Here are some top take-away points and tips for navigating the holiday season:
Top Tip: Don't Take an All-or-Nothing Approach!
So you stuffed yourself as full as that turkey on Thanksgiving, don't let that turn into a downhill spiral for the remainder of the season. Each day is new and the opportunity to make healthful choices. Drop the guilt of overindulgence yesterday and live for a healthier today.
Prioritize Your Indulgences and Mind the 3-Bite Rule
The holidays usually mean indulgences surround you all on sides. Some days are overwhelming with the number of fatty, sugar-laden foods you will encounter this time of year. In advanced, make a list of "seasonal" items that make the holidays most special for you. Whether it be grandma's cheesecake or your co-workers sweet potato casserole, spend your indulgences on foods that are most meaningful and leave the cookies and other foods that are available year-round for another occasion.
Likewise, be aware that the first few bites of any treat tend to be the most satisfying. Share that piece of cake with a friend or spouse, or reassess after a few bites and ask yourself if you really want or need more to attain the same level of satisfaction. Sometimes less is more.
Make Family Time Active Time
The holidays are usually centered around gathering with those we hold near to our heart, whether it be friends or family. Use these occasions to your advantage as an opportunity to motivate each other. Spend quality time together in an active manner, whether it be playing at the park, a family run or walk or by participating in a local seasonal road race (santa shuffle, anyone?) Balance out the sitting around the fireplace with a mug of hot cocoa with something that will get your metabolism burning and release a few endorphins in the process!
Set Yourself Up for Success
Surround yourself with foods you WANT to eat: Just because it's the holidays doesn't mean your pantry and home have to be filled with cookies and desserts galore. Keep your pantry well-stocked with healthy essentials and the fridge packed with fresh produce. Out of sight, out of mind, so stick those cookies someplace they don't easily catch your eye and instead place a display of fresh fruit on the counter. Little changes in our food environment can make all the difference in the long run. Note: this is a great tip to follow year round!
Mind Your Portion Sizes
When it comes to calorie control and balance, often moderation of portion size is the best approach. If you have the option, choose a smaller plate and you'll naturally eat less. Fill that plate once rather than returning on multiple occasions. Follow the my-plate model where possible: 1/2 a plate of fruits and veggies, 1/4 plate lean protein and 1/4 plate starch. For parties, it may be helpful to "pre-load" with a healthy snack such as an apple or salad to you don't arrive ravenous.
This year the holidays will be especially busy and chaotic for us. We are moving less than a week before Christmas, then leaving for our Haiti trip just over a week after. While I still haven't gotten completely back on track with my normal nutrition plan since Mountain Masochist, I've been practicing moderation to keep my indulgences in check. It's working out pretty well!
Kristen Chang is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) and triathlete residing in southwest Virginia with her husband and dogs. Follow along as she shares favorite fueling recipes, general wellness and sport nutrition tips and stories from her athletic endeavors.
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