You’ve been following a strict nutrition plan all year and training hard. So, why throw all that hard work out the window for the sake of a few festive feasts? Whether you’re an elite athlete or someone who simply likes to stay fit and healthy, our 10 step holiday eating survival guide will help you avoid over-indulging this festive season and risk comprising your health or athletic performance.
1. Eat healthy, hearty meals on the day of the festivities
Don’t skip any meals on the day. Make sure you eat healthy meals comprising healthy fats, protein and fibre (from vegetables where possible) at your regular meal times before heading out for events . That way you’ll feel satisfied and less tempted by party food when attending brunches, lunches and dinners.
2. Watch your alcohol intake
Recent research suggests that drinking alcohol does make you hungrier so it’s important to go easy on the booze at holiday gatherings with family and friends. The best low-calorie options when it comes to alcoholic drinks are dry white wine, light beer (as long as you drink moderate amounts and at a slow pace) and straight liquors such as tequila, gin, rum, vodka, or whiskey. Keep in mind that when using an Australian 30 ml shot glass you’re normally looking at around 60 -65 calories per shot depending on the liquor you choose.
If you want to stretch the liquor out a bit and turn it into a more drinkable beverage you can use a calorie-free mixer such as soda water, lime juice or ice.
3. Put on an apron
Take advantage of any opportunities to help out with the cooking. If you can prepare a couple of the dishes you can ensure that there are some healthy options on the table and you’ll work off some calories while you have fun in the kitchen! Otherwise if you don’t have the chance to cook you could always bring some healthy store bought snacks/appetisers along as your contribution to the meal.
4. Consider caloric balance
Eating beyond your body’s needs can result in undesired weight gain. If you are not training over the holidays it is important to keep in mind when preparing your nutrition plan that you’ll be burning less calories on a day-to-day basis. You most likely won’t need to consume sports nutrition energy bars and drinks during the festive season.
5. Stay active during the holidays
While you may be taking a well-deserved break from training over the holiday season, it’s still a good idea to stay active. Aim to stick to a regular off season workout schedule so you can maintain basic health and fitness.
6. Keep a food journal
Keeping food and exercise journals will help you monitor calories consumed against calories burned. Write down everything you eat and drink in your food journal. Then, if you do have a few extra helpings or indulge in some processed carbohydrates or sugary treats you can balance it out by adjusting your eating and exercise following the event.
7. Drink plenty of water
Stay hydrated by drinking water throughout the day or evening (if it’s a dinner party) Dehydration can be misinterpreted for hunger. The holiday season in Australia often goes hand-in-hand with sweltering temperatures so you may need to drink more water than usual to keep your hydration levels up.
8. Pick some easy substitutes
You can still enjoy those holiday favourites while maintaining a fairly healthy diet. There are lots of ways you can adjust dishes and recipes to make them healthier whilst still seriously delicious. Instead of plum pudding with custard or ice cream you could have your pudding with frozen yogurt. When it comes to roast potatoes and potato salad, sweet potatoes make a great substitute for white potatoes. There are lots of tasty alternatives you can try out at this time of year.
9. Pack your own health options on holiday trips
The holiday season often involves a fair bit of traveling to visit relatives and friends or attend celebrations. It can be difficult to find food that meets your nutritional requirements when you are out on the road or on a plane or train. It’s wise to bring your own healthy food and snacks, as well as enough bottled water to drink to suffice for the journey. For car, train and bus travel you can work out where you’ll be stopping along the way and find out if there are any restaurants or food outlets which may offer suitable nutrition options.
10. Plan, plan, plan
Your social calendar is likely to be brimming with festive-food-filled events so it’s important to consider all the different gatherings and map out a realistic plan for your nutrition and training over the holidays. Work out which events are going to be the most challenging in terms of food and alcohol temptations and consider how you will manage each situation.
If you have a few big lunches, barbecues and dinner parties all in the same week you might let yourself indulge in all the holiday treats at the most important event and then control your food and beverage choices more diligently at the others.
With a bit of careful planning and preparation, you can truly enjoy the holiday celebrations without compromising your athletic performance.