The holiday season is a time when many a festive feast leave us struggling to keep our diets in check. But going into every party with a host of tools and tips in mind to help you stay strong and (relatively) healthy in the face of holiday temptation can make all the difference between conquering the season and starting the new year off with a few too many indulgence-induced regrets. To get us ready for the challenge, we turned to nutritionist and personal trainer Jamie Logie about his top tips for staying on track during the holiday season.
Don’t go to events hungry.
It may seem like a no-brainer, but showing up to an event super hungry lends itself to going overboard on the less-than-healthy spread. “If you go in hungry, you’re probably at a low blood sugar point where you want quick acting food, like refined carbs and sugar,” says Logie. That means that you’ll end up not only craving those things, but splurging a little too much on them, too. To make sure that you avoid the overeating, try to eat a light meal of whole foods – think satiating things like protein, fiber, and healthy fats – about two or three hours before your holiday shindig, since that will help make sure that you don’t go overboard come party time.
Slow down your eating time.
“Most people eat way too quickly at events, buffets, and holiday dinners, which doesn’t allow the natural fullness signals to reach your brain,” says Logie. “You may have had enough calories, but your brain doesn’t know it yet and you continue to overeat.” To help avoid this, Logie suggests chewing slowly to give your brain a second to process signals that you’re full. Another pro tip? Don’t be afraid to time yourself while you’re eating. You don’t want to take less than 15-20 minutes to finish a meal (if you do, you’re probably eating too quickly), so it’s totally fine to keep an eye on the clock while you eat to make sure you’re not rushing through your feast.
Eat protein and vegetables first.
Another trick to keeping your holiday eating in check is to utilize the correct order of (eating) operations. Namely, always remember to have protein and veggies before all the other things on your holiday plate. “This will keep things a little more balance and protein and the fiber from the vegetables will also fill you up early on as opposed to fast-acting carbs and sugar on an empty stomach that will keep you hungry,” says Logie. “Most any holiday event will at least have a veggie and cheese platter, cold cuts, meatballs etc so go for these choices first before the sugary treats.”
Don’t skimp on the workouts.
Even if you give yourself a little more dietary leeway around the holidays, don’t take this time of year as an excuse to totally skip out on your fitness – especially because a pre-meal workout around the holidays can actually help you come dinner time. “Try to get some high-intensity interval training or strength training beforehand,” says Logie. “These forms of training are going to create a better hormonal environment in your body where you are going to be able to handle glucose a bit better. In the case of HIIT training, you’ll also have the ability to burn more calories long after the workout is done.”
Always (and we mean always) hydrate.
It’s not news that dehydration often gets confused for hunger, so it goes without saying that one of the tricks to keeping your eating in check during the holidays is to make sure that you’re always well hydrated before big meals. “Drink a glass or two of water beforehand,” Logie suggests. That way, you never confuse thirst for hunger, and you also don’t feel inclined to overeat as a result.