Do you want to enjoy the holiday season and the delicious food that comes with it, without compromising your nutrition and performance goals as an athlete? If so, you’ll love these 9 healthy holiday eating strategies that are focused on athletes.
These tips will help you savor the flavors of the season, while also nourishing your body and supporting your athletic endeavors.
Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. As a registered dietitian and a sports nutritionist, I’m here to share with you 9 healthy holiday eating strategies that are focused on athletes.
Read on for tips to stay on track with your training, recovery, and wellness, while also allowing you to savor the flavors of the holiday season.
Why use our 9 healthy holiday eating strategies
The holidays are a time to celebrate, relax, and enjoy delicious food with your loved ones. But we know that as an athlete, you might also have some concerns about how to balance your nutrition and performance goals with the festive season.
You don’t want to miss out on your favorite treats, but you also don’t want to jeopardize your health and fitness. These 9 healthy holiday eating strategies will help you navigate the holidays.
1. Eat enough to prevent overeating
One of the most common mistakes that athletes make during the holidays is skipping meals or eating too little in anticipation of a big feast. This can backfire, as it can lead to overeating, bloating, and guilt later on.
Instead, aim to eat regular meals and snacks throughout the day, and don’t arrive at a party or a dinner starving. This will help you control your appetite and make better choices when faced with a buffet of tempting dishes.
2. Focus on protein and fiber to keep you feeling full
When planning your meals and snacks, include a source of lean protein, such as chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, tofu or beans, and a source of fiber, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts or seeds.
3. Eat what you want in amounts that make you feel good
The holidays are not a time to deprive yourself of the foods you love, but rather a time to enjoy them mindfully and moderately. Instead of labeling foods as “good” or “bad,” focus on how they make you feel physically and mentally.
Choose the foods that you truly crave and savor every bite, without guilt or judgment. At the same time, pay attention to your hunger and fullness cues, and stop eating when you’re comfortably satisfied, not stuffed.
This way, you can enjoy your favorites without compromising your health or happiness.
4. Eat regular meals throughout the day – balanced meals and small snacks
Eating regular balanced meals throughout the day can help you maintain your blood sugar levels, energy levels, and metabolism. It can also prevent you from getting too hungry and overeating later on.
Aim to eat every 3 to 4 hours, and include a balance of macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fat) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) in each meal and snack.
5. Eat in moderation – load up on fruits, veggies, and protein
Eating in moderation means enjoying a variety of foods without going overboard or feeling deprived. It also means prioritizing the foods that nourish your body and support your athletic performance.
A simple way to do this is to follow the performance plate method. For a rest day plate, fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables, a quarter with lean protein, and a quarter with whole grains or starchy vegetables.
This will provide you with a balanced mix of nutrients, antioxidants, and fiber, and help you feel full and satisfied.
You can also leave some room for your favorite dessert, enjoying it mindfully and moderately.
6. Rest, relax and recover
The holidays can be stressful and hectic, which can take a toll on your mental and physical well-being. Stress can also affect your appetite, digestion, and metabolism, and make you more prone to emotional eating.
That’s why it’s important to take some time to rest and relax during this busy season. Whether it’s meditating, reading, listening to music, or spending time with your family and friends, find something that helps you unwind and recharge your batteries.
You’ll feel more refreshed, energized, and ready to tackle your training and your goals.
7. Exercise for endorphins and stress relief
Exercise is not only good for your body, but also for your mind and mood. It can help you release endorphins, the feel-good hormones that boost your happiness and reduce your stress.
It can also help you improve your blood circulation and enhance your immune system. Plus, it can give you a sense of accomplishment and confidence, which can motivate you to stick to your healthy habits.
So, don’t skip your workouts during the holidays, if you enjoy them. But don’t use exercise to “make up” for what you eat.
8. Embrace the eating during the holidays
Eating during the holidays should be a source of joy and pleasure, not stress and guilt. Instead of worrying about every calorie or gram of fat, focus on the quality and quantity of your food, and how it makes you feel.
Some overeating during the holidays can actually benefit athletes who might be undereating most of the time.
Overeating can help you replenish your glycogen stores, stimulate your metabolism, and prevent your body from experiencing symptoms of underfueling. Underfueling can lead to low energy, poor recovery, increased risk of injury, and impaired performance.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should binge on junk food every day, but rather enjoy some extra portions of healthy and delicious food that fuel your body and satisfy your taste buds. Embrace the eating during the holidays as a way to nourish your body, mind, and soul.
9. Stay hydrated and get enough sleep
When you’re dehydrated or sleep-deprived, you may feel more hungry, tired, and irritable, and crave more sugar and caffeine. This can lead to overeating, underperforming, and feeling worse.
To avoid this, make sure you drink enough water throughout the day, especially before, during, and after your workouts. Aim for at least 8 glasses of water a day, or more if you sweat a lot.
You can also drink other fluids, such as milk, juice, or tea. Additionally, make sure you get enough sleep every night, preferably 7 to 9 hours, or more if you need it.
This will help you restore your energy, repair your muscles, and regulate your body’s circadian rhythm.
You love the holiday season and the delicious food that comes with it, but you also have nutrition and performance goals as an athlete that you don’t want to neglect. How can you enjoy both without feeling guilty or deprived?
The answer is simple: follow these 9 healthy holiday eating strategies that are focused on athletes. These tips will help you savor the flavors of the season, while also nourishing your body and supporting your athletic performance.
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Steph Magill, MS, RD, CD, FAND has over 22 years of experience in public health and nutrition. As a performance registered dietitian nutritionist, Stephanie specializes in sports nutrition and provides simple and actionable information so that athletes can be well fueled for high performance on and off the field. Stephanie has a Master’s Degree in Nutrition and is a Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.