How To Find Nutrition Balance During the Holidays

December 15, 2020

The holidays are supposed to be a time of joy, but you can also expect extra stress that will challenge you when faced with calorie-infused temptations.

The last thing you want to is completely restrict yourself. That’s how you wake up with crumbs in your bed after a delirious midnight saunter to the fridge. At the same, you already know that overindulgence sabotages your waistline, arteries and energy levels.

It’s a classic holiday conundrum, indeed, but not one that’s doomed by any means! We went to our very own James Wells, NASM Certified Personal Trainer at Columbia Gym, for some expert advice on finding balance during the holidays…and he didn’t disappoint! 


James Wells

James Wells

One – Calorie cycling

Don’t worry, this technique doesn’t involve hopping on a stationary bike. Calorie cycling is simply when you shift your eating patterns to even out your diet. This practical style of eating allows you to cycle between low-calorie and higher-calorie days to achieve balance without depriving yourself (since we all know how that goes!).

The idea is to moderate the amount of calories you consume the day before and the day after a holiday. So let’s say you’re on a nutrition program of 2,000 calories per day, and you have a holiday gathering scheduled for Tuesday. By reducing your calorie intake to 1,500 calories on Monday and 1,500 calories on Wednesday, you’re now free to enjoy 3,000 calories on Tuesday. 


Two – Drink water

Dehydration causes you to crave salty snacks and high-carb foods. The cravings are the result of the body’s need to retain water. So before you grab those pretzels and chips…drink some water!

Then wait 20 minutes, and you may find that the craving is gone. If you hydrate, you will feel fuller and eat less. If you’re not crazy about the taste of plain water, jazz it up with fresh lemon or mint (more tips on hydrating properly here). Even just using a pretty water bottle that you love can help encourage you to reach for it more often. 


Three – Make healthier choices available

It’s easy to get caught up in the holiday haze when you’re surrounded by tasty treats that aren’t good for you. It doesn’t take a lot of holiday sweets and hors dóeuvres to rack up the calories.

We all have a tendency to mindlessly grab whatever finger foods are available. The challenge is to plan in advance to assure healthier choices are available. If you’re doing the entertaining, opt for platters with veggies and chopped fruit. They’re just as scrumptious and can help you feel energized rather than overstuffed. 

If someone else is putting the party together and healthy options aren’t available, offer to bring some. By bringing your own appetizers, you’re being a great guest while also ensuring that you have healthier choices on hand.

“I’m notorious for bringing ants on a log, which are simply celery stalks with peanut butter lined with raisins. The combination of fiber and water in celery helps you stay hydrated. Opt for a natural peanut butter without added fats and sugars for a good source of omega 3s. The raisins give you a little natural sugar to stave off cravings for unhealthy sweets.” -James Wells


Four – Use smaller plates  

Research shows that it’s a wise idea to pack your food on a smaller plate. People who use an 8-inch salad plate will actually consume about 35% less calories and food than if they use a 10-inch plate at the same meal. 

According to Holden, et al, in a 2016 meta-analysis of 56 studies, the plate size matters most if you are serving yourself. The researchers found that the plate size affects both the amount of food on the plate and the amount of food consumed when the portion was self-served.

So the bigger the plate, the bigger the serving size. When you use a larger plate, there’s a natural tendency to fill it up despite your actual level of hunger. Empty space is a subconscious reminder that you could fit more food on the plate, which is a quick route to overindulgence.


Five – Focus on higher satiety foods

Several nutrition studies have proven that foods that are high in protein and fiber are more satiating. That’s because these foods are more “filling,” and when you feel full, you consume less calories.

Your body also digests and absorbs these foods slower, so you continue to feel full longer. 

Plate planning is a good way to keep the “fullness factor” working in your favor at a holiday meal.

Aim to fill 1/3 of your plate with protein such as turkey, ham or tofu. Fill another 1/3 with healthy fibrous vegetables like broccoli, green beans or carrots. The remaining 1/3 is up to you! 

Also, keep in mind that you don’t want to show up famished. It’s better to enjoy a healthy snack before you head out to a holiday party, which is a bit of defense from all-consuming cravings. 


Nutrition counseling at CA

Here’s wishing you all a healthy nutrition balance this holiday season! If you’re interested in more expert nutrition guidance, CA’s team of nutrition professionals would love to work with you on your individual goals — whether that’s weight loss or working toward better health. Learn more on our website.

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