Tips for beating the holiday hangover.
As a functional medicine Dietitian I am not encouraging copious amounts of alcohol intake. Alcohol is a neurotoxin and for many individuals it drives hormonal imbalances, liver damage and unnecessary weight gain. The tips in this blog are find for the occasional night out and are meant to help you get back on track again, okay? Agree? Good. Let’s get started.
EAT WELL. Don’t skip dinner (or lunch and snacks for that matter). Alcohol is absorbed more quickly when poured into an empty stomach. Make sure you have a good, well-balanced meal when you are drinking.
SAY NO TO CAFFEINATED COCKTAILS. Walk away from the Red Bull and Vodka. Alcohol is a punch to the liver, don’t mix it with another: caffeine. Allowing your body to detox one major chemical at a time is better than mixing it with caffeine and whatever other crazy chemicals are found in Red Bull.
TAKE YOUR MULTIVITAMIN. Having adequate B vitamins will help your body detox alcohol and can assist in a shortened hangover the next day. Most multi vitamins have adequate amounts of the B vitamins. Take you multi the day you plan to drink and the day after to support your bodies detoxification pathways.
EAT AN ORANGE. You body will also need electrolytes and vitamin C. If you don’t like oranges consider a bell pepper. Or drinking an EmergenC is a good alternative.
DRINK UP THE H20. For every one alcoholic beverage, drink 1 large glass of water or coconut water. Stay away from sugary beverages on a night you drink. These make hangovers so bad.
WAKE UP AND DO WHAT? Exercise, drink some caffeine, try another coconut water and if it’s really bad, pop a few advils.
Alcohol has more calories per gram than protein and carbohydrate. It is also metabolized in a different way than other foods. Because it is a toxin in the body, your body will always preferentially metabolize alcohol, meaning other foods have to wait. Your body will send signals to store other food as fat while it is metabolizing alcohol. It can affect your metabolism for hours even after the alcohol consumption stops. So do yourself a favor and limit the amount of evenings you choose to partake in alcohol. This is for your overall health, but also for you weight loss efforts.
I recently joined a new gym and fell back in love with an old friend of mine, spin class! It didn’t take long for me to find my two favorite instructors at the gym. It’s a mix of a lot of sweat, some high speed yet stationary cycling (just the kind I like, with no cars next to me), good music, and the right words.
The right words is what I would like to focus on in this post. Speaking to yourself kindly, with encouraging and motivating language will help you reach for your goals. Negative self talk and negative views toward yourself, reciting these thoughts to your self will continue to put larger and larger mountains between you and your health goals. Check out these two sayings: ‘Yes You Can’ and ‘I See You.’
One of the teachers will just out of the blue say “Yes You Can”. It’s not that someone in the room has said, I can’t, or I won’t. Maybe she sees it in someone’s face or diminishing energy levels. But, I eat it up. Every time I hear her say “Yes You Can”, I am like “Hell Yes, I Can!”. And just then I have more energy than the second before. I never tire of her saying it. And now even when I don’t take her class and I’m in someone elses class I will say it to myself. “Yes You Can”. It’s this self talk that is so positive. It helps me get through a long, hard workout. I’ve brought it into my business practices too. Whenever I have a moment of doubt that I may be attempting something too big or too far out of my reach I say “Yes You Can”, Sometimes I say it over and over again. I say it until I believe it, and then I push on.
This is something that can help as we make decision by decision for health. Whether it is taking the screens out of the bedroom at bedtime so you can sleep more soundly, or at the grocery store when the amount of produce you put in your cart seems like more than you’ve ever eaten in an entire week before. I want you to stop, and say “Yes You Can”. Make it personal, [insert your name] you can! Caitlin, you can! Jason, you can. Lilly, yes you can. Slowly not only will you realize you can, but you will DO.
The other spin teacher I really like will randomly in class say “I See You”. This isn’t like a mother saying “I See You” as you reach for the cookie jar she told you was not available until after dinner, or the teacher responding to wandering eyes during a quiz. It’s an “I See You Working”. I see that effort! It’s an “I’m Proud Of You, And I’m Telling You!” I love it when he says it. It seems so simple but, when he says it, I feel proud of me too and the work I’m putting in. It is one that feels a bit more silly to incorporate into self talk. But, I recommend you try. When you make the choice of a piece of fruit instead of cookies as a snack or you choose yogurt as a bed time snack instead of ice cream, let yourself know, that you recognize the change and the decision. Let yourself know how proud you are. Reward yourself with these positive thoughts. I promise there are chemical reactions happening in that brain that will increase the satisfaction as you reward yourself with gratitude that is associated with these choices.
