Buckle up, everyone- the holidays are officially upon us! With Thanksgiving just a day away and Christmahaunakwanzaa less than one month away, things are likely starting to feel a little busy for us all!
Between holiday parties, holiday travels, and holiday meals, to say a lot of us will be out of our usual routines would be an understatement.
Because of this, people tend to stress out and worry- not knowing the best ways to balance the social aspects of the holidays with their personal health/fitness goals.
But, the holidays are a time for memories, not stress! So, in an attempt to help alleviate a bit of the worrying, I’ve put together some pieces of advice for tackling the holiday season in a healthy manner-- allowing you to enjoy the holiday season while still feeling good about yourself and your decisions.
Usually around this time, clients will come to me asking what their eating plan should be for Thanksgiving/Christmas day. Rather than trying to abide by a plan, I ask them to just keep a little structure.
I want them to be able to eat intuitively but have some tips and tricks in their back pockets. No one should be walking into a holiday meal with a strategically laid out meal plan. No one should be worried about exactly how many ounces their green bean casserole weighs or how much olive oil grandma sautéed those roasted vegetables in.
If you’re like my clients and myself, then you’re eating about 6 meals a day. That’s 2,190 meals A YEAR. Even if you’re just doing 3 meals a day, you’re looking at over 1,000 meals per year-- so what’s the harm in a few during November/December not being exactly what they should? In the grand scheme, are those holiday meals going to totally derail you? Not likely.
Head into your holiday meals with a healthy mindset. Know that this isn’t a self-sabotage day, it’s just an atypical day! And here are some of the best ways to structure and approach an “atypical day”:
1- Ditch the “all or nothing” mindset.
Have some of the festive foods, but you don’t need to have ALL of the festive foods.
2- Remember that this is not the last time you’ll ever be able to eat this stuff.
Kind of piggy-backing off of #1, it’s not all-or-nothing. Today isn’t the only day you can have stuffing, or ham, or sugar cookies, or pumpkin pie. Leftovers exist for a reason, guys! And, I don’t know about you, but I think having Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner again later in the week is almost better than the first go-around ;)
In moderation, there is no shame in eating your holiday grub again another day. You DO NOT need to shove it all down on one day in preparation for 364 days without it.
This isn’t hibernation...we aren’t bears...
3- Prioritize protein and water
Heading into your holiday meal, spend the first half of the day, and anything after, really focusing on getting in protein and chugging lots of water!
Holiday meals often wind up being higher in fat, carbs, and sodium, making them an easy way to take care of our daily fat/carb needs and also easy to bloat off of.
Because of that, protein may be your one macronutrient lagging with that meal, so plan to get it in elsewhere. As well, counter the sodium, additional water-absorbing-carbs, and alcohol (if you have festive drinks during holidays) with water to reduce any uncomfortable water-weight gain.
Much like the holidays themselves, these things cause changes in routines and “atypical” situations. Again, you don’t need need to come into these with a hard-and-fast plan for eating, you just need to have some structure and tips to follow. Such as…
1- Be mindful!
Stay present and in the moment-- think about what and how much food you’re taking as opposed to mindlessly grabbing from the chip bowl or appetizer tray.
Use that presence/mindfulness to listen to your hunger cues and stop when you’re satisfied, not when you’re overly full!
2- Balance, balance, balance
Just because you’re going for some unhealthy things doesn’t mean you have to be going for ONLY unhealthy things. For every not-so-smart choice, make 2 smart choices.
Mind your bites and serving sizes. There is a difference between 1 brownie and 3, or 1 mozzarella stick and 5.
Besides, after the first few bites of something decadent or savory, we’re typically pretty satisfied. Are the next 80 bites going to taste any different or do anything more for us? Probably not.
4- Set targets early
Holiday season is a marathon, not a sprint. Your first party likely isn’t your only party, your first get-together isn’t going to be your last get-together. Heck, your first holiday isn’t the last holiday!
That being said, pace yourself. Set targets for yourself beforehand so that the craziness of the holiday season doesn’t adversely affect you. For example, “I’m only going to have 2 drinks at the work party tonight,” or, “I’ll split dessert with so-and-so instead of grabbing one of my own.”
Little targets like that can help prevent the repeated indulgences all season from becoming overindulgences.
When not actually attending a holiday meal or event, a lot of our time is spent traveling for them! Being in a car, on a plane, in a hotel room, or even just in an unfamiliar kitchen can make sticking to nutrition plans difficult. Believe me, I get that, which is why I (again) say ditch the stress of trying to adhere strictly to a plan, just keep some structure!
