According to an article by the New York Times, most of us tend to gain only one to two pounds during the holiday season, even though many media outlets report much greater gains, ranging upwards from 5 to 7lbs. However, these couple of pounds can accumulate and lead to age-related weight gain over our lifetime. There is no doubt that the holidays is a high risk season for weight gain. High-carb holiday treats and overstuffed plates quickly lead to a bulging waistline. In addition to kicking-up your workout frequency, you can do more damage control by using a few simple tricks to lower the glycemic impact of your meal. Believe it or not, this is the secret to staying slim.
The term “glycemic” refers to the presence of sugar in the blood. The glycemic index is a measure of how quickly a food type raises blood sugars after consumption. High glycemic foods such as rice, pasta, bread, cookies and candy release glucose more rapidly into our blood stream. More sugar stimulates a greater surge of insulin, the only hormone that instructs our body to store energy as fat. An insulin surge increases our cravings for mid-afternoon sweets and can cause us to eat 60 to 70 percent more calories at the next meal. The good news is, by applying a few tips and tricks to your meal, you can reduce the overall impact it has on your blood sugar … and ultimately your waistline.
1. “Whey” less. Protein slows the release of sugar into our blood stream, which leads to less insulin release. So the trick to blunting the effect of your high-carb treats is bumping up your protein. For best results, eat equal amounts of protein and carbohydrates during meal times (like 20 to 25 grams of both protein and carb). Enjoying a protein shake for breakfast and a second as a mid afternoon snack can give you a quick source of nutrients without promoting weight gain. Here’s a simple recipe: blend one serving of whey protein isolate, half a cup of frozen berries, a tablespoon of almond butter, a tablespoon of ground flax or chia seeds and water. Another benefit of this drink is that protein tends to keep you full longer. And for better appetite control at meal times, try consuming your protein first, your veggies second and your starchy carbohydrates last.
2. Stay steady. Eat every three to four hours to maintain blood sugar levels, prevent overeating and avoid excessive cravings. Skipping meals, irregular meal times and excessive caloric restriction will only lead to increased risk of binging later in the day. Before attending your next holiday dinner or party, try to have a snack such as a handful of walnuts or a few olives. The healthy fats in these foods can help cut belly fat and reduce the tendency to overeat. Finally, travel with snacks such as a piece of string cheese, raw almonds or cashews, or a balanced protein bar like The Simply Bar.
3. Dress up your salad. Studies show that a few teaspoons of vinegar added to a meal lowers the glycemic index by 20 to 40 perecent. Vinegar (along with foods such as pickled cucumber) also help to lower the insulin response to a starchy meal, possibly by slowing the rate at which the meal leaves your stomach. Vinaigrette dressing (one tablespoon of vinegar and two teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil) works just as well. You can also use lemon juice if you prefer or try using a supplement of apple cider vinegar in capsule form.
4. Add a little roughage. Consuming more fibre is another secret weapon in your arsenal against holiday weight gain. Fibre causes our stomach to stretch and increases the amount of time it takes for food to pass through the digestive tract. Both of these lead to better appetite control and make us less likely to keep munching away. While most people take in 10 to 15g of fibre per day, the amount that is required for optimal weight management and bowel health is 25 to 35g. Like protein, fibre also slows the flow of sugar into our bloodstream, which causes less insulin release yet still provides us with a steady supply of energy. Fibre also aids the removal of toxic estrogen from the body. In men and women, too much estrogen, a condition called “estrogen dominance”, causes toxic fat gain, water retention, bloating and a host of other health issues. The easiest way to increase your fibre is to add ground chia or flax seeds to your meals and protein shakes.
5. Walk it off. Even a short stroll can be a simple and highly beneficial way to avoid cheating, falling off track with your diet and minimizing the harmful effects those high-carb foods on your body. Studies prove that walking after an unhealthy meal can curb the effects of metabolic stress by reducing the amounts of fatty acids, sugars and stress hormones that are released into the bloodstream and subsequently stored as fat.
6. Start the day off right. Your first meal often sets the pace for the rest of the day. Cereals which are marketed as “healthy choices” may contain more vitamins and minerals than other cereals, but they also contain a ton of hidden sugar. Choose thick, dehulled oat flakes to make your oatmeal – these have a lower glycemic index than rolled oats or one-minute oats. Top with berries, one of the lower GI fruits, rather than a banana, a fruit with a higher GI, and toss a few nuts or seeds over the oatmeal. Finally, sprinkle a little cinnamon over your oatmeal. Recent studies have found that compounds in cinnamon can lower insulin within just 30 days.