Everyone knows the days between Thanksgiving and New Year's are a notorious time for packing on pounds. If you told Daphne Oz that you planned on following a diet throughout holiday season, however, she would call you crazy. While the co-host of ABC's The Chew (also known for being Dr. Oz's daughter) is all about eating healthy, she thinks a better way to control your intake is knowing when to indulge. That's one of the many tips we took away when we chatted with her as she took a break from manning T.J.Maxx and Marshalls' holiday hotlines.
Oz not only knows her way around a kitchen, but has experienced firsthand what it takes to truly see results. As a teen, she peaked at 180 pounds and was determined to lose weight. This led her on a journey that eventually resulted in her popular books The Dorm Room Diet and Relish. We picked her brain for ways you can fully enjoy the holiday food festivities without an ounce of guilt.
During the holidays there are sweet treats all around—how do you avoid going overboard?
"I wish I was one of those people who was never tempted by unhealthy food, but I go straight for the brie wedge with toast. [Laughs] The time is so short and you'll be back on track in January. The way I go crazy is by thinking I have to deprive myself and then just going nuts when I get to the party and I'm near the cheese platter. What I try to do instead is to eat really well during the day: have my lean proteins, vegetables, salads and start every day with oatmeal. I make those basic choices that are easy to make and consistently healthy."
Do you have any specific tips for holiday parties in particular?
"When I'm at the parties, what I try to do is not linger by the cheese table, or by the treat table in general. It's antisocial, anyway, since people are trying to make conversation with you. Also, believe it or not, the thing that helps me most during the holiday season is staying with one glass or less of really sugary cocktails. That's hundreds of calories you don't really pay attention to because you don't remember them. Eggnog can literally have hundreds of calories, so have half a cup, a little bit so you have the sensation and experience but don't go overboard. If you do that, then you won't have to feel guilty about having a few brie bites."
What's your advice for those who feel like they've totally gotten off track with eating healthy?
"What I'm doing right now is clean eating, just three days a week. I do Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. To fully enjoy the weekends, I stay on track during the week. I start the morning with either eggs or oatmeal depending on how much time I have to get out the door, and then I have a big salad with lots of vegetables in it, and then some protein for lunch. I make sure to have mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks like nuts or fruit—I love clementines because they're delicious and in-season right now. For dinner, I keep it simple: chicken paillard or shrimp with spicy kale. Plan ahead and you'll set yourself up for success. When you leave the decision up to the last minute when you're starving is when you're setting yourself up for disaster. When you plan the week it's not as hard."
Every New Year's, people make grand resolutions about getting healthy. What tips do you have for starting?
"Remind yourself that every step forward is progress. I have to tell myself that too. You wake up January 1 and you're 10 or 15 pounds heavier than you want to be and you're like, 'Shit, this is so, so much to lose and it's hard work.' The reality is that there is no substitute for hard work. All you can do is make it easier for yourself. Start with something basic like drinking half your bodyweight in ounces of water, counting to your age before you eat something you know you actually don't want to eat—you know, things you're kind of eating because it's lying around and convenient—and make sure to add one cup of vegetables to every lunch and dinner. Look at it as additional to what you're already doing, as opposed to taking things away which, psychologically, makes you feel like you're being deprived."
What are other ways people can keep up their motivation?
"What you have to pay attention to is all the little ways you feel better. Pay attention to those little successes. Don't just focus on a huge goal and not pay attention to the little boosts to your self-esteem—for example, I notice immediately when I start drinking more water that my skin is better hydrated, my eyes look wider and clearer—those little things make a difference. Recognize that it's longterm, too. When I was a senior in high school and 180 pounds, what I realized when I tried all these deprivation-based fad diets was that they're all about making you feel like you're not in control."
How do you curb cravings?
"What I learned before was that I could eat whatever I want, whenever I want. Eating one cookie wasn't going to kill me. Eating the entire box because I was so guilty over the first cookie is what would set me back. When you make that mental change, the allure of those foods stops being there. Add things to your diet rather than take things away at first."
What would you gift someone who loves to cook?
"Depending on how well they cook or how big their kitchen is, something like a beautiful Le Creuset pot or french copper pots—things you can find in store at T.J.Maxx—are really beautiful accents to the home that are also functional. For someone who lives in an apartment, who doesn't have a lot of space and pots just sit on the stove, you are looking for things that are beautiful, that are going to add to the aesthetic of your home but also be really great in helping you make really delicious food."
Any kitchenware you'd like to gift yourself?
"I'm a big fan of the Moscow Mule—it happens to be my favorite cocktail. There are beautiful copper mugs I've seen at some places that are so expensive and such a joke. I found some at T.J. Maxx for a very inexpensive price, which I was thrilled about. For me, I care about the quality more than anything. I want it to be great quality and look great in my home—I think those are going to be a welcome addition to my holiday repertoire. I also love mismatched plates. I collect them all the time from antique markets or boutiques wherever I am because I love the idea of sticking to a color palette and then having a variety of them. If a plate breaks, I don't want it to be the end of my universe because it was part of a set. So, I like cool mixed-and-matched plates."