A Dietitian’s Tips for Staying​ ​On Track This​ ​Holiday​ ​Season

It’s almost Thanksgiving, and I don’t know about you but ever since Halloween I’ve been tempted by sweets and treats on a daily basis. On top of that, every weekend in the near future is booked with boozy parties and high-calorie holiday meals. So how do we deal? How do we make sure we stick to our health goals while also staying sane? Here are some registered dietitian-approved tips to keep your holiday eating in check while still enjoying the company of the ones you love and the food you enjoy.

1. Adjust your schedule and come out resilient

Even though things may be hectic, try to stick to your normal routine as much as possible but know that it may need to be adjusted. When it comes to outlining your monthly schedule include things like meal prep days, grocery shopping time, and exercise time. Put your normal routine on your calendar and if it conflicts with a party, event or travel, look to see when you can reschedule. For example, let’s say you have a company party after work during your normal spin class time—adjust and wake up an hour earlier that day to take another class in the morning. Gone for the weekend when you normally do grocery shopping for the week? Use a grocery shopping service such as Instacart to deliver your groceries Monday morning so you have all your normal healthy foods stocked for the week.

2 . Don’t skimp on sleep

It is great to go out and have fun, but if it starts to hit your normal bedtime and you are still out, think about making an exit to catch some shut-eye. What does lack of sleep have to do with weight and well-being? Well, actually a lot. Lack of sleep changes the way your hunger hormones are secreted in the body which can lead to mindless and increased eating. Leptin, the hormone that makes you feel full, decreases and ghrelin, the hormone that makes you feel hungry, increases. Since the holiday season is a time where an excess of food and sweets are around, it is important for you to have proper regulation of your hunger and it starts with making sure you are getting enough sleep. So maybe rethink going out four nights in a row or at least try to leave before bedtime.

3. Strategize your meal plan for the day

Piggybacking on the idea of scheduling out your month, also think about planning out your day. Review your day and recognize when you might have larger meals at the end of the day. This will allow you to adjust your meal plan for the day having a lighter lunch if needed, or say a larger snack before going to a cocktail party where the choices may be less desirable or filling.

4. Hydrate first

Make sure you are getting enough fluids this season which can be hard to remember when it is cold outside. Aim for about half your body weight in ounces which will help prevent headaches, hangovers and allow you to recognize if you are actually just hungry and not thirsty.

5 . Serve yourself a perfect plate

To ensure you have a balanced plate this holiday season, aim for half a plate vegetables, a quarter protein and a quarter starch. To ensure you don’t go overboard on the portion sizes, use medium to small sized plates. Don’t forget to assess what type of vegetables are being served. If the brussels sprouts are filled with cream sauce, have a small spoonful, but if they have some fresh green beans or salad, choose that for half your plate. This ensures less calories and more fiber to keep you full.

6. Be sure to have protein at your meals and snacks

Whether you are at a holiday cocktail party or Thanksgiving dinner, always aim to have a lean source of protein added to your plate. Not only do lean proteins help promote satiety, but also they have a higher thermal effect of food. This means you also burn calories to digest it. Protein also helps to repair muscles post-workout for the ClassPassers getting their workouts in. Opt for lean turkey, chicken, seafood and tofu. Steer clear of sausage, hot dogs, cheese, and high-fat beef or consume in moderation.

7. Go easy on the dressings

An easy way to rack up the calories is topping your food with high fat or high sugar dressings and toppings. Make sure to drizzle your food and don’t drown it. Also, go easy on the cranberry sauce, though it seems like a healthy alternative, it actually contains a good amount of sugar and calories.

8. Pace your eating and eat mindfully

To ensure you eat the right amount and savor it, think about some of these mindful eating techniques. First, always be sure to sit down while you eat even appetizers if possible. This allows you to take smaller bites, chew your food slowly and enjoy the experience. Be sure to notice the taste, texture and smell of the food with each bite. Hopefully, by the end of your meal you will feel satisfied with just one plate of food and not rush for a second. Also, always remember to pace your eating by taking sips of water in between bites, cutting your food into small pieces, and talking to people while you eat.

9 . Make activities a priority with friends and family

When hanging out with friends and family this season, try to schedule out activities, games, and workouts to offset the drinking and feasting. Some of my family members and I have a tradition of running the Turkey Trot 10k Thanksgiving morning together. Not only do we burn calories, but the proceeds go to the local food banks to feed those in need. You can also check out ClassPass to find out which local studios or offering classes on or around holidays.

10. Be the good example

Anywhere you visit this holiday season, most likely your family or friends will ask for you to bring a drink or dish to the party. If you feel that there may be way too many high-calorie foods and sides, be a good model and make something healthy yet tasty. Below, I have my recipe that is super healthy and screams “fall.” Try making my, “Curried Quinoa Stuffed Honey Nut Squash” for your next family or friend get together.

Whatever you do, remember to have fun and know that this time only comes once per year. Use these tips as a reference to stay sane and on track this season. Happy Holidays!

Gabriella is a registered dietitian living in the San Francisco Bay Area. She currently works in corporate wellness as a dietitian and overall wellness coach. She also runs a food blog called Macrobalanced, where she shows people that healthy and balanced eating can be interesting and tasty! She enjoys all things fitness from lifting heavy weights in the gym to hitting the barre. Nothing is off limits as long as sweat is involved. When she is not cooking or sweating, she is playing with her dog Maui, a lively German Shepherd. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook.