You might work hard on staying trim and sticking with your health goals all year long, but when the holidays roll around, it's not uncommon to pick up a few bad habits. The temptations are around every corner; holiday dinners, your mom's special homemade cookies and those indulgent, festive holiday cocktails. After a while, it can all add up, with the result appearing as an escalating number on the bathroom scale.
While it's best to choose your treats wisely, you shouldn't have to deprive yourself. Here are some tips for getting through the holidays with your sanity and health intact!
Learn to Prioritize Your Goodies
You're at a holiday party and the breadsticks are calling your name. Just a couple won't hurt, right?
Pro tip: you can eat breadsticks any day of the week, all year long. Deli meat with cheese and crackers? That's an afternoon snack whenever you like. But, can you eat your aunt's famous chocolate chip cookies any time? No. Ditch the everyday snacks and eat something special and sentimental, totally guilt-free. By making decisions to prioritize certain foods, you can make it easier to keep portions in check.
Pack on the Protein
Getting enough protein at each meal helps contribute to a balanced diet and it keeps your hunger at bay. Research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that along with regular high-intensity interval training (HIIT) — think of those boot camp style fitness classes that focus on quick, intense bursts of exercise followed by short resting periods — doubling your protein intake (2x the recommend daily allowances as recommended in the study) can expedite muscle growth and fat burn.
Pro tip: Spread out your protein intake throughout the day. Reach for options like turkey — it's naturally rich in protein and offers essential nutrients like energizing B-vitamins, bone-boosting phosphorus, and all-important zinc. Short on time? Grab a convenient protein shake to keep your hunger under control. Options like AdvantEDGE Carb Control shakes are low in calories, high in protein and packed with vitamins and minerals.
Crank Up the Workouts
Finding the time to work out during the holidays can be a challenge. Aim for a minimum of 30-minutes of exercise three to five times a week. Don't forget to add weights to your solid treadmill routine! Muscle burns more calories than fat — strength training will help keep your metabolism stoked for more hours of the day.
Pro tip: If you're getting in those HIIT sessions or any other taxing workouts, don't forget that you'll need protein to recover and build muscle.
Adopt the One-For-One Rule
When it comes to the drinks, follow the one-for-one rule: Drink one glass of water between each alcoholic beverage. In addition to keeping you hydrated, this will help fill you up and reduce the desire for more drinks.
Pro tip: When possible, opt for light beer, a wine spritzer or mixed drinks made with soda water in place of sugary, creamy cocktails. If you have had more than a couple, try Pedialyte to help rehydrate.
Stick With It
Woke up one morning and helped yourself to a few leftover holiday cookies? Don't punish yourself and don't let it derail the whole day either — just get back on track.
Changing your mental approach to focus on establishing overall healthy patterns will take you a long way. Think about why you want to achieve it and how it will help you develop good habits. Within no time, a dedicated nutrition routine will feel like a familiar habit and you'll be on your way to maintaining your health and fitness goals — all year long.
Pamela Nisevich-Bede, MS, RD is a sports dietitian with Abbott's EAS Sports Nutrition, a 21-time marathoner, book contributor and regularly writes a column, "Fuel School," published by Runner's World magazine.