10 Nutrition Tips to Navigate Around the Holidays
The holidays are about a time of gathering with loved ones and enjoying the presence and company of those around you. Let’s be honest though, we all always look forward to the food that is being served as well. To some, this time of year can be very stressful. This used to be me, thinking that I either had to eat exactly according to plan OR if I ate something “off plan” it meant I failed myself and I may as well go all out. I have put together a list of tips that I have found to be very beneficial for myself during the holiday season while also being focused on my goals.
1. Have a plan & be flexible with it. If you have specific physique goals around the holiday season, set yourself a plan and do what you know is going to make you feel your best during the holiday season. Think about what kind of experience you want to have, make it realistic for you and go from there. Don’t say your plan is to track everything if you know that’s not going to happen. Set yourself up for success, have a plan that is going to work for YOU. Once you have a plan, make sure your actions & behaviours match what you say your goals are and I am confident that you will be successful.
2. Have an honest conversation with yourself. Ask yourself how you would like to feel and where you want to be after the holiday season. Everyone has different goals; one person may handle holiday eating differently than someone else and that is okay. It doesn’t matter what someone else is doing. It matters what YOU are doing.
3. Pick and choose. If you have multiple events to go to, pick and choose which events you want to track and which events you may want to eat more intuitively.
If you choose to track macros:
pre-log food items that you KNOW you are going to eat as best as you can so you can feel confident and prepared going into the meal. You can always modify this after, it’s not set in stone.
focus on protein and calories or a caloric range instead of a specific number/macro targets. Around this time of year it may be easier to focus on a caloric range within +/- 100 calories of your actual target. I would highly encourage you to still focus on hitting your protein target and then your carbs and fats can make up the rest of your calories.
drink LOTS of water, get in some fruits and veggies and focus on having a higher protein intake throughout the rest of the day.
If you are not tracking and you choose to eat more intuitively:
prioritize water, fiber and protein intake as you will be less likely to over indulge. Protein is important for building muscle if you are someone who is training and in the gym quite often. Fiber intake is going to help slow down digestion & the absorption of food so you stay full longer and you are less likely to have cravings (so make sure to eat some veggies). Water intake is going to help with staying hydrated which will help with hunger cues and will help food to move through your body quickly.
4. Move! Go for a walk first thing in the morning or after some of your meals to help with digestion and to get things moving. It may be hard to convince yourself to do at the time but I promise you are going to feel so much better after doing this. I would highly suggest going for a walk first thing in the morning so you get it out of the way. If you end up going for another walk later in the day with family, that’s a bonus!
5. Choose non-negotiables. Choose habits as your non-negotiable instead of setting yourself number targets (like macros, calories, etc.) Starting your day with healthy choices is going to lead to healthier choices throughout the day. Begin your day with a big glass of water, a high protein, nutrient rich breakfast and getting in some movement. This is going to set your whole day up for success.
6. Pre-plan. Don’t go to the meal starving (I have done this too many times so learn from me) – restricting food throughout the day is going to likely lead to eating quickly and overeating because you aren’t taking time between bites to allow your food to properly digest. Make some modifications in your everyday meals and make some food swaps. For example, if you normally have 2 servings of peanut butter & 50g of oats, you could reduce that to 30g of oats and 1 serving of peanut butter. Add some more protein to it like egg whites and/or protein powder. Try and reduce the amount of rice you have at lunch and add more vegetables. Swaps like this are going to keep you feeling good throughout the day but are also going to give you a little more room later in the day.
7. Eat slowly. Give your body time to digest the food that you are eating. Wait a few minutes before you go back for seconds, put your fork down in between bites, chew your food thoroughly (could even do a ‘bite count’ where you ensure you chew X amount of times), drink some water and then go back for some of your favourite holiday food items.
8. Visit in an area away from the food. If you are standing by the food table to visit you’re more likely to end up mindlessly snacking/drinking when you aren’t even hungry. We are humans and we like to do things with our hands, whether it be picking up a drink or a food item. This is something my family does, we always have a table of appies set out and then the family gathers around the food to mingle. If you do this, stand by the veggie tray so you know you are consuming nutrient rich food OR just go to a different room to visit.
9. Don’t be a food jerk. You DO NOT have to go all out because this is the only time you get to have some of your favourite food items. Fill up your plate primarily with protein and vegetables then add in some of your favourite holiday items. If you really love a specific dish, make it more often throughout the year so it doesn’t feel like you’re only getting it once a year. If it’s a bit ‘too late’ for that now (as the holidays quickly approaching) see about making it a few days prior so you get a bit more.
10. Don’t be an asshole. Other people are going to have their own opinions but you have to let that go. You may have your own way of doing things and that’s okay. Your family doesn’t have to live with your choices and they more than likely aren’t trying to achieve what you are trying to achieve. Your goals aren’t their goals, they don’t have to live in your body. You can’t allow other people’s input to impact your decisions. Have a conversation with them about why it’s important to you, establish your boundaries and if they continue to bug you, walk away. Sometimes the closest people to us just don’t understand how hurtful their words are because of their own insecurities. People get weird when they know you are focusing on your nutrition, working out, eating properly and just overall more health focused. A lot of people can get insecure about that when they see other friends or family being more health focused because they can't bring themselves to do the same thing. They may want what you have but they aren't willing to put in the time or the effort. They'll say things and think things but you have to remember that this is your journey. Be the bigger person in this. Do what is best for you.
If you focus on the actions and behaviours that align with your goals and have a flexible plan while being the most present version of yourself with your family and friends you will be successful this holiday season.
Remember that it’s going to take time and practice when it comes to the holidays and vacations. Go into these events as a learning experience. It’s all about practicing moderation, finding what works best for you based on the experience you want to have and how you want to feel. Own your choices that you make and take what you learned from that and keep going. The more holidays and vacations you go through during this phase of your life the better they will get. I promise! Remember, if you happen to overindulge, you did NOT fail and don’t feel guilty! It’s okay, one meal (or even a few throughout a holiday season!) isn’t going to derail your progress.
Stay tuned for the next blog post on what to do if you feel like you overate.