C’mon, Get Healthy! (No, Really!)

by paige on December 1, 2009

Gluten-Free-AlmondIT’S THE HOLIDAYS, which means we all eat and drink until we want to hang our flabby heads in shame. But it doesn’t have to be that way, does it? We have had a giveaway to help; read on.

I laughed, hard, tonight, when my Facebook page today let me know that one of our favorite online sisters, April of Coal Creek Farm, did the exact same thing I did today: joined (in my case, rejoined) the gym. After today’s “total toning” class, I can already feel my arms aching. But I also feel a lot slightly less guilty about the weekend’s major indulgence, chocolate pecan pie.

So inspired by a generous donation by one of our favorite cooking sisters, the amazing Elana Amsterdam (read our profile of her here, and visit her website,) we’re challenging ourselves, and you, dear sisters, (yes, that means YOU!) to tell us your best tips for keeping healthy, dare we even say fit, during this most tempting and overindulgent time. Do you do like Margaret and Marion, and follow a specific regimen (gluten-free, or otherwise?) Or are you more loosey-goosey, like I tend to be (with predictably uneven, ahem, results?)

Whatever your dietary M.O., we want you to give us your very best ideas of how you keep a lid on holiday excess, and we’ll reward a select (random, but select nonetheless) seven of you with a copy of Elana’s incredible The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook, a beautiful compendium of healthful and delicious recipes for this time of year and beyond.

Here’s how it works. If you would like to win a copy of the book, leave a comment on this post, telling us your best idea for not going to the (corn)dogs between now and January 1. Then, if you have a blog, please post the news of this little shindig of ours there, too (with a link back.) We’ll select the winners at random next Tuesday, and you don’t have to be a blogger to win!

WE HAVE OUR WINNERS! Congrats to Paulette, Irene, Ashlie, Square Peg Karen, L, Jen and Kelsey–be sure to read through the comments to learn their great tips for staying healthier during the holidays! Thanks, all, for reading and chiming in!

In the  meantime, I have to gear up for tomorrow’s dose of pain: Cardio Jam. April, are you listening?

{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

Cheryl Arkison December 1, 2009 at 2:12 pm

Good question! But because I know that I don’t have willpower when I do attend an event, I simply choose not to attend as many events.

I’ve also tried to scale back what we do at home. With young kids (1 and 3) I have to remember that they don’t care whether there are 7 different kinds of cookies and a 12 course dinner on Christmas Eve. So we’ve picked the important traditions like our trip to cut the tree and Christmas morning stockings and brunch with Christmas Tree Bun.

paige December 1, 2009 at 2:43 pm

Beautiful, Cheryl. I agree–the only person who really cares if there are seven kinds of cookies is the obsessive baker who makes them. And we also love going out to cut our own tree! Thanks for chiming in.

Kelsey/TheNaptimeChef December 1, 2009 at 3:00 pm

I use the rule of one’s – at every event or buffet I eat 1 appetizer, one serving of dinner, one small dessert, 1 drink. That way I don’t go overboard , but still enjoy everything. And, yes, there are sometimes I just say screw it, and enjoy everything a little more too. As long as I stay moderately concious things usually turn out fine by Jan. 1.

Square-Peg Karen December 1, 2009 at 3:07 pm

I’m SOOOOO loosey-goosey through the holidays – and (don’t tell!) most all the time…I’m probably on Santa’s Naughty List – sigh – but there are such great tastes and sights and tastes (did I mention tastes already?) flying around – who can resist? or better question – why?

Oh! I will try to get more walking in – not as much to counteract nibbling as to enjoy how gorgeous it is now! But that might count…

Allison December 1, 2009 at 5:12 pm

I try to be healthy, but always end up going nuts on the desserts. I can’t do it at gatherings anymore because I’m gluten-free, but I make a bunch of filth at home to compensate and always pig out. And especially now that I’m pregnant, I’m just going for it. Keep an eye out for my rapidly expanding butt!

