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An Athletes’ Guide to Holiday Feasting

Posted 11/15/2016 by UHBlog

Is holiday gorging slowing your training? We can help get you back on track.

An Athlete’s Guide to Holiday Feasting

Dieters aren’t the only folks who should be concerned about portion control and nutritious food choices over the holidays, says registered dietitian nutritionist Amy Jamieson-Petonic. Athletes who train outside in bitter cold temperatures need to be mindful of how they’re fueling their bodies. And although athletes can generally handle more calories than non-athletes, overindulging repeatedly between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is not a good idea.

“If they’re eating more than they need, it can impact their endurance, speed and strength,” Jamieson-Petonic says. “Obviously, if they gain weight, it’s going to affect their ability to perform at the level they want to perform. People think they can eat whatever they want in the off-season, but then they’re behind the eight-ball when their season begins.”

As with most things in life, moderation is the key.

“Holidays are not a free-for-all,” Jamieson-Petonic says. “Enjoy the time to connect with people, but don’t make food the primary reason for the season.”

Don’t totally deprive yourself, either. Here are Jamieson-Petonic’s tips for feasting on holiday favorites without compromising your fitness:

  1. Enjoy seasonal produce. Cold-weather root vegetables, like sweet potatoes, contain complex carbohydrates and anti-inflammatory compounds, which boost endurance and help you recover more quickly when exercising outside in cold weather.
  2. Drink water. The mercury may be low, but you can still get dehydrated. Sipping lukewarm water raises body temperature and ensures you have adequate fluids.
  3. Plan ahead. If you know you’re going to a party later, don’t skip breakfast and lunch. Instead, eat small, protein-rich meals earlier, which may cut down on carb cravings. Increase exercise to buffer the extra calories.
  4. Dress for success. You’re likely to think twice before reaching for another helping of potatoes if you’re concerned about popping a button. Ditch the sweatpants and opt for tailored clothes when attending holiday get-togethers.
  5. Start with veggies. Loading up on nutrient-dense foods at the beginning of a soirée may keep you from overdoing it on au gratin potatoes or cheesecake later.
  6. Don’t linger. Fill a dessert-size plate with food (with appetizers or the meal, not sweets!), then walk away from the buffet table.
  7. Make calories count. You can nibble on a dinner roll or cheese and crackers any time, so skip those in favor of holiday favorites that fill you with joy.
    “I don’t eat stuffing but once or twice a year, so it’s something I will put on my plate during the holidays,” Jamieson-Petonic says. “But I don’t need mashed potatoes, baked potatoes and stuffing.”
  8. Make substitutions. Swap out fried appetizers in favor of crudités. Replace mashed potatoes with carotene-rich sweet potatoes. Choose fresh fruit with a low-sugar fruit dip instead of pastries. Or, opt for a miniature size confection.
    “Those are better for portion control, as long as you don’t choose five of them,” she says.
  9. Limit cocktails. If you’re going to have more than one alcoholic beverage, drink a full glass of water between rounds. Liquid calories add up quickly and too much imbibing often leads to overeating.

Amy Jamieson-Petonic, M.Ed., RDN, CSSD, LD is a registered dietitian nutritionist at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. You can request an appointment with Jamieson-Petonic or any other health care professional online.

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