I know many of you read this blog to learn about health and nutrition. I want to let you know I will continue to post information… and though I don’t know exactly who is reading, I can tell how many of you are. I see you and I’m proud. Whatever your health goal, I want you to feel empowered to reach for it, Yes You Can! I BELIEVE IN YOU. If you find that you need more help reaching for those goals, consider hiring a health coach. I would be happy to help encourage you, provide you with the education you need and the hand holding, cheerleading and accountability to reach your health goals.
Hormones fluctuate dramatically throughout our lifetimes, and for women especially, they fluctuate dramatically just monthly. Hormones going hay-wire can contribute to weight gain, mood swings, and depression. There are actions within our own individual control that have significant effects on hormone production and metabolism. You guessed it: Diet and Exercise (and perhaps one you didn't guess or often overlook!) SLEEP. Today I will focus mostly on diet. We will keep it pretty simple too, eat more of these... and less of these... got it? Let's go.
Cruciferous vegetables (1-2 servings per day)
- cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, brussel's sprouts
Leafy greens (1-2 servings per day)
- spinach, kale, swiss chard, collard greens, beet greens
Berries, melon and citrus (1 serving per day)
Raw nuts and seeds (1-2 servings per day) - consider soaking
Ground flax seed (1 Tbsp daily)
Beans (at least 1 serving per day)
Whole grains (2 servings per day)
Fish (2 servings per week)
Healthy fats: avocados, olives, olive oil, and those mentioned above.
Artificial sweeteners (diet soda, etc)
Trans fats and saturated fats
Sleep at least 7 hours per night
Get out in the fresh air and breathe
Get into full spectrum sunlight as quickly as you can upon waking
Maintain a healthy weight
Consider supplements that may help (ask a qualified health practitioner)
Take time to relax
I’d like to start a series on cooking techniques. I hope to cover information that is helpful for the home cook. How do you choose a certain knife to cut bread, versus fruit or cheese? Which pan is best to cook fish in, or an egg, or pot roast? Why would you put meatballs back in the fridge before cooking? These will be bite-size lessons that will help you refine your skills and be more confident in the kitchen.
The first topic I would like to cover is called “mise en place”. My favorite college professor and the one who taught my cooking classes Dr. Arlene Grant-Holcomb (she also joined in at my graduation party and wedding celebration – talk about an incredible teacher!) would always instruct that a good recipe always starts with mise en place. So what does it mean? It literally means “set in place”. It’s exactly what you see done on all the popular cooking shows where the ingredients and tools are all set out and ready to go. You need onions diced for the recipe? They are diced ahead of time! You need two tablespoons of chili powder, measure it first! The point is to set it all out and then when you are reading through the recipe and doing each step in order, you always have that next ingredient at the ready.
One of my favorite things about Mise en Place is pretending I am a celebraty chef, and say things like "now we will just pour in two cups chicken broth" (then I pour in the two cups of premeasure chicken broth) and I FEEL LIKE A STAR! You may be thinking I'm crazy, but try it, I know it'll put a smile on your face. Even if the dog is the only audience member in the room, he will enjoy the lesson.
As you grow and develop in your cooking skills a strict mise en place may not be as necessary because you will know that you can measure spices as your onions brown, or you will anticipate needing to put an ingredient in the oven to roast for 20 minutes which will allow ample time to measure something else, however for a less experienced cook, or one who is not as confident, setting all the items in order is a crucial first step for any dish. Many times you can even do it HOURS ahead of time or even in the morning or night before to save yourself time when you actually prepare the dish. You’ll just need to be mindful of safe storing practices. Here are some simple tips I use:
COMBINE WHERE POSSIBLE
If all the spices are added at the same time in a recipe, just combine them all in one bowl as you measure.
If you add carrots, onion and celery to a recipe at the same time (or any mixture of veggies) just throw them all in the same bowl.
PEEL, CUT, CHOP, DICE, MINCE
Rinse your fresh produce, and do whatever cutting needs to take place before the recipe.
Measure all dry ingredients, spices, etc.
Measure any liquids, oils, butters, you need.
Look at the recipe and organize your ingredients based on where in the kitchen you will use them or when in the recipe you will use them. For instance if you are prepping chili – the spices should go near the pot.
BLANCHE AHEAD OF TIME
If the recipe calls of vegetables or fruit that is already slightly cooked, make sure this is done by the time you begin the recipe, nothing will slow your groove more than having to stop an entire process to go boil and blanche some broccoli.
Preparation is key to cooking a great recipe, selecting meals for the week and getting the most bang out of your buck at the grocery store. Mise en place can make home cooking more enjoyable as you are actually preparing the dishes and way more enjoyable to eat. It can save a dish that might have been burned while you were prepping other materials, and instead turn it into the most fabulous feast!
Do you mise en place? Take a photo and post it to my facebook wall.
