Holiday parties, work gatherings, family celebrations — if you feel like the list of events on your calendar seem endless right now — you’re not alone. And if you’re traveling this holiday season, you probably have another laundry list of to-dos before you pack your bags. With everything going on, it can be easy to let your healthy eating habits and exercise routine fall to the wayside. But believe it or not — it is possible to stay on track with your weight loss goals this holiday season.
While we can’t help you with traffic or airport congestion, we can help you stay healthy during the holidays. Here are five strategies you can take with you no matter where you’re heading.
1. Pack healthy snacks
Photo by anakopa on iStock
If you leave home without a snack plan, you may be more likely to snag pastries, candy bars, or other foods heavy in empty carbohydrates. (Find out the differences between simple versus complex carbs.)
To head off impulsive eating, pack your carry-on with some nuts, fruit and bagged popcorn — all of which are high in fiber or protein. Research shows that these two nutrients are particularly good at keeping you feel satisfied, so you may be less likely to overeat.1 One study even found that people who snacked on prunes instead of bread products ate less dessert later in the day.2 (Check out our Guide to Healthy Snacking for nine more suggestions.)
2. “Snack” on exercise
You don’t have to do wind sprints to experience the energy-boosting, appetite-regulating effects of exercise. Bite-size bouts of movement can add up. A day of travel — especially if you’re passing through an airport — presents loads of opportunity to keep your legs in motion.
Try this: Once you’re through baggage check, walk laps around the terminal, rather than lounging near your departure gate. And instead of using the escalators, climb the stairs next to them. Researchers call these “exercise snacks,” and they add up – but in a good way. In one study, climbing 60 stairs three times a day created measurable improvements in peak oxygen uptake, an indicator of cardiovascular fitness.3
If you’re traveling by car, stop every hour or so to stretch your legs, and while you’re seated, occasionally flex and unflex muscles to keep the blood flowing. If you’re looking for a super-fast workout you can do once you reach your destination, check out our Beginner’s Guide to HIIT.
3. Fill your wine glass with water
Alcohol can add hundreds of calories to a meal (here’s how alcohol can hinder weight loss). Each gram of the liquid contains 7 calories — that’s nearly twice as many as a gram of sugar — and a standard drink has 14 grams.4 That means each drink contains 98 calories before you factor in flavor enhancers to wine, beer, and cocktails. So two glasses (5 oz) of chardonnay will add just over 250 calories to your day’s intake.5 Two standard beers (12 oz) will add over 300 calories.5 Since alcohol lowers your inhibitions, those drinks might also lead to other poor food decisions.
If you do imbibe this holiday season, try to do so in moderation: Limit yourself to a couple of alcoholic beverages over the course of the week. Think about it like this: Every time you fill your glass with water instead of alcohol, you’re saving well over a hundred calories — plus, you’re staying hydrated. (And here’s why that’s important.)
If you’re following the Jenny Craig program and want to stay on track, we recommend avoiding alcohol if you can. Instead, grab a fancy glass and fill it to the brim with seltzer water — then garnish it with some fruit or a lemon or lime. Here are 5 other alcohol alternatives to try during the holiday season.
4. Take a lap around the block
Photo by VTT Studio on iStock
Bring your family and friends along for a post-dinner stroll! The fresh air will feel nice, but more importantly, light activity after a meal is a potent way to put the carbohydrates you’ve just consumed to use. Plus, regular activity can boost your weight loss efforts, and it may also help prevent diabetes.6
In a study of people who had already lost control of their blood sugar, 15 minutes of walking within a half hour of a meal’s end was shown to blunt glucose spikes more effectively than 45 minutes of walking performed at other times of the day.7
If everybody else is too full to walk, think of the post-dinner window as time for yourself. Listen to a podcast on your headphones, or volunteer to walk the dog. If it’s dark and you don’t have a walking partner, volunteer to do the dishes or complete another helpful chore. Moving around the house instead of sinking into the couch is a great way to squeeze in a little activity post-meal.
5. Schedule extra sleep
It can be tricky to get the zzz’s you need while traveling. You might be tempted to stay up late catching up with relatives or waking up early to brine a turkey. But during food-heavy holidays, it’s extra important to log quality time asleep.
In a review of 11 sleep studies published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that people who skimped on sleep consumed an average of 385 extra calories the next day.8 If you’re visiting relatives for five days, and you’re behind by an hour or two of sleep each night, that could add up to almost 2,000 extra calories!
To avoid the problem, aim to hit the National Sleep Foundation’s recommended 7-9 hours of shut-eye every night.9 Be honest with yourself: If you need some quiet alone time to wind down before bed, be sure to excuse yourself from the party an hour or so before you want to hit the hay so you can relax and prepare for bed.
To discover more ways that Jenny Craig can help you control portions and navigate food decisions, contact your local Jenny Craig center to schedule a free appointment – or browse our menu plans and get started today!
Clint Carter is a reporter with more than a decade of experience in health, nutrition, and fitness, and his stories have appeared in Men's Health, Women's Health, Shape, and other fitness-driven magazines. His reporting is driven by the belief that foods are rarely ever "good" or "bad," but rather, their value depends on how they fit into an overall diet. His favorite meals are those consumed at a campsite, and much of his time is spent cycling and hiking around his home in New York's Hudson Valley.
Favorite healthy snack: sardines and avocado on toast
Reviewed by Briana Rodriquez, RDN
Briana is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer for Jenny Craig, based in Carlsbad, California. She is passionate about utilizing food as functional and preventative medicine. Guided by a simplistic and optimistic approach, Briana’s philosophy is to help people improve their health and achieve their goals through the development of sustainable habits to live a healthy life. In her free time, you can find her strength training, indoor cycling, coffee tasting, and at local eateries with her husband and two dogs.
Favorite healthy snack: peanut butter with celery alongside a grapefruit-flavored sparkling water (so refreshing!)
This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and was written by an experienced health and lifestyle contributor and fact-checked by Briana Rodriquez, RDN, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Jenny Craig.
Our goal at Jenny Craig is to provide the most up-to-date and objective information on health-related topics, so our readers can make informed decisions based on factual content. All articles undergo an extensive review process, and depending on topic, are reviewed by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) or Nutritionist, to ensure accuracy.
This article contains trusted sources including scientific, peer-reviewed papers. All references are hyperlinked at the end of the article to take readers directly to the source.
Edited by Elisa - Jenny Craig
There are no comments to display.
Join the conversation
You are posting as a guest. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.