‘Tis the season to be jolly (you know how the song goes). But a calendar chock full of holiday celebrations means a lot less time to stick to healthy routines and lots more temptation to load up on junk food. So what’s one to do to stay in shape? We enlisted registered dietitian Elizabeth Jarrard, part of the expert network at Greatist, to share some of her top tips on how to eat throughout this party-heavy, travel-laden season.
1. Don’t skip any meals
“Around a Christmas party, there’s a temptation to skip breakfast and quote-unquote skip calories,” Elizabeth notes. “That sets you up for failure; you walk into the room starving and want to eat everything in site.”
Instead, be sure to eat healthy meals throughout the day, she suggests. “Each of those meals should be a blend of protein and healthy fats with carbohydrates—small satiating meals throughout the day so you don’t arrive at a party starving,” says Elizabeth.
Though you may not be as thirsty as you are during the sweltering summer heat, water is a great aid in healthy eating, Elizabeth says. “Hydrating is super important because it can help to regulate the metabolism,” she explains.
It’s also your best friend when drinking alcohol at those soirees. “Having a glass of water in between every drink is going to help the hangover. Around the holidays it’s especially hard to remember that,” she says.
3. Let someone else do the work for you
“Now that it’s dark, there’s a lot less motivation to run to the grocery store to get meals you need. It’s a lot easier to order takeout when it’s nasty out and not really prioritize your health,” Elizabeth says. Amen, sister.
Grocery shopping with this in mind is key, she says. “Trader Joes and Whole Foods are great because they already have things cut up. For some people, just the act of cutting a vegetable is too annoying, so if you can have someone else do the work for you, it makes it way easier.”
4. Fill up with those veggies
Speaking of vegetables, “at holiday parties, I encourage people to try to get one-third to one-half of their plate full of vegetables, and let the heavier things take up the other half,” Elizabeth says. “Vegetables will help to fill you up before they fill you out. That’s my favorite quote.”
5. All things in moderation
“I don’t believe in depravation or totally cutting something out,” Elizabeth says. “If you have the urge to do it, that thing becomes a lot easier to eat once you’ve had a couple drinks.”
6. Eggnog=total bomb
If you’re up to the challenge, though, Elizabeth does have some ideas on what’s worth saying no to. “If I had to pick something you should avoid, it’s things like eggnog. That’s a total bomb.”
7. Meals on the road
“I definitely recommend bringing trail mix or bars that you really like. I like Larabar and KIND bars,” Elizabeth suggests. “They’re pretty minimally processed, and have good protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates. It’s about planning ahead and having snacks you can easily eat on the road: carrots and hummus, whole wheat crackers, Laughing Cow cheese or string cheese.”
For those that aren’t quite so prepared, she suggests heading to the Starbucks at the airport or rest stop. “They’re always going to have a Greek yogurt parfait and fruit and nuts for breakfast. If you eat meat, their eggs and English muffin things are pretty reasonable for a fast food item.”
8. Forgive yourself
Let’s say you don’t exactly stick to all, or any of these tips. Don’t punish yourself, Elizabeth advises. “The holiday season is difficult for a lot of people, it’s important that none of us beat ourselves up about it,” she says. “If you feel guilty, skipping meals the next day is not going to help anyone get better. Forgiveness is key in the holiday season, in many ways.”
9. Set realistic expectations for the New Year
“Once you’re done with that big New Year’s Eve celebration, it’s about going back to the fundamentals: smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day, lean proteins, and getting back into fruits and vegetables and complex carbs,” Elizabeth advises.
We’re all about setting healthy, attainable goals for the New Year, so stay tuned for much more to come on this subject! And we’ll be back tomorrow with some fitness tips, as part two of this healthy holiday guide.