Seasonal Survival Strategies
Christmas festivities can threaten to throw training schedules off track, and tantalizing treats seem to tempt us away from good intentions everywhere. It can be so easy to over-indulge and sabotage our fitness over the holidays, so preparing to limit the damage and still enjoy the celebrations is a valuable strategy. Here are a few ideas to help you stay nutritionally on track, without feeling left out and denied some of the fundamental pleasures of the festive season.
Decide what your treats are going to be in advance, this might mean choosing a decadent dessert at a dinner party, but going easy on the main, or for-going the starter.
Have a game plan and stick to it, such as if you decide you are going to have for example three alcoholic drinks at a party, decide what you’re going to have and space them throughout the evening accordingly, interspersing with non-alcoholic alternatives.
Don’t go to a party hungry, you are more likely to stick with your good intentions if you can avoid cravings. Try eating a low fat snack that includes protein before you go out, such as a small tin of tuna on 2-3 oatcakes, or a natural yoghurt with seeds and cinnamon.
Try to eat smaller portions spaced throughout the event to help keep blood glucose balanced to avoid a ‘post sugar crash’. So if canapés are being served, try to avoid eating too many in the early part of the event, savour each one and keep space for later.
At a dinner party, ensure that your meal is nutrient dense and satisfying without over-loading on calories by filling half of your plate with fresh vegetables (excluding potatoes). This should prevent you over indulging on the richer foods and starchy carbohydrates. You should feel satisfied without feeling bloated and uncomfortable.
The majority of hangover symptoms are attributed to dehydration, so alternating water between alcohol and non-alcohol mixers/juices should help you to stay hydrated and flush out any toxins.
On Christmas day, breakfast is ALWAYS a good idea; don’t try to skip it so you can eat more later; the best tactic is to eat small portions throughout the day. A small breakfast that includes protein such as eggs or smoked salmon will help keep blood glucose balanced and might help to stop you snacking on chocolate treats or salty snacks.
If you can make the meal last several hours with ‘digestion breaks’ between courses you should hopefully reduce the ‘stuffed’ feeling and a ‘sugar crash’ afterwards.
Beware of liquid calories – choose low cal mixers or soda water with lime instead of sugary fizzy drinks or sweetened juices to minimize your calorific excess.
Beware of loaded cocktails. A Long island Ice Tea can have around 750 cals (8 floz), a White Russian approx 425 cals and a Pina Colada 400 cals (6 floz); whereas a mojito has around 220 cals (8 floz), and a Martini around 160 cals. A glass of champagne (5 floz) has around 120 cals, and a Mimosa has approx 75 cals (4 floz).
To avoid the dehydration effects of a hangover, sipping coconut water (which is a good source of electrolytes in an isotonic solution) or taking rehydration salts (such as a sachet of Dioralyte) before bed may help to keep fluids in the system and reduce the unpleasant symptoms of headaches and lethargy.