It is perfectly possible to have meals with your family and enjoy the delights of the holiday season while staying on track with your nutrition and keeping your goals in mind.
It’s only natural for your life to look a little different over the Christmas holidays; most of us tend to come together with our friends and families (this year as much as local lockdowns will allow), celebrate, drink and generally have a very merry time.
It can be hard to keep up with our usual nutrition habits during this time, given the amount of delicious food and snacks to be had, but it’s not impossible. Dr Mike Molloy, nutrition coach to over 40 CrossFit Games athletes and founder M2 Performance Nutrition, shared his top tips for staying on track with your nutrition over the holidays with us.
PICK YOUR BATTLES
Not every day of the holiday will align with your nutrition plan, at some point, you’ll likely have to say ‘yes’ to that delicious meal your mother has made for you which probably doesn’t fit your traditional nutrition plan.
“You need to pick your battles to some extent,” says Dr Molloy. “You need to pick the days when you want to just enjoy your time with your family and then you have to pick times when you’re going to say: ‘No, I’m going to consciously make decisions that are in alignment with my goals.’”
Between now and the end of the holiday season there might be a handful of social occasions that you’ll encounter, and if you eat anything and everything you wanted throughout all of them you probably won’t feel very good about it come January.
“The first lesson would be to choose the two or three days that you really want to just enjoy and not worry about food at all,” says Dr Molloy. “And then the rest of the time you’re going to try to stick relatively strongly to your nutrition plan.”
It’s important that on those days, however, you “Enjoy those meals with your family and don’t have regrets. Don’t have shame. Don’t have guilt,” says Dr. Molloy.
DON’T SKIP OTHER MEALS
If you know your dinner will include more carbs and fat than you’re used to – and maybe even a drink or two – align your nutrition the rest of the day to help you out, but don’t skip your other meals.
“Eat breakfast, eat lunch, but just make sure you make those meals a little bit more focused on protein and vegetables and lower calorie foods, knowing that you’re going to have a really high calorie meal coming later that day,” says Dr Molloy.
Generally, people who completely avoid meals before a Christmas dinner for example, tend to go huge during that meal because, at that point, they’re really hungry, so they end up eating more of that dinner than they otherwise would have done.
Try to avoid putting yourself in a position where, after completely restricting something off your diet, the first time you try it again becomes a whole evening of excesses. Instead, give yourself the freedom to have what you want and stop when you’re done.
STICK TO YOUR OTHER ROUTINES AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE
Once you’ve identified which days of the holiday period you’ll have a slacker grip on your nutrition and not worry about macros or calories, make sure you stick to your other routines as much as possible.
Across the holiday season, try to make sure you exercise, sleep, hydrate and keep up with your other routines. If you usually work out, make sure to go for a run or do a little home workout in your bedroom.
Make sure you don’t change your habits completely between Christmas and New Year.
ULTIMATELY, DO WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY
Most important of all, do what makes you happy.
“If not tracking and being with your family helps you to enjoy that day more, do that,” says Dr. Molloy. “But if you’re going to have a better time with your family by doing some tracking of your macros, if that allows you to feel less stress, feel more present with your family and enjoy that time better, then you should do that.”
Choose a nutritional approach that allows you to relax and enjoy this holiday season as much as possible.
Holidays and nutrition can be complicated, and it might take a while for you to find the perfect approach, but we hope these general guidelines help you navigate through the time and get you happy and healthy to the start of 2021.
All content within this article is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional.
Always consult a dietitian before making long-lasting and/or big changes to your diet.