Tips for traveling, here we go…
1- Prioritize water and protein
Seen this one before, right? Well, just as I mentioned before, carbs and fats are typically pretty easy to come by-- protein, not so much.
Pack some protein bars, protein powders, and protein-packed snacks (snacks that are PRIMARILY protein, so, no, nuts do not count…) with you to ensure you’re always getting adequate amounts.
As well, traveling (especially air travel) can dehydrate you and, in turn, bloat you! Make sure you’re getting lots of water down to keep you feeling your best.
2- Pack your multi-vitamins
Since your eating isn’t going to be as typical as normal, you may not be getting in the same amount of nutrients as usual. Fill any voids by taking multi-vitamins while you’re traveling!
(Not to mention, getting enough vitamins and minerals can help keep your vulnerable immune system healthy during travel)
3- Pack some greens
Either powdered greens or capsuled greens will do. The likelihood of getting in an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables during travel is somewhat slim, so get them in by supplement instead.
In regards to eating on the go, here are your best options for gas station/rest stop snacks and fast-food grabs!
1- Vegetable sticks: Most gas stations have little veggie dipper cups with celery and such. Grab these, eat the veggies, use a little or no dip.
2- Fresh fruit: You can almost always find fruit like oranges and bananas at gas stations. Sometimes they’ll even have apples pre-sliced and bagged in the refrigerated section or containers of mixed berries.
3- Hardboiled eggs: You’ll find them bagged and in the refrigerated section. I like to mix and match these by eating one with the yolk and one just the whites to keep my fats:protein ratio where I prefer it, but to each their own!
4- Pickles: A lot of gas stations are selling bagged pickle slices now! Good for when you want something salty and crunchy without all the calories of chips (just be mindful of the sodium, keep drinking that water)
5- Baked chips: Speaking of salty and crunchy… if pickles aren’t going to do the trick, look for chips such as Lay’s Baked chips. They’re lower in fat and overall calories making them a little better than a typical bag of chips.
6- Turkey/chicken/beef jerky: A good way to get your protein in while also crushing any “savory” cravings. Sodium can be high on these too, though. Just drink up and you’ll be fine.
7- Flavored waters: Skip the calories in sodas and energy drinks and go for flavored and/or carbonated waters instead. These still give you something refreshing while also keeping you hydrated (and fighting any of that extra salt from pickles and jerky!)
8- Individual serving cereal cups: If you’re looking for a carb source to toss in with a protein source, then these always work. They are simple carbs, though, so they won’t keep you full for long.
(My personal favorite way to make these into a small meal: pour my protein shake into the container for protein cereal!)
9- Black coffees + protein: Skip the pre-mixed coffee drinks packed with cream and sugar. Instead, opt for the bottled black coffees or pour your own black coffee and stir either your own protein shake in (since you’re traveling with your powder…) or the pre-made protein drinks that are low in fat, low in carb, and high in protein.
(If going pre-mixed, check the nutrition labels first!! Some of them are packed with unnecessary calories. I would recommend either Muscle Milk Pro Series or Core Power)
10- Protein bars: You may already have them packed in your bags, but if not, gas stations are carrying a good mix. My go-tos that are widely available at gas stations and have the best macronutrient mix: ONE! and Quest bars
11- Sandwiches with oven-roasted turkey or chicken: A good amount of gas stations have some type of sub-shop attached. Get yourself a turkey or chicken breast sub and load it with veggies! Cut out the cheese and creamy condiments to spare yourself the fat, focus on a little oil and vinegar or fat-free/light dressing instead.
If you’re at a general fast-food joint, you’re likely able to find SOMETHING with just plain old grilled chicken on it— likely in sandwich form. Order that, ask for it without cheese/mayo (they most always have mayo or some type of aioli on them…) and either open face your chicken sandwich or eat it whole, either way, you’re getting a good balance of protein, carbs, and fats in there.
12- HEALTHY fast-food salads: Grilled chicken or chopped turkey breast are your best options for meat, pick a light dressing and have it on the side, avoid selecting salads with candied nuts and/or a lot of cheeses and croutons/starchy toppings on them. Keep it simple.
Remember, the holiday season is just that-- a season -- and having structure throughout it will prevent the mindless overeating and over-drinking that typically happens while socializing during this time.
It is a season for making memories with friends and family, but if you’re someone who struggles with losing control when out of your element, then those good memories can quickly become tarnished with guilt and frustration.
Having a structured approach and healthy tips/tricks on-hand can allow you to actually enjoy the events without derailing your goals and without feeling guilty!
Stay structured and happy holidays, everyone!
** If you are interested in working together to ensure your success and keep you on-track during this time, please reach out for a 1:1 online training or 1:1 nutrition coaching consultation! **