Holiday Eating: Staying Healthy in the Holiday Season

The holidays are brutal on diets and disciplined eating programs. There’s social pressure to eat crap food that is packed with calories, and temptation to eat amazing food (that is packed with calories). Studies show that most Americans gain over one pound in the few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s harder for those battling weight issues, as they tend to add an average of five pounds. That late-December weight makes up more than 50 percent of their annual weight gain. It’s a tough way to close out the year.

 We came up with six tricks that can help you survive that party buffet or big family meal and enter the new year feeling both lean and sane. 

Train Legs that Day

If you are going to splurge at dinner, an old bodybuilding trick is to hit a hard leg workout earlier in the day. The relatively large volume of muscle fibers will demand more calories for recovery and glycogen replenishment. Thus, the food you eat will have a better chance of being partitioned to those hungry muscles rather than to your fat stores. 

Hit a Protein Shake Before Going Out

Showing up to a party hungry is a recipe for dietary disaster. Instead, drink a whey protein shake before you leave your house. Whey protein has been shown to instigate a stronger feeling of fullness and leads to decreased food intake after consuming, compared to other proteins.

Eat Bigger Portions of Healthy Foods

No one wants you to look like you are dieting at a party (especially the guests who are decidedly not dieting) and it is a buzzkill to leave a gathering and go home to a protein shake. One strategy is to treat yourself to larger portions of relatively healthy foods.   

Drink Clear Liquor

It wouldn’t be the holidays without catching a little buzz, but stay away from the eggnog. Clear liquor has far fewer calories. Have vodka soda, a whiskey highball, light beer, or one of the new breed of spiked seltzers. 

Be Choosy and Eat Mindfully

If you want to splurge on your mother’s homemade stuffing that you get to eat only once a year, then go for it. What you want to avoid is going into a huge calorie surplus because you ate a plate of mediocre grocery store cookies out of boredom. Pay attention to what goes into your mouth. Smell it, taste it, savor it. Just make sure it is worth it. 

Live It Up

If you face just one night of serious temptation, Christmas dinner or New Year’s Eve, instead of weeks and weeks of holiday parties and work functions, then go wild on that one night. One meal in time will not have an appreciable effect on your physique or your health. 

Mike Carlson

Medical Science/Health Writer and Editor - http://bit.ly/3anof4K

Mike Carlson is a freelance health and fitness writer and a lifelong Southern Californian. He graduated from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles what feels like a long time ago, and has been a full-time editor for Los Angeles Magazine, Men’s Fitness, and the UFC, as well as a copy writer for various nutritional supplement companies. As a health reporter, he’s crafted features for the American Optometric Association, Stanford Health Care, the National Hemophilia Foundation and USA Today. Mike spends most of his free time applying sunscreen, but between slatherings he coaches soccer, competes in various endurance races and loves to explore the culinary and outdoor majesty of his home state. Current obsessions include the Los Angeles Dodgers, kombucha and distilling bourbon at home. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, two children, and a bulldog named Frankie.