Holiday parties, family gatherings, and an abundance of treats around the home and office can bring feelings of anxiety for those who have specific nutrition or athletic goals. Younger athletes may not think twice about grabbing an extra cookie, but as the competition level gets higher, so does the focus on performance on and off the court or field. So how do we manage healthy eating with all of the social events and parties? Here are my best tips for enjoying the holiday season, while keeping in mind athletic and performance goals:
1. Add … Don’t Subtract!
If you’re in the “diet mentality” each day, or constantly thinking of sport performance, it will feel like a battle to avoid the “bad foods.” Flip it. When filling up your plate this holiday season, think about adding and not subtracting. Don’t avoid the treats and dessert, just add the healthy stuff. Including plenty of veggies and fruit at each meal is a great place to start!
Tip #1: Enjoy a whack load of veggies and fruit and don’t stress about the rest. When you load up on veggies and fruit, there is less room and desire for foods that don’t support athletic endeavours or energy levels.
Here are some ways you can enjoy fruit and vegetables this holiday season:
Make half your plate fruits and veggies
Contribute a vegetable based appetizer like raw veggies and hummus served with a homemade dip (see this recipe!)
Bring fresh fruit as a dessert option
2. Savour Your Favorites
Take some time to reflect on which treats are truly special to you and your family. It is common to have food FOMO (“fear of missing out”) with endless temptations available. Consider the quote by Evelyn Tribole when choosing your favorite treats: “If you don’t love it, don’t eat it. If you do love it, savour it.” This is a quote that can help teach young athletes discipline, by encouraging treats in a positive way.
Chances are that very few peoples favorites are the Pot of Gold chocolates, the generic donuts from Dunkin Donuts, or the store bought cupcakes. These treats can be purchased and enjoyed at any time.
Tip #2: Only eat your holiday favorites that are special to the season. It might be the homemade butter tart your grandma makes, the stuffing that you only have at Christmas dinner, or a buttery shortbread cookie while decorating the Christmas tree.
3. Sit Down
A couple bites while preparing your dish, some extra snacks from the coffee table spread of appetizers, and snacking on the leftovers while cleaning up from the meal can add a substantial amount of unneeded calories and sugar. Mindless munching often leads to overeating. Take your time. SAvour your food.
Tip #3: Make it a rule that you will sit down whenever you are eating. By sitting down, you avoid distraction and can truly savour your food. As such, you will feel satisfied and avoid overeating or excess consumption of treats and sweets. Perhaps you can encourage your kids to visit with you around the kitchen table while enjoying their treat of choice. Not only will it result in more mindful eating, but it will also create quality moments with your family this holiday season. How often is it that you enjoy a weekend morning away from the rink or sports complex? Likely very few, so encourage your family to cherish the time you have together.
The holidays are about friends, family, joy, giving, and of course… good food! When sticking to healthy goals or performance oriented eating, make it a habit to:
By following these three simple tips, you can enjoy all that the holiday season has to offer...and still be ready for your first practice or game after the holiday season.