If you are like me, then the holiday season brings at least a week of visiting family and friends, endless conversations over coffee and cookies and wine and mezze.
Over a week of sleeping more, eating more, аnd working considerably less, most people feel like they've gained a few lbs. If you exercise regularly this is a good time for your body to recover and refuel for the hard workouts after the holidays, but if your goal is to keep your hard earned leanness all year round then maybe you would like to make use of some of my holiday season tips:
1. Sleep as much as you can. Sleeping a couple of hours more than your usual work week routine can easily curb your appetite. Not sure that this works? Remember the last time you went a few nights without sleeping preparing for an exam! Did you feel like attacking the cookie isle at your local store? Of course, sleeping more means you should think of hydration as soon as you wake up. Have a glass of water ready to meet that morning thirst after the long hours in bed.
2. Learn how to say ''No''. You will be offered cookies, wine, an extra serving of stuffing or more pie, almost every day of the holiday season. Learning to say ''no'' like you mean it, without being rude to your hosts is an art that can only be learned through practice. In rare cases you can even lie and say that you are allergic to something, just so your host backs off.
3. Skip the meals you can skip and enjoy the meals you want to enjoy. I love my breakfast when I am getting ready for a long day at the gym, packed with clients and heavy weights. When I am going to spend the day relaxing and reading and end it with a holiday feast with my family, breakfast is the last thing on my mind. Make an inventory of your holiday plans and see which meals you can skip to save calories for the meals you really want to enjoy.
4. Live an active holiday lifestyle. You know what I mean: spending at least an hour a day being physically active. Take a long walk, clean the back yard, shovel some snow (or cut some grass depending on where you are). In the best case scenario, do your planned workout in the gym and try to add an extra set or some more weight to the bar. There is no excuse for skipping workouts even if you don't have a gym, because a body weight routine is always possible.
5. Modify the holiday table. Most holiday recipes can be made healthier through giving up some of the sugar, a bit of the fat and adding more protein or whole grains and flours to it. This year, I volunteered to make the turkey, and used a lot less butter and olive oil than my grandma uses. Did anyone notice there were less calories in the stuffing? I don't think so.
I also made this easy and fast snack today, which made a great brunch alongside some picked vegetables. I am going to devote a whole post to the benefits of pickling, but for now, you can read about fermented foods, here.
3 cheese polenta
You can make your polenta in advance, by getting some corn meal and boiling it in water and adding just a bit of sea salt. A common corn meal to water ratio is 1:2, but read your package instructions carefully before you start. The best way to make polenta with no lumps is by pre-soaking the corn meal in cold water. Bring the rest of the water to a boil and slowly add the pre-soaked corn meal stirring until it thickens. You can then move the polenta in a container of desired shape. I used a large beer stein for the polenta below. Left overnight, it thickens and after it slides out of the container, the polenta can be easily cut in circles or squares and cooked in a pan or in the oven.
For this recipe (serves 4-5) I used:
10 polenta circles, 1/3 in thick
6 oz cheese (feta, smoked cheese, gouda)
1/2 oz butter
2-3 olives, cut
oregano to top
Heat oven to 400F (200C) and place polenta circles on a baking sheet. Use small pieces of butter to coat each circle. Place cheese on top of each piece of polenta. Finish by adding olives, small pieces of dried tomato or peppers and sprinkle dried oregano on top.