Worried about falling off track with your nutrition goals this holiday season? That’s totally normal, and you’re certainly not alone. Anyone who’s been diligently sticking to a healthy diet and exercise routine can feel some anxiety at the thought of all the holiday treats they’ll be tempted by for weeks on end.
Here’s the good news: You don’t have to take an all-or-nothing approach when it comes to holiday eating, and if you do, there’s a good chance it’ll backfire. It’s totally possible to indulge in the holiday foods you love while maintaining progress toward your health and fitness goals.
What can you do to manage your food consumption throughout the holidays so you can splurge a little without undoing your hard work in the gym? Here are five tips that can help you enjoy the holiday foods you love while prioritizing your health and fitness goals.
1. Before You Take Seconds, Take 10
Paying close attention to your satiety levels is one of the easiest and most effective things you can do to manage your food consumption during large holiday get-togethers and meals. But since your stomach takes a few minutes to send satiety signals to your brain, it can be tough to determine if you’re getting full after a single helping of food. That’s where taking a brief eating break can be super helpful.
After you finish your first helping of something, take about 10 minutes to allow your body and brain adequate time to register that your stomach is full. Drink a little water, maybe engage in a little conversation, and then reassess your hunger levels.
If, after 10-15 minutes, your appetite is still present, go ahead and plate a second helping. Chances are you’ll end up plating a smaller portion than you normally would if you didn’t take that brief break.
2. Avoid Skipping Meals to Save Calories for Later
Although it might seem to make sense if you’re trying to maintain your weight, skipping meals to “save up” for an evening holiday feast can backfire. That’s because, when you skip meals, your blood sugar levels naturally drop. And having low blood sugar can make it very difficult to control what you eat when you actually start eating.
Since you’ll be ravenous after hours upon hours of no food, you’ll also be much more likely to reach for lots of calorie-dense fare. Aside from messing with your blood sugar, skipping meals can also affect you psychologically, even if you don’t realize it. When you fast for the majority of the day with the intention of feasting in the evening, you essentially give yourself permission to binge a little, which is neither mentally nor physically healthy.
Binging often leads to feelings of guilt later on, which then leads to more restriction. Ultimately, you might end up finding yourself stuck in a negative pattern that’s tough to break.
3. Make Room for Your Favorites, Not Everything
If your holiday get-togethers are positively loaded with a veritable buffet of tempting treats, simply being around all that food can make it tough to stay on track. But remember: You’re not required to sample every food at the table. And, if you do, you’ll likely end up feeling worse for the wear.
When there’s a huge, tempting spread in front of you, make a small plate of your favorite foods that you don’t typically eat at any other time of year (Grandma’s apple pie, anyone?). When you’ve prepared your plate, step away from the buffet to avoid mindless grazing.
Eat slowly and take the time to really savor and enjoy sensible portions of those foods. You might be surprised just how satisfying a small plate can be when you slow down enough to eat mindfully. And remember: The holidays are about the people you’re enjoying time with, not the food at the gathering. Don’t make food the star of the show!
4. Watch Your Alcohol Intake
If you enjoy indulging in a few adult beverages during holiday get-togethers, remember that, just like food, alcohol has calories. But unlike food calories, alcohol calories are void of nutrients, so they won’t do anything to nourish your body or propel you toward your health and fitness goals.
Worse, since alcohol naturally lowers inhibitions, if you indulge in a couple of drinks when you’re around lots of holiday treats, you may be more likely to reach for foods you otherwise wouldn’t. If you’re going to indulge in a holiday drink or two, try implementing these tips to keep yourself on track toward your fitness goals:
Drink plenty of water between alcoholic beverages. Alcohol is very dehydrating, so you must be careful to stay hydrated so you don’t feel ravenous. Your brain can easily confuse hunger and thirst signals, so if you’re feeling snacky, try drinking a glass of water to see if that helps.
Opt for healthier, low-sugar mixers if you’re enjoying cocktails. That way, your drinks won’t be loaded with useless calories that’ll cause your blood sugar to spike and then crash. Controlling your blood sugar level is crucial for maintaining satiety levels.
If alcohol makes you munchy, opt for healthy snacks. Most holiday goodies are remarkably easy to overeat because they’re relatively small and positively loaded with sugar and fat. If you know you get snacky when you drink, load up a plate with healthier fare like veggies and dip or crackers and cheese. To make sure you have healthier options, offer to bring nutritionally sound snacks to your get-togethers if you won’t be the host.
5. Eat Plenty of Protein
When you're working hard in the gym and watching your daily nutrition, eating adequate protein is crucial every day, and during the holidays, that’s especially true. Protein doesn’t just help you build the muscle you’re working so hard for; it also helps keep you full, so you won’t feel quite so tempted to indulge in a few too many holiday treats.
Be sure to get a serving of protein at every meal, and if there are protein-packed foods available at your holiday get-togethers, add them to your plate (assuming you like them, of course). Having a small, protein-rich snack before you head to a holiday bash can also help control your hunger levels and keep you from overindulging.
If you can do a little bit of planning and exercise a healthy mindset around celebratory foods, the holidays don’t have to throw your nutrition off track. At Wolfpack Fitness, our New York City personal trainers and nutritionists would love to help you maintain your progress toward your health and fitness goals throughout the holidays and beyond!
Curious how our expert team can help you build healthy, lifelong habits? Get in touch with us today to learn more about how our personal training studio works and what we can do for you!