No matter your background or what you are celebrating, the holiday season is a time to relax and enjoy time with family and friends. Thanks to the number of parties and events this time of year, plus the fact that many people are on vacations or out of their typical daily routine, higher calorie foods and extra temptations are more readily available than usual. If you aren’t conscious and deliberate about your choices, calorie consumption can easily sky-rocket.
So, how do you maintain healthy eating habits during special events? There are two different strategies I recommend, depending on the event and your individual preferences:
STRATEGY 1: Don’t track.
You read that right… don’t track. Relax, enjoy yourself. Be aware and conscious of your choices, think about what is going into your mouth as you select and eat it. But don’t stress over numbers. Get right back on track tomorrow morning! This strategy works well for people who don’t easily fall victim to the “oh, I ate three cookies so I might as well eat twenty five more, two cheeseburgers, five pieces of cake and drink 6 beers to wash it down” all-or-nothing mentality.
STRATEGY 2: Leave some macros on the table
Track your breakfast and lunch. For those meals, focus on eating a lot of protein and vegetables. Don’t undereat! Then, leave a size-able buffer of macros/calories for your event or party. Eat, drink, and enjoy!
Again, the decision as to which strategy is best for you depends on your personality and tendencies. A coach can help you figure it out too. The overarching theme, with this and always, is moderation! Here are some additional tips to hopefully help you stay on track.
- Plan Ahead – Long term consistency is the most important aspect of nutrition. Health is a lifestyle – not a short term diet or quick fix. and celebrations are a time to put everything you’ve learned into practice. Make a plan, by yourself or with your coach, before the event so you can approach it with confidence. Making the plan in advance is key, as you be deciding at a time when you are less likely to be influenced by others or the tempting environment.
- Don’t arrive on an empty stomach – Avoid skipping breakfast or lunch just so you can splurge at the event. Have a lean and protein rich breakfast and lunch to help manage your hunger. You are more likely to meet your fat and carbohydrate goal but fall short on protein during celebrations or parties. Plus, if you go into the meal on an empty stomach, it will be hard to avoid being really hungry and overeating.
- Focus on the people, not on the food – That’s what celebrations are all about! Enjoy the time you have with your family and friends.. The holidays are about quality time with the people you love – relaxing and appreciating it.
- Use your hands – If you are uncomfortable using your food scale around others or at an event, familiarize yourself with the estimations using your hand, palm and fingertips. Estimating is always better than nothing, and you’d be surprised how precise you can be by estimating.
- If it’s green, take double – Prioritize by filing your plate with non-starchy veggies and meat FIRST, Then, if you go for seconds you will be less likely to indulge on the high fat and high carb options. Try to load up on high volume foods to feel more full.
- Watch the alcohol – Alcohol is its own macronutrient, it has 7 calories per gram. When we know the total calories of a drink, we can “pretend” that those calories are coming from carbs or fats – but it is more damage control than anything and we use the calculation to limit overall calories in attempt to balance things out. In addition, after having a few drinks you are more likely to overeat or make less nutritious food choices. If you choose to drink alcohol, drink slowly and try to limit yourself to 1 or 2 drinks.
- Leave room for your favorite treats – Don’t waste your calories/macros on the things you don’t really love, save them for the things you DO! Try to save your splurges for things that are special to you and that you can’t get every day. Homemade items, Cadbury creme eggs… whatever they may be!