Paulette December 1, 2009 at 8:24 pm

Let’s see, having to eat gluten and dairy free cuts down on nibbling on the random goodies that show up everywhere during the holidays, so that helps. Keeping up with the daily treadmill regimen does too. Sorry, I don’t have a blog to link.

Linda Ziskind December 2, 2009 at 1:07 am

My secret, albeit underemployed, tactic for not overindulging is something I read in the South Beach Diet book. It wasn’t even a key part of the diet. It was kind of a throw-away piece of advice, meant to prevent recidivism, i.e. saying, “Oops, I accidently ate an entire piece of quadruple-chocolate cake. With fudge frosting. Well, sh*t, I may as well finish the other 7 pieces while I’m at it.”

The tactic is what I call, micro-indulgence. If you want a piece of quadruple chocolate cake so bad you’d kill for it (and I mean, literally, kill), have just one or two bites. You’d be surprised how well that works. You’re satisfying your taste-craving with those little bites, yet inflicting minimal collateral damage in the calorie and fat department. A win/win.

Jen December 2, 2009 at 7:28 pm

I discovered the most amazing workout program, CrossFit, this summer and have fallen in love! The ever-changing workouts can be scaled to meet most, if not all, fitness levels and are empowering, to say the least! Most CrossFit gyms (or boxes, as they are often called) offer a free trial workout. I was intimidated at first, but after committing myself to one month…I now consider myself forever committed! This program, along with eating Paleo, has inspired me and will keep me motivated through the holiday season…or will at least burn the extra calories I do decide to consume…

And, speaking of Paleo…Elana’s book has been my go to for grain-free, dairy-free baking. I love it! So, offer to make one of her recipes for your next holiday gathering…and don’t go to the party starving.

Ashlie December 2, 2009 at 7:34 pm

I do not follow a strictly gluten free diet, but I have switched to making all my cookies with almond flour and I always use agave as my sweetner (both choices inspired by Elana’s blog). I also sneak fruit or vegetable puree (especially pumpkin) and whole grains (rolled or flours) into most of my muffins or quick breads. This boosts the fiber, making them both more filling and more nutricious!

Joyce December 2, 2009 at 7:34 pm

I am not only gluten-free but basically also sugar-free. That makes things easy. If i weren’t though, I’d avoid going to coffee shops where the appetizing pastries and sugar treats are hard to turn down. To deal with cravings at home, I like having veggie snacks with pesto or hummus. If I make desserts, I only use stevia to make myself feel better.

Lenee December 2, 2009 at 7:36 pm

My holiday regimen will include lots of warm tea, low carb turkey wraps using lettuce instead of gf bread, kale soup, Elana’s candied pecans, and my daily 2 liters of water! Taking walks in the mall when the weather is bad outside. Happy Holidays! Sorry, I don’t have a blog to link.

Janice December 2, 2009 at 8:29 pm

It is so hard for me to resist all the delicious treats this time of year, especially anything with chocolate. Before I grab those treats, I will remind myself about how sluggish I’ll feel or how my jeans will feel a little tighter around the middle…sometimes this works.

Erin December 2, 2009 at 11:05 pm

I wish I could be more loosey-goosey, but I’m currently gluten/dairy/sugar/etc.-free. I do, however, still love to cook for my two little ones (and my husband). I eat vicariously through them. I try to give them healthier options whenever possible, but this time of year is definitely tough.

