4/10/09

Big Holiday Weekend!

Passover started on the 8th (for all my jewish friends and my immediate family) and easter is this weekend. I am sure you are thinking about the eating and not so much the holiday...right? Ok, so maybe there are people out there that enjoy time with friends and family but from most of the emails I have been receiving, I am enjoying helping people with fears of lunches, dinners, brunches and way too much chocolate candy.
Use the following tips as a way to control your food intake at an upcoming party in order to feel satisfied with your food choices and not compromise your training (and physique).

1) Eat a protein breakfast
Instead of your daily high fiber, complex carbohydrate breakfast of oatmeal, toast or bagel, think protein. If you are training first thing in the morning this weekend, have your normal pre-training breakfast. Afterwards, think protein. The common foods to bring to an event often involve carbohydrates and not the good kinds. Because there is nothing wrong with enjoying white breads and a few high glycemic treats, start your day with slow digesting protein. There is nothing worse than feeling hungry all day because you did not start your day with a filling breakfast.
Examples of foods include an egg white omelet with veggies, lean meat and mozzarella cheese, a whey protein shake, cottage cheese and fruit or a yogurt parfait. If your party is around lunchtime or mid-afternoon, keep your breakfast around 350-400 calories. If your party is in the evening, start your day with a 400-500 calorie breakfast.

2) Do not miss snacks
Eating every few hours will not only keep you focused during the day but you will stabilize your blood sugars to prevent overeating. While it is fine to cut back on your daily meal and snack calories, never intentionally miss an opportunity to eat in order to “save calories” for when you attend your group function. Slow digesting carbs which are high in fiber and/or complex carbs will digest slowly. Similarly, foods high in protein will slow down the digesting process to offset any potential spikes in blood sugar.
Examples of snacks include deli/vegetarian meat, cheese, string cheese, nuts, peanut butter, cottage cheese, rice cakes, carrots, celery, cucumbers, apples, pears, yogurt or egg whites (hard boiled). Keep your snacks around 100-150 calories, every 2-3 hours.

3) Do not go into a meal starving
Hungry, yes. Starving, no. Think of your body as a car with a 15 gallon tank. Even if you are at your final destination and your empty light is on, your car will not perform better if you try to “feed it” more than 15 gallons. Not only will you make a mess but putting in more fuel than needed is a major waist of money. Your body also has a specific amount of food to use for potential fuel and eating more than your body requires may lead to a list of hormonal changes and GI complications.
Plan for a small snack (see #2 for food choices) around 30-60 minutes before the meal. For people who have a tendency to graze the appetizers and snacks before a main course, you can easily save yourself 300-1000 calories before the meal is even served with a small snack upon arrival. Furthermore, your small snack before your function will keep you from overeating when it is time to eat your main meal. Also, it is important to monitor your intake of alcoholic drinks which may mistakenly make you feel satisfied before the meal is served. Although it would be a dream come true for many athletes, wine, beer and other alcoholic drinks are not calorie-free.

3) Have a strategy and do not use excuses
For many athletes, holidays create an opportunity to enjoy a variety of foods that you normally wouldn't buy, prepare or eat. There is nothing wrong with looking forward to a few sweet treats and high-calorie foods that are not characteristic to your diet. However, do not use the excuse that you can eat however much you want because you are an athlete and you can burn it off in training. You can enjoy a little of everything by staying focused with your portions and overestimating your calories for each serving that you put on your plate. Even if you are good at watching your calories on a daily basis, it is easy to consume 1000 calories in a selection of home-cooked dishes with no food labels.
When serving yourself (yes-please serve yourself), use a big plate for salad and meat and a smaller plate for the side dishes and deserts. Or, if you do not have a choice of plates, let your brain think you are eating a lot by using 60% of the plate for lean protein, greens and veggies and the rest of the plate for a little of whatever you want.

4) Exercise
Always exercise on the morning of a holiday. See this day just like any other day. Portion your calories throughout the day in order give yourself a slight deficit of calories consumed and a significant surplus of calories burned. Because every athlete enjoys eating a little more than normal if the opportunity arises, burn those calories in the morning! Even if you aren’t training for an event, it is ok to exercise for a few hours and not worry about reaching a certain heart rate or training in a specific zone. Get in a good sweat even if it is just for an hour on the treadmill or a 90 min spin on your trainer. And, if you start your day with a protein-filled breakfast, you do not have to worry about feeling sore and lethargic all day.

5) Do not think that all is ruined
Maybe you are struggling with your weight loss or you are "feeling" fat at the moment. Perhaps you are dreading your lack of will power and all the "unhealthy" foods that are awaiting your arrival to the party. Although you may be celebrating a momentous occasion with friends and family, yoa holiday get together is just like any other day. Never lose sight of the wisdom, knowledge and education that you use on a daily basis in order to make smart and healthy choices which keep your heart healthy and body fueled.

6) Always have a go-to food
This tip is a must food all events, parties and functions. If you are holding an event at your home, it is easy to plan what you will prepare, what you will eat and how much food you have to choose from. However, when attending a party at a family member’s house or a friend of a friend’s house, it is very hard to make healthy decisions if you are surrounded with food soaked in oil, fat or butter. Almost every athlete has been faced with a table of food and absolutely nothing under 400 calories a serving and more saturated fat than you would eat in a week. Sadly, not every function can be held by a group of triathletes with a decent idea of what is worth indulging in and what is so not good for the body.
When you attend an event, always have a go-to food/side item. Prepare a dish, such as a salad, or a tray of veggies, fat-free dip, cheese, lean meat and/or trail mix, so that you can feel good about what you are eating and still enjoy a variety of foods which may not be so healthy.


More often than not, people see food as the reason to come together. Yes, it is a great reason to enjoy the company of otheres as you are eating but don't let yourself get all stressed about the food. So there are unhealthy choices at your holiday party....bring your own healthy choices, eat a little of everything at the party and eat healthy at home before and after the party. When attending events or parties, never lose focus on why you made the time and effort to go to the function in the first place.