-Melanie Battaglia, MS, RDN, LDN
The holidays are a busy time of year filled with to-do lists, shopping, holiday parties, and family and friend traditions. Holidays and traditions tend to be food focused with foods that we may not typically eat. The holidays may lead to overeating or putting your health goals aside until after the New Year. The holidays do not need to be stressful or lead to overeating. Here are tips for maintaining your healthy, active lifestyle throughout the holidays and also for supporting your fun holiday traditions.
- Consistent meals and snacks. Continue to follow your regular eating pattern. For example, if you usually eat 3 meals per day, be consistent with this through the holiday season. Skipping a meal to “save” calories for the party in reality can lead to overeating. Fuel your body throughout the day to support your metabolism and energy. Listen to your hunger cues throughout the day to prevent overeating and feeling lethargic.
- Have a plan. As athletes, we tend to be pretty good planners. Having a plan going into a holiday party can help reduce stress and overindulging. If you are unsure what kind of food will be at the party, visualize a balanced plate and portions. The goal is to make your plate look balanced. When you get to the party, assess your options before you begin eating. Looking at your options will prevent loading up on everything you see.
- Balance your plate. Fill a plate as you would for a normal meal. It is easy to fill several small plates, but this can lead to mindlessly eating and overeating. Appetizers are a great way to start a meal and help satisfy you if you are very hungry, however appetizers can easily fill you up and spoil the meal. If you are hungry before the main meal, choose vegetable based dishes. The energy dense appetizers that may fill you up before the meal tend to be cheese, meat, or bread based foods. Come back to earth and focus on eating whole foods or foods in their most natural form paired with the fun holiday foods (casseroles, stuffing, pies, etc.) to build a balanced plate. For a balanced holiday plate, aim to at least include a vegetable and protein. For example, a balanced holiday plate can include unlimited veggies, a protein serving, and 1-2 fun foods.
- Be mindful. Food is part of many traditions; there is more to food than just nourishing your body. Stay in tune with the food you are eating and how it makes you feel. Here are three ways to be mindful at a holiday party: 1. Before the meal look at all of your options and keep in mind the foods you really want as well as how they make you feel. 2. Before you begin eating, tune into the foods you have on your plate, which can be difficult with party distractions 3. Eat slow and savor the meal, check in with your hunger cues to notice satiety. Eating slowly also promotes healthy digestion; don’t forget to take care of your digestive tract. It can take up to 20 minutes before you start to feel full.
- Hydration. Hydration supports each system in your body, such as muscles, digestion, and skin. Take a break from reading this article and go fill up your water bottle. Plant foods can also help you stay hydrated, such as cucumbers, leafy greens, and watermelon. It is easy to lose track of your hydration status at a holiday party, especially if there is alcohol and holiday drinks available. Be mindful of how you may feel the day after the party. Poor hydration status can worsen a hangover. The average athlete needs about 80 ounces of water per day and that is about 10 cups.
And if you DO overeat and totally ruin your plan this holiday season, remember, you can join Melanie in January to get back on track in the Nutrition for Athletes 4 Week Course.