As far as exercise goes, I just joined a bunch of women who play weekly pick-up basketball games. I’m realizing I am BEYOND out of shape.

paige December 2, 2009 at 11:15 pm

Good Heavens! Hello, welcome!
Kelsey–that’s a great, doable tip, which I will endeavor to adopt.
Karen–walking totally counts. :-)
Allison–congrats on your baby-to-be, and enjoy your gluten-free-treat-filled pregnancy. You’re earning ’em!
Paulette-super sensible. And yes, GF does cut out so much of the tempting stuff.
Jen–Welcome, and thanks for the intros to Cross Fit and Paleo–you’ve given me food for dietary thought.Ashlie–great tips, and yes, Elana is such an amazing fount of tips and ideas. Thanks for stopping by!
Joyce–I love the idea of using pesto as a dip for veggies–that’s totally brilliant. Thanks!
Lenee–I haven’t yet tried the candied pecans, but I bet they’re divine. Do you have a recipe to share for your kale soup? I am obsessed with kale salad of late; my whole family (even kids) loves it, and I want to scream with glee whenever they eat something so healthy without a single complaint.
Janice–you are a paragon of reason and willpower–I am going to try to follow your example.

Katie December 3, 2009 at 12:20 am

My trick is to always have a decent snack before you go – something with protein in it to keep you full.

Linda December 3, 2009 at 4:30 am

I am *trying* to not over do it. We try to stick to gluten free and refined sugar free at home but at holiday parties we will likely be looser.
One thing that has really helped me is to realize that I don’t have to over eat…I can have more another time. But I do have some of the goodies…deprivation doesn’t work for me.
I keep fudge in the freezer…out of sight out of mind, but it’s there if someone drops over or if we are wanting some one evening.
We will probably do a couple kinds of cookies and give away some.
I would love to get a copy of the Elana’s cookbook, sounds fabulous! Merry Christmastime!

Jen December 3, 2009 at 10:19 am

I’m gluten-free, too, so that leaves out a lot of tempting treats easily. At home, I try to keep on hand homemade healthy, grain-free muffins and “candy” made with only natural sweeteners so I can indulge a little without sending my weight or blood sugar sky-high.

Laurel December 3, 2009 at 11:24 am

I’m an obsessive baker myself. However, since I’ve had to go gluten and dairy and egg free that means vegan baking. Elana’s a wonderful source for CANDY and I use a lot of Dreena Burton’s cookie recipes (converted to GF) of course. I’ve recently found a supply of palm sugar and coconut oil too so now I don’t feel one bit guilty for having as many cookies as I like! They’re heart healthy and don’t even raise my blood sugar. That’s a really hard to beat combination.

L December 3, 2009 at 5:15 pm

I have a few strategies. Don’t eat ANYTHING at the office that I didn’t bring in my lunch pail! People do seem to watch what they spend at this time of year so it is easy to come up with excuses for going out to lunch. Before a holiday party, I eat veggies at home so I’m not starving when I get there, and when it comes to potlucks… I take a tiny amount of all of the things that look good, and then go back for seconds only to the things I really liked. I also like to bring something halfway healthy so if people don’t want to eat cookies and cakes they can try some delicious roasted green beans with pine nuts and garlic (Moosewood) or roasted garlic spread or fresh baked bread.. I’m hungry just thinking about it!

Paige Orloff December 3, 2009 at 7:08 pm

Linda! How could I miss responding to my IRL friend Linda, who, btw, we could all take a lesson from in being totally fabulous all the darn time. If Linda says something works to keep you looking good–it does. Just know that she walks the walk, and do what she says, and we’ll all be the chic-er and svelt-er for it.

paige December 3, 2009 at 7:12 pm

L–welcome, and great strategies, all! I’m a big “seconds” avoider myself these days–it really makes a difference, especially at rich holiday spreads. I hope you’ll come back again and often, though, for the TSP buffet ;-)

paige December 3, 2009 at 7:15 pm

Laurel–So glad you came by. I’ll have to check out Dreena Burton; she’s new to me. Isn’t it great when you find ways to accomodate cravings that aren’t unhealthy? That’s the holy grail of baking.

paige December 3, 2009 at 7:17 pm

Jen–Welcome! I have a question–what’s your fave gf muffin recipe? I make some with Pamela’s mix that are quite good, and love a rice flour, carrot, raisin “morning glory’ muffin made by a wonderful local bakery, but would love some more inspiration!

