Between all the holiday parties, family festivities and get-togethers, it’s easy to feel yourself running low on energy this time of year.
Add to that the endless amount of creamy dishes, decadent desserts and sweet treats that seem to show up everywhere you turn — your diet may not be helping you rebound.
It’s not your imagination. Traditional holiday meals are almost always high in carbohydrates, sugar and rich ingredients that can leave you feeling wiped out, even drowsy.
“As soon as we finish our meal, our body begins to direct blood to our digestive tract to help us actively digest food,” explains Abby Sauer, RD, dietitian with Abbott.
“While this happens, our blood pressure, heart rate and breathing rate are kept at a lower level to maintain and restore energy and before you know it, you’re ready for a nap,” she says.
The good news is that with some simple tips and tricks, you don’t have to deprive yourself. You can fuel your body with what it needs, still enjoy all the foods you love and have plenty of energy to get you right through to the New Year!
1. Have a Snack
When you have a big dinner or event planned, you might think it’s a good idea to skip meals and save your calories. But arriving on an empty stomach is a big mistake.
“A healthy snack could be your secret weapon,” Sauer explains. “You’ll be less likely to overeat at dinner or feel not so great afterwards.”
A few hours before your event, try having a healthy snack that has 150 to 200 calories.
Good choices include an apple with a tablespoon of peanut butter, Greek yogurt with fresh berries or a slice of cheese with a few whole grain crackers.
2. Pick Protein
Protein-rich foods like shrimp cocktail, a lean cut of meat, beans or cheese will keep hunger at bay, blood sugar levels steady and give you plenty of energy.
“Foods high in protein can kick start the orexin neurons in your brain, the sensors responsible for keeping you alert and active, and give you the extra boost you need to keep moving after a large meal,” Sauer says.
3. Fill Up With Fiber
Eating fiber at every meal will help you feel satiated and prevent you from over-indulging in foods that make you feel sluggish.
Beans, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, berries and green leafy vegetables are fiber-rich and filled with nutrients that give you a boost in energy.
4. Drink Up
During the holidays it’s easy to forget to drink water when you’re running around. And with plenty of festive holiday drinks to celebrate, water isn’t always your first choice.
Yet, if you don’t drink enough water dehydration can quickly zap your energy.
When you’re out and about, bring a refillable water bottle with you to re-hydrate. If you’re at a party, alternate water with your cocktail or glass of wine. You can also add lemon, cucumber or fresh mint to give plain H2O a kick and make your glass look festive.
5. Be a Picky Eater
With so many delicious foods it can be tempting to fill up your plate with everything, but overeat and you’ll feel exhausted in no time.
Instead, fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables and choose a portion of protein.
For everything else, be picky and ask yourself, is it worth it? If there’s a special dish you won’t eat any other time of the year, then go for it but watch your portions. Take a spoonful or use an appetizer plate for easy portion control.
6. Don’t Ditch Your Workouts
Remember to stick to your exercise routine. Studies show that exercise can help fight fatigue and boost energy; plus the surge in endorphins you get from a sweat session will make you feel less stressed and happy.
What’s more, exercise can protect you from weight gain and inflammation from up to a week of overeating, a recent study by the American Physiological Society found.
To stick to your plan, make your workout the first thing you do in the morning or schedule it on your calendar and make sure nothing else gets in the way.
Try to head out for a brisk walk or a bike ride before your holiday dinner, invite a family member to join you or start a holiday tradition and get the entire family outside for a game of football or catch.
7. Sip Green Tea
It’s easy to be tempted by holiday treats, but we often turn to sugar for a fix. “Although it can help give you a quick burst of energy, eating too much sugar can spike your blood glucose and cause extreme highs and lows throughout the day which will ultimately leave you feeling depleted,” Sauer says.
Instead of downing copious amounts of coffee or turning to an energy bar or a sports drink to get you through the day, try a hot cup of green tea.
Green tea is rich in antioxidants and it will help calm your stress level so you’re less likely to overeat. It also has a small amount of caffeine so it will give you enough energy without making you feel jittery.