It's November, and the holidays are just around the corner. You know what that means, and so do I! Parties, food, cocktails, festivities, cookies, pies, loads of creamy mashed potatoes, stuffing, candy canes, cream filled casseroles, grandmas homemade treats, and the list goes on.
Don't worry, I am not here to tell you to avoid all of these things. I am not even here to tell you they are bad. I would like to equip you with information so you can feel ready to enjoy the festivities and the food without completely derailing your health goals.
1. Stick to the most colorful foods. This is a good general rule of thumb for any gathering at any time of year. Colorful foods are often the most healthFUL. Also, they tend to offer less extra calories in the form of fats, butters, and oils (not always, but sometimes). Focus on the vegetables dishes and make THEM fill out the majority of your plate. Seek out the brussels sprouts, the green beans, the cranberry relish, the crudite, the sweet potatoes (provided they aren’t swimming in marshmallows).
2. Avoid going carb crazy. Anything you can do to avoid overdosing on the starches that often pervade Holiday tables (potatoes, stuffing, breads, cookies) may be helpful to prevent carb comas. One doesn’t have to avoid favorite dishes completely, just being sure that there are plenty of nutrient dense options that make their way into your tummy first. One good rule of thumb, is to just serve yourself two thumbsize servings of a carbohydrate. You choose if that's stuffing or potatoes or a little of both, but make sure it totals about two thumb sizes.
3. Plenty of protein. Pairing protein with carbs is essential to avoid blood sugar rollercoasters during the Holiday season. If you aren’t vegetarian/vegan, then Turkey without a ton of skin can be a healthy option. (I’m a fan of humanely raised and organic turkey, whenever possible) You don’t need much more than 3-4 ounces (about the size of a deck of cards). That will provide 20-28 grams of protein which is plenty. You can flavor it up by adding a dash of those sweet potatoes or cranberry sauce. Seek out vegetarian protein options as well: beans, lentils, nuts and seeds. You can even be the one to bring a healthier - legume side dish with added veggies.
4. Dessert in moderation. Believe me those pies are not worth an extra 5 pounds around your waistline come January, and believe me that is exactly where it will go. The high sugar content of holiday treats is a hormone tragedy and those calories are destined to find their way to storage places around your organs (the worst place to send them). Here are my dessert tips. Serve yourself a bite or two of your most favorite choices. Eat them slowly, and don't return for seconds. I promise it won't kill you to have a bite and not go back. When in doubt go for the Pumpkin Pie. While it may technically be a “sweet”, pumpkin puree is rich in fiber and Vitamin A and is likely one of the healthier choices on the dessert table.
5. Do a holiday makeover. I’m a big proponent of creating healthy versions of the foods we love.. Try baking cookies with high fiber flour, oats, maple syrup , nuts etc, Create egg nog with coconut milk, honey, nut meg; Make gravy using chickpeas or cashews for creaminess. Try cutting the amount of fat in recipes and taste them before adding all the butter that is suggested. Google is a great holiday tool, just search terms like: "healthier pumpkin pie" or "bean casserole without the cream". We don’t have to cut out these foods, we can simply make some wonderfully flavorful and healthy versions of them.
6. Location, location, location. Don't hang out right next to the food table. This will help you avoid making multiple stops at your favorite thing on the table. Fill your plate and go eat somewhere and return only if you absolutely can't live without an additional bite of something.
7. Be mindful of meal times. If you are going to a party at 7 pm, don't eat a huge meal right before. Same thing, if you go to a potluck at 3 pm towards the end of your work day, avoid a large lunch or a large dinner. Try to spread those extra calories and budget them from your normal meal times.
8. Don't overdo the alcohol. Wine, beer, cocktails, hot buttered rum... need I go on? Just be careful, sip slowly, choose an occasion or two you will drink at rather than choosing to drink at each event. These calories are some of the quickest that will add on the pounds during the holidays. If you know you'll be headed to a few more than usual outings where you'll be having a drink, then choose to skip the glass of wine at dinner when it's just you and the family.
9. Control what you can. You may not be able to control what is served for you at parties, but you can control the dinner table at home. When it is within your power to control the food options, choose healthy, vegetable rich meals so you can give yourself some license when it is time to enjoy the festivities with others.
Above all, eat mindfully and savor the food no matter what it is. When we eat with guilt and mindlessness, we tend to eat more and it becomes a much less pleasurable experience. It’s possible to enjoy the holiday season without making food the enemy and feeling bad about our choices. Keep up the color, scale back the portions, eat with intention and joy.
Caitlin Johnson is a dietitian, wife, lover of ice cream, chef wannabe, California-girl, Christian, liver eating, "food-avore."
218 W. Carmen Lane, Suite 108
Santa Maria, California 93458
Hours: Mon-Fri 9-5 PST