Heidi December 4, 2009 at 5:46 am

This will be my first GFree Christmas and I’m pumped to figure it out…it’s all been a huge learning curve being Celiac and all…

As far as staying “loosey-goosey”…I’d rather not get into it… I’m more like a hoover vacuum when it comes to finding food I can eat.

This Christmas is extra special because my Mom and I will be reworking all our family favorites into Celiac friendly treats.

From Christmas pudding to stuffing to squares and cookies. It means a lot that my family would do this for me. What an adventure!!

ML December 4, 2009 at 7:25 pm

Good gosh, I often tend to overeat during the holidays–with vacation, staying inside due to the cold, and all the holiday parties…bad news! But I was recently diagnosed with celiac disease, so this being my first gluten-free holiday season, I think the parties will pose less of a problem. Unfortunately, I don’t think they’ll stop me from going on a gf baking craze at home… I’ll try to tone it down (though that might be hard if I’m lucky enough to win Elana’s book!)! That, and long walks outside in the cold air…

Jackie H December 4, 2009 at 11:33 pm

Welp, it’s hard for me during holidays because food is such a part of the celebration, you know? My plan this year is to get into shape before Christmas and then bring along some healthier treats whenever I can! :)

Pogonia December 5, 2009 at 1:13 am

Well, I don’t participate in Christmas, but do go to parties occasionally so I hope this counts.

I like to feel good. So I make sure to have my full quota of daily coconut oil before going out, along with a healthy snack. Then my satiety factor is taken care of and the host/hostess sees me eating their food. Albeit, just a nibble here and there.

Tara December 5, 2009 at 1:57 am

During the holidays, the amount of delicious food at parties can weaken the strongest of wills. A few suggestions:

Try to incorporate physical activity at family gatherings. Whether it’s a walk under the stars on a clear winter night or a snow ball fight in the backyard, any type of movement will help keep you active.

Being the designated driver is a strategy to avoid alcohol. Alcohol has empty calories. It also slows down liver function, interferes with digestion and gets in the way of healthy weight maintenance.

Win the war on tempting food by eating a small, healthy snack before a dinner party. Once at the party, fill up on greens and veggies 1st. This will leave less room for unhealthier options and help to balance your blood sugar when dessert comes.

I hope these tips come in handy over the holidays ; )

Tricia December 5, 2009 at 9:52 am

Well, there’s always the temptation to have more just because ‘it tasted so good.’ This past Thanksgiving I had only one plate full, because I knew the extra ‘tastes’ would make me feel miserably full. I felt so much better after dinner than I usually do. Then, too, there were more leftovers for other meals!

So, I guess enjoy the taste, but remember that more isn’t necessarily better.

Clay December 5, 2009 at 12:40 pm

My 4yo was recently diagnosed with Celiac disease so that was a sort of automatic downsizing in terms of going out or making seasonal favorites.

But for myself I imagine I’m being profiled by a health magazine… they’re going to publish (and probably dissect) whatever I eat at a party or during the day! I don’t have the time or the willpower to actually keep a food log, but I’ve found that just pretending works pretty well.

Heather December 5, 2009 at 12:57 pm

Hello, great site! Have tried some of Elana’s recipes & would love to win a copy of her book ;)
After deciding to only eat junk at “special occasions” & realizing those come all too often, I made a comittment to God & myself to eat no sugar until 2010- (or possibly forever). I wear a wristband to remind me, my hubby & kids are great at holding me accountable, too!

Karen in TN December 5, 2009 at 5:15 pm

Staying gluten free is easy (just ban it from the house). Staving off the holiday pounds much harder (especially if you ARE staying gluten free), so I started back with karate – several hours of workouts a week matches (or beats) even a week of Thanksgiving dessert leftovers!

I’d love to get a copy of this book, so thanks for the contest.

Cassi December 5, 2009 at 7:22 pm

eating gluten-free for the last eight years means i’ve gone hungry at every holiday for fear of getting sick. my real struggle is not to start stashing goodies because i feel deprived.

that and always inviting one or two people on long walks to get some peace and quiet and time to actually bond during this season of often too much over-socialization and yet sometimes not enough personal connection.

