The holiday season is upon us. It is such a magical time of the year as family and friends come together to share laughs and good memories. It also tends to be the time of year when nutrition plans and fitness goals get derailed. Here are some of my top tips to help you stay on track this holiday season:
- Eat 3 balanced meals every day. Giving your body regular nutrition will result in more stable energy, the ability to make better food choices, and set the foundation for a healthy metabolism. Skipping meals is stressful for the body and can lead to a slower metabolism, blood sugar crashes, cravings, and energy dips. Forgoing breakfast in anticipation for the big dinner will only result in a negative impact on your energy, mood, hunger, and cravings. You will be far more likely to overeat and overindulge. Instead, eat 3 balanced meals a day (and 2 healthy snacks, if needed). Prioritize good quality protein (meat, fish, or whole eggs), good quality fat (avocados, raw nuts or seeds, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, butter or ghee, or full-fat dairy), and non-starchy vegetables (these are vegetables that are palatable raw, although you don’t always have to eat them in raw form). If you are hungry between meals, reach for a snack that contains protein and fat such as raw nuts and seeds, full-fat dairy, or whole eggs. You will still be able to enjoy your favorite holiday foods, but without stuffing yourself like that holiday turkey.
- Have a strategy for gatherings. Make sure you don’t arrive hungry and ready to devour everything in sight. I recommend eating a snack or a light meal before heading to a gathering. When building your plate, focus of protein, non-starchy vegetables, and healthy fat. Then take sample-size amounts of your favorite, more indulgent dishes. If you are able to bring a dish, bring a healthy alternative. Be careful of the carb-coma trifecta: starchy side dishes, sugary desserts, and alcohol. Pick one, and don’t indulge in all three. If you just can’t resist dabbling in all three, keep the portions small.
- Only eat food that tastes awesome. Have you ever found yourself eating a heaping plate of mashed potatoes, stuffing, and green bean casserole that only taste OK? Have you ever found that the first few bites of that pumpkin pie are delicious, but then the magic wears off and you just eat the rest of the slice because it’s there? Instead, assess every bite of food that crosses your lips. Does it taste awesome? After a few bites, does it still taste amazing? If the answer is no, it’s time to call it quits. It’s not worth stuffing yourself with less-than-stellar food.
- Practice mindful eating and perspective. Are you really hungry or are you just being tempted by hyper palatable food that is laying around? Reach for a healthy alternative first, such as a slice of cold turkey or some raw nuts and seeds. Also keep in mind that you don’t have to stuff yourself with holiday foods “because it is the holidays”. In reality, these foods are available to us all of the time. We live in a society that allows us access to mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, cookies, and probably even candy canes any day of the year. I’m not recommending consuming these foods on a regular basis. Instead, I’m offering a different perspective. You don’t need to worry about “getting in” all of your favorite holiday foods because “OMG, I won’t be able to eat these foods until this time next year!” Knowing that you could access these foods any other day of the year, takes the urgency out of needing to eat them.
- Eat slowly in a calm and relaxed state. Being calm and relaxed promotes optimal digestion. Eating slowly allows you to chew your food thoroughly (also promoting optimal digestion) and better assess when you are actually full. To help pace your eating, put your fork down between bites. Maybe even engage in some conversation.
- Water fulfills so many important functions in the body, so it is crucial to properly hydrate each day. It is not uncommon that when somebody feels hungry, their body is actually trying to tell them that it needs water. If you have been eating regular meals, but still feel hungry, try drinking a glass of water. How much water should you drink? Take your body weight (in pounds) and divide by 2. This is the number of ounces of good quality pure water that your body needs every day. Sip your water throughout the day and avoid chugging large quantities. For an extra boost, add a small pinch of unrefined sea salt to your water for extra electrolytes.
- Move everyday. Even if you can’t hit the gym, be sure to move your body. Go for a walk, rake leaves, pull the kids around on the sled, or build a snowman. Not only is movement and play good for the body and the mind, but good habits tend to build on one another. Prioritizing movement everyday can help you to make better nutrition choices automatically.
- Get adequate sleep. When we are tired, we often don’t have the mental capacity to make good nutrition choices. Our bodies tell us that we need energy, so we reach for extra coffee, carby snacks, and sugary treats. Shoot for at least 7-8 hours of good solid sleep to keep you feeling good and focused.
I hope these tips will help you keep your nutrition on track this season.