s face it: the struggle is real. Despite our best intentions, it can be difficult to stick to our health goals during the holidays. It’s especially important for those of us who need to manage our weight for health reasons, including chronic conditions like Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol.

Houston is one of the most populous cities in the U.S. (ranking 4th) and also one of the most obese and overweight (ranking 5th). Because of the correlation between weight and chronic and pre-chronic conditions, it’s important that we’re conscious of what we’re consuming this holiday, as well as the struggles that our friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers may have when it comes to food-centric holiday merry-making.

Shirley Kadoura, a local certified diabetes educator and dietitian, shares seven tips to stay on track this holiday (no matter what’s cooking)

1. Choose unprocessed, plant-based foods when you can.

“Adding more plant-based foods and other whole, unprocessed, fiber-rich foods can be extremely helpful for preventing, managing, or reversing certain chronic conditions,” explains Kadoura, who works as a wellness coach for Healthiby, a newly launched Houston-area program that uses financial rewards to incentivize health improvements. Most Americans are already not consuming enough veggies, but vegetables are also lower-calorie, lower-carb, and many have anti-inflammatory effects, which can be important for weight loss as well as controlling chronic conditions.

In fact, research shows eating just over one extra serving of leafy greens a day can reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes by 14 percent.

“A leafy green, like spinach, is one food rich in antioxidants and magnesium, which can enhance moods,” says Kadoura. Therefore, healthier food choices could even make you happier this holiday. “I’m not saying you have to give up on all of your favorite holiday dishes,” she clarifies. “Go ahead and have a little holiday ham! Just make sure your plate is also loaded with veggies.

2. Take nibble-sized samples

With an assortment of tasty treats to choose from, portion control can be a challenge. To prevent yourself from going overboard, Kadoura suggests using a smaller plate and taking nibble-sized samples of the not-so-healthy dishes you simply must try.

3. Eat before holiday gatherings.

Avoiding the temptation of super sugary sweets, calorie dense treats ,and carb-loaded eats is much easier when you arrive already satiated.

Kadoura advises to eat a small meal before you go. Fiber-rich foods and protein-power snacks (like a handful of nuts) can help keep you from being lured off your path.

Also, remember to keep your body hydrated. “Drinking water is one of the best ways to curb your cravings,” she explains.  “Sparkling water with lime is a festive and calorie-free option.” 

4. Bring Your Own Healthy Option (BYOHO)

‘Tis the season for sharing and caring. And what better way to do both, than to show up with one of your favorite healthy options? “Sharing a dish you genuinely enjoy—and that makes everyone’s calorie or carb intake a little bit lighter this holiday season—is a great way to take care of yourself and others,” encourages Kadoura.

It’s also a conversation starter! So, don’t be shy: BYOHO!

5. Drink (Wisely) and Be Merry

Let’s not forget being conscious of your drink choices. Alcoholic beverages are not only filled with calories and carbs, but they also lower inhibitions. After a couple of cocktails, you may not be able to resist going up for second and third helpings at the buffet.

If family drama or office hijinks make it near impossible to pass up the bar, remember that not all drinks are created equally. Choose low-calorie, low-carb options, and drink in moderation. If you are trying to keep your glucose levels in check, it’s especially important to moderate carbs. 

Think before you drink. 

6. Resolve to Maintain, Not Gain

The holidays are also a time when we start thinking about the positive changes we want to create in the New Year. Many of us will have weight loss goals on our minds, but let’s be real. Trying to lose weight during the season of stretchy pants, movie marathons, and mouth-watering feasts isn’t realistic for most of us. Kadoura says a more realistic goal would be to aim to maintain your weight. Then, after the new year, work towards a weight loss goal.

7. Then Resolve to Be Rewarded

Familiar with all the ‘tips and tricks’ for sticking to New Years’ health resolutions? Frustrated you haven’t yet been successful?

Healthiby, a year-long online program, empowers people to lose weight. With immediate rewards, for taking small actions that build healthy habits, and long-term rewards for achieving key health outcomes, Healthiby is designed to help you stick to and achieve your health goals. Join and you’ll be incentivized to lose weight as a team and individually and guided throughout the year in interactive online group sessions led by a dietitian coach.

Nothing like the Big Loser’s rapid but unsustainable weight-loss approach, Healthiby takes a measured, evidence-based approach. It incentivizes sustainable habit change, empowering participants to choose the foods and build the lifestyle they truly enjoy. Watch and listen to what some participants have to say about it.

What are you waiting for? Take the eligibility survey and join today. The first 20 Houstonians to join before January 5, 2020, join for free.

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