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Four Easy Diet Tips to Stay Energized During the Holidays

December 05, 2014

Is it just me, or does this holiday season seem especially hectic? Between work and travel, parties and family visits, the holiday season seems to feel more rushed each year. Unfortunately, the season that requires the most energy also happens to be when it is shortest in supply.

If you’re like many Americans, eating right during the holidays seems like an impossible feat. After all, Aunt Jennie’s famous gingerbread and Uncle Joe’s triple-cream mashed potatoes are just calling your name. These hefty holiday favorites can leave you feeling exceptionally sluggish and low on energy.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Staying on track with your diet during the holidays is possible, it just takes a little knowledge and willpower.

Four Diet Tips for Better Energy

First, let’s clarify one thing—there is no “magic pill” for sustained energy. Limited intake of coffee and tea can be helpful in certain situations, but relying on them consistently isn’t realistic, and it will only mask the problem. It takes a dedication to eating the right foods throughout the day to keep your energy levels soaring. But this can be especially hard during the holidays, when temptation is at an all-time high.

With that in mind, here are my top four dietary guidelines to keep you on track and energized throughout the holiday hustle and bustle:

  • Eat breakfast to jumpstart your metabolism and balance your glucose and insulin levels. When you start the day making good decisions about food, it can be easier to make better decisions throughout the rest of the day. Skipping breakfast can cause a hunger-induced domino-effect of poor meal choices and an inevitable mid-afternoon crash. And you don't need a full-blown English breakfast—try something quick and healthy like a bowl of Greek yogurt with oats and berries.
  • Eat small and frequent meals that are high in quality, lean proteins and non-starchy vegetables (think lean white turkey and green beans, with limited carbs). Also, it is important to chew your food slowly. In doing so, you allow your body to completely and properly digest foods that are rich in nutrients, making you feel full faster and for longer. It’s easier to skip the extra helping of stuffing when you’re still satisfied from a protein packed snack from a few hours before.
  • Eat fewer carbohydrates, which can make tryptophan more available to the brain, inducing sleepiness. Also, avoid simple carbs found in sugary foods, which cause your blood sugar to rise and fall rapidly, leading to a tired, groggy feeling. This advice can be especially hard to follow during the holidays, when carbs seem to be everywhere, but if you plan your meals properly and make smart choices, you can enjoy your favorite holiday foods in moderation.
  • Drink plenty of fluids with and between meals—and that doesn’t mean four servings of eggnog. Research shows that 75 percent of Americans are chronically dehydrated, which can limit our physical and mental capacity and stifle energy. The easy solution is to drink the recommended eight cups of water throughout the day. Lightly caffeinated or decaffeinated unsweet tea is also a great choice. And yes, the occasional glass of wine or holiday cider is fine in moderation.
So there you have it—your four-step plan to staying energized this holiday season. Between the office potluck, dinner at Grandma’s and your third ugly sweater party of the week, try to take some time to think about when and how you will eat for energy rather than indulgence. Your body—and your friends and family—will thank you.