Ninufar December 5, 2009 at 7:44 pm

My best way through holiday feasts is to follow the same eating plan I use every day, which is a mostly-plant-based gluten-free kinda deal (think Dean Ornish’s work w/o all the wheat)… I have found that some foods don’t leave me alone if I try “just one bite”. Am very thankful that after a few years of messing my body up with a range of unhealthy eating patterns, some friends have helped me find a way to eat tasty, satisfying food each day and be more focused on my friends and loved ones at parties than I am on the buffet table!

Abigail December 6, 2009 at 1:27 am

Since I have celiac (have to eat gluten free) and also have a dairy allergy – I can’t eat a lot at parties that I didn’t bring. So I plan my calories ahead, cut back at my 3 meals – so that I have enough calorie allowance for 2 cookies or a brownie.

Also I always make sure I eat well before a party so I don’t show up hungry to the party – which is like going to the grocery store hungry. Everything will look good and enticing because you’re hungry.

My general year round advice though is to always have fresh veggies cut up in the fridge in case you need a quick snack. Often times this will do the trick if I’m just having a case of the munchies and keep me out of the junk food. If you’re craving something sweet have a piece of fruit first – this usually takes away my sweet cravings. And if you still want a treat – it’s fine if in moderation.

I live alone, so when I bake, I freeze most of what I bake. So later I can take a cookie or even a half of a cookie out of the freezer to indulge. This allows me to have sweets available when I want to indulge, but I’m not faced with a dozen cookies staring at me after I’ve eaten the one I planned on.

Freezing every time I bake – is also great, because I always have gluten free dairy free goodies on hand for friends or to take to the party.

So here is to an enjoyable but not overly indulgent holiday season.

ohlala December 6, 2009 at 6:49 am

my solution, especially here in the land of the baguette and the croissant (and wheat flour in most sauces and soups), is to host as many parties myself as i can manage with the little 11 week old addition to our family! i’m also shameless about letting hosts know about my condition, ever since i showed up at a dinner party where i couldn’t eat a SINGLE thing. not even a scrape the top off this or the crust off that. i always offer to bring dessert since that’s what seems to confuse most people – as in oh this only has a LITTLE flour in it… and with so many restrictions, i think it’s important to indulge in what we love and can eat – in my case, lots of raw organic butter! they say it’s good for the brain. i’m still waiting… in the meantime, i would looove to have elana’s book to show off to these frenchies.

LindsayE December 7, 2009 at 12:41 pm

Since I eat both gluten AND corn free (I <3 my life!!) I bring all of my own food to holiday dinners so at least I know what I'm eating. Often people look at my food and say "Oooh!!! What is that? Can I have a bite?" so that's a nice feeling!
As much as I joke about it it's actually a better way for my husband and I to live. We cook all of our own food, bake our own bread, little to no processed or boxed food, no preservatives, all organic fruit and veg from the local farm mart or our own garden, no take-aways so we save money. I still get jealous of some of the "regular food" but my food is pretty darned good, as well! (especially the cookies!!!)

Irene December 7, 2009 at 1:08 pm

The best thing is to select only the most special foods that are usually only eaten for the holiday (I eat pate once a year and no one makes pie from scratch, easy to pass on when they aren’t family recipes). Our family has some good choices during the holidays without even realizing it, so it is just a matter of choice. It is the holiday parties at a restaurants that is difficult so I do my best to drink plenty of water, eat good snacks before and eat a miniature dessert to minimize the damage!

Betsy December 7, 2009 at 1:42 pm

I’m actually registered to run a half marathon in Phoenix January 17th. I’ve been training and the days that I’ve “indulged” were tough. I didn’t realize running this race right after the holidays was great way to stay in check DURING the holidays. I don’t want to feed my body too many treats or I won’t be able to train well. Blessing in disguise!

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