For folks trying to stay fit and healthy, the holidays can threaten to derail good eating habits and workout regimens. The never-ending smorgasbord of treats and meals can challenge even the most disciplined among us. But if you have the dogged determination to smash out 100 wall balls in a row or train for a brutal obstacle course race, you can just as easily sidestep the greatest holiday traps. Follow this foolproof guide of tips to stay strong and healthy all season long.
1. Eat Before You Go
The easiest, most effective way to sidestep a binge-eating food frenzy is to pack your belly full of nutritious, filling food. Try to mix some good fats—for satiety—with complex carbs—to reduce hunger—to help keep your eyes smaller than your stomach. Good choices include pistachios and avocados, which both have high levels of unsaturated fats and fiber, and lentils, which are packed with fiber and complex carbs. If you’re in a rush, or don’t feel like preparing food before you head out, try mixing up a whey protein shake and downing that. A 2010 University of Toronto study found that consuming 20 to 40 grams of whey protein mixed with water can help you feel full before big meals. And when there, skip the cookies and crackers and instead head for the protein-based appetizers: shrimp cocktail, meats like salami or pepperoni, oysters (if you’re lucky!), meatballs, and deviled eggs.
2. Don’t Fear the “Beer”
If you’re a beer fanatic, there are plenty of light craft beers you can bring with you to keep calories and carbs down. But for those wanting to be even healthier and skip alcohol altogether, pack some Suntory ALL-FREE, a beer-like refresher made by the legendary Japanese brewing and distilling company. The 0.00% alcohol beer-like beverage presents uncompromising taste since it’s made with two-row malt barley and aroma hops, giving it a welcome bitter note and light, crisp flavor. Best of all, you get all of that refreshing beer-like taste and strong carbonation with zero calories and sugar plus no artificial flavors or sweeteners. Get 35% off with promo code 35ALLFREE until December 31 (*limited offer).
3. Pick a Small Plate
During cocktail hour, nab the smallest plate available to help limit how many goodies you can pile on. There’s a psychological component as well: A study from the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell showed that using something like a salad plate instead of a dinner plate can trick your brain into thinking the serving is much larger, leading to fewer calories consumed overall. If all that’s available are large plates, grab a napkin as opposed to a plate—this way you can only hold one drink and one hors d’oeuvre at a time.
4. Thin Your Drinks
There’s no doubt the drinks will flow at holiday get-togethers this year. But instead of just giving into temptation and slugging down glass after glass of alcohol, try alternating each quaff with water to maintain your hydration levels and limit the amount of alcohol you consume. Other great options include sticking with a clear spirit—like vodka or tequila—and mixing with generous amounts of seltzer, or reaching for a zero-alcohol bev like ALL-FREE.
5. Jump Back Into Action
Missing a few days of training during the holidays when you’ve been very consistent during the year is not a big deal—just start wherever your last training session left off. It may be a boon, too, because those extra days of rest might help you achieve some degree of supercompensation (the phase that results from training hard and undergoing recovery), resulting in an even better training session upon return. Remember though to take a few extra minutes to warm up and cool down on your pre- and post-workout. If your dynamic warmup is usually 5 minutes, extend it to 7 minutes—the extra time can help boost your blood flow following a sluggish, holiday-induced torpor.
6. Smack Some Gum
An easy-to-employ trick for keeping your appetite down is to carry some sugar-free gum with you. (Go for peppermint flavors as they’ve been found to suppress appetites.) Pop a piece when your stomach starts grumbling to squelch the desire to stuff your face. A 2011 study from the journal Appetite showed that chewing gum for up to 45 minutes after a meal can slow snacking by about 10 percent.
7. Make Moves
Feeling bloated and sloth-like after failing to heed our tips during a holiday feast? Don’t despair, just make sure to get moving as soon as possible. In the immediate aftermath of a massive meal, simply getting up and getting moving can help you feel like you haven’t totally destroyed your pre-holiday fitness. Go for a walk with family or take out the pup to get your digestion moving.