Holiday time is here, and if you’re like most people, you have less time to work out and more sweet treats and buffet tables tempting you at every turn. But you don’t have to view this time as a test of your willpower. To stay fit and healthy throughout the holiday season, it’s important to be prepared. Here are seven tricks of the trade from our nutritionist to help you stay the course and stay healthy.
1. Eat Healthy, Balanced Meals
Eating well-balanced meals will help you feel full, which is essential if you want to resist unhealthy party food. You might think that it’s better to save up your calories for a party by eating less during the day, but in fact that’s a recipe for failure. You can’t go to a party hungry and expect divine intervention to help keep you in control. Give yourself a chance to stay on track by eating well-balanced meals and a healthy snack before going to a party.
A healthy, balanced meal should consist of a lean protein, a small portion of healthy fat, and fiber-rich carbohydrates. (To learn more about how to create a well-balanced meal, take a look at our example of a healthy plate.
2. Stay Hydrated
You might feel hungry when you’re merely dehydrated. To figure out how much water you should drink in a day, take your body weight and divide it in half – that’s how many fluid ounces you should consume. (For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, aim to consume approximately 75 fluid ounces of water throughout the day.)
3. Eat Regularly – And Often
If you skip a meal, sampling the cookies that your colleague brought is almost guaranteed. Eat a healthy breakfast within an hour or two of waking and plan to eat something about every four hours thereafter.
If your breakfast is at 8:00 AM, then lunch should be around noon. Better yet, have a small, healthy snack to tide you over between breakfast and lunch—this will minimize your risk of over-eating or of making poor choices when lunchtime comes around. Do the same thing between lunch and dinner.
4. Avoid Late-Night Eating
It’s also important to avoid eating approximately two hours before bed. Your metabolism slows when you’re asleep. When you allow enough time for digestion before bed, you reduce your chance of digestive upset, and studies suggest that you’ll minimize your risk for weight gain, too.
5. Exercise Early
Exercise is energizing, so it makes sense to do it earlier rather than later in the day. Getting your exercise in early is especially important during the holidays when parties and activities will make it difficult to hit the gym after work.
6. Try Mindful Eating
This tip comes late in the list because it can be difficult to practice mindful eating if you haven’t already mastered the other tactics. Mindful eating helps you become more aware of how much you’re eating, how tasty the food is, and whether you’re actually hungry. Take the time to learn how to eat mindfully and use this skill to your advantage. Take a look at 5 Tips to Curb Cravings for more on this topic.
7. Relax and Enjoy!
Emotional eating tends to increase over the holidays, so you might try incorporating relaxation techniques into your day to help manage stress. Even something as simple as taking three deep, mindful breaths can help reset your mood.
It’s also more difficult to eat well if you feel deprived by your current eating plan. Use these tactics to make healthy lifestyle changes instead of trying to stick to any particular type of ‘diet.’ Trust that these tips will help you stay on track and allow you to focus on the most important part of the holidays – relaxing and enjoying the festivities with your family and friends.