Holiday Weight Management Tips

Holiday Weight Management Tips

Yearly Archives: 2014

Holiday Weight Management Tips

By Whitney Sweat, MS, RD, CSSD

Another year has gone by and the holidays are upon us again.  No doubt those New Year’s resolutions for 2014 have long been forgotten, but why wait until this upcoming January 1st to start making changes to your nutrition and exercise habits?  There is no time like the present, so get out there and start working towards those 2015 goals now!  See below for some useful tips and strategies for enjoying all of those holiday parties without expanding your waistline.


It needn’t be said that maintaining your activity level is crucial for weight management.  Although you may be taking time from your regular work schedule, traveling, and generally being out of your usual routine, prioritize exercise and set a goal to move every day during the holidays.  Whether it is a 1-mile walk or a full day of skiing, the more you move the more you burn!  By committing to some form of activity each day, you increase the chance that once you get started you will find you have more time for it!  Keep yourself motivated by getting your family and friends involved, put reminders in your phone, post-up sticky notes encouraging yourself to go on a walk or run, whatever will work for you!


While incorporating exercise into your holiday routine is crucial, paying attention to what you eat is also important.  Unfortunately for us, it is a lot easier to consume a large amount of calories quickly than to burn them off!  However, you can most certainly enjoy some of your favorite holiday treats without doing too much damage.

  • Set Yourself up for Success
    • Be realistic with your weight related goals during the holidays.  Focus on maintaining your current weight, rather than losing, during this time.
    • Don’t deprive yourself of your favorite foods.  Over restriction can set you up for over eating later on.
    • Maintain some sort of routine or structure during the holidays.  Try to keep a similar sleep schedule, eat at structured times, and exercise on a regular schedule.
    • Make sure to have healthy foods on hand.  Keep these items readily available and in sight.   For example, keep oranges, pears, and apples on the counter, chop up fresh fruit for a quick and convenient fruit salad, chop vegetables for salad toppings.   On the other hand, don’t store holiday treats on the counter, put them away in the pantry where they are more out of your line of sight.
  • Be Prepared
    • Keep an events calendar so you know in advance when challenges may arise.
      • Don’t arrive hungry to an event.  Eat on a regular schedule and have a protein and produce based meal or snack prior to the event.
      • Bring a healthy side or appetizer option to holiday parties.
  • Prepare for any travel that you are doing, whether by plane or car, more nutrient dense snacks can help keep cravings at bay.
    • Car (pack a cooler)
      • Hard-boiled eggs, deli meat, string cheese
      • Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, kefir
      • Oranges, apples, bananas, grapes, berries
      • Hummus + carrot sticks, mini peppers, cherry tomatoes, snap peas
      • Plane
        • Beef jerky & peanut butter packets
        • Fruit & nut trail mix
        • Almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, etc.
        • Crackers, mini rice cakes, pita chips, granola
        • KIND/Lara/Rise Bars
  • Keep it Balanced
    • Stick to your optimal eating habits as much as possible.  Maintain balance between food groups (protein, vegetables, carbs/starches)
    • When dining out or going to events always use plates and utensils, avoid grazing as the calories can really add up.
    • Start your plate with veggies, fruits, and lean proteins. Use leftover space for starches.
    • Remember you don’t have to try everything!  Scan the choices first and sample a few of your favorites and leave the rest alone.
    • Allow yourself time before taking seconds, identify if you are truly still hungry for more.
    • Focus on mingling and catching up with old friends rather than standing by the food table.
  • Follow the 80/20 Rule
    • Moderation is key during the holidays.  Rather than depriving yourself, use the 80/20 rule and think about eating 80% “performance foods” and 20% “fun foods.”


Performance Foods: Provide carbohydrates to fuel workouts, protein to build and repair muscles, and necessary vitamins and minerals.

  • Turkey, ham, roast beef, nuts, cheese (in moderation)
  • Sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, cranberries, rolls
  • Carrots, green beans, salads, veggie sides


Fun Foods: Higher in added sugar and fat, contain little or no vitamins, but provide enjoyment and satisfy body’s natural desire for certain tastes

  • Fudge, pies, cookies, chocolate, candy, whipped cream
  • Eggnog, hot cocoa, ciders



Lastly, don’t forget about monitoring those liquid calories!  Whether it’s from alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages, it’s important to know that liquid calories do not provide our bodies with the same level of satiety (fullness) as solid foods.  If you enjoy sweeter beverages, keep the serving to one per event, maintain reasonable portion sizes (dilute with soda water/seltzer if able), and take the time to really savor and enjoy the flavor.  If you will be enjoying some alcoholic beverages try drinking water between each one to help pace yourself.  Hey, you might even be more likely to make that 6 AM Gut Check Workout the next morning!

Overall, the holidays are a time to catch up with family and friends, enjoy ourselves, and reflect on all of the things we are thankful for.  It is not a time for deprivation or guilt for what we eat.  Balance, moderation, and a little planning ahead will ensure a fun-filled holiday season that won’t derail your goals.  Plus, you will be one step closer to kick-starting 2015 on a positive note!

Happy Holidays!


Healthy Holiday Event Options

  • Yogurt based dip or hummus and veggies
  • Fresh fruit and cheese plate
  • Mini quiches
  • Stuffed peppers or mushrooms
  • Soups, stews, salads
  • Fruit drizzled with dark chocolate


Recipes (adapted from

Maple-Roasted Sweet PotatoesMaple-Roasted Sweet Potatoes


  • 2 ½ pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 ½ in pieces
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Arrange sweet potatoes in an even layer in a 9 x 13 glass baking dish.  Combine maple syrup, butter, lemon juice, salt and pepper in small bowl.  Pour mixture over the sweet potatoes, toss to coat.
  • Cover and bake the sweet potatoes for 15 minutes.  Uncover, stir and cooking, stirring every 15 minutes, until tender and starting to brown (30-45 minutes more).


Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Onion

Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Onion


  • 2 ½ pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed
  • 4 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 TB extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 sprigs thyme + 2 teaspoons leaves (divided)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice


  • Bring a large pot of water to boil
  • If sprouts are small, cut in half, otherwise cut into quarters
  • Cook the sprouts in boiling water until barely tender, 3 to 5 minutes.  Drain.
  • Meanwhile, cook bacon in a large heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring, until brown but not crisp, 3 to 6 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon to drain on a paper towel.  Pour out all but ~ 1TB bacon fat from the pan.
  • Add olive oil to the pan and heat over medium heat.  Add onion and cook, stirring often, until soft but not browned (reducing the heat if necessary, about 4 minutes).  Stir in the thyme sprigs, salt, and pepper.  Increase heat to medium-high, add the Brussels sprouts and cook tossing or stirring occasionally, until tender and warmed through, about 3 minutes.  Remove the herb sprigs.  Add the bacon, thyme leaves and lemon juice and toss.


Riesling Baked PearsRiesling Baked Pears


  • 4 ripe pears, preferable Bosc, with stems, washed and dried
  • 2 cups Riesling or other fruity white wine
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 4 strips orange zest


  • Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees
  • Cut a thin slice off the bottom of each pair they will stand upright.  Arrange the pears in a 9- to 10-inch pie pan or similar baking dish. Whisk wine and honey in a medium bowl until well blended; pour over the pears.  Add cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, and orange zest to the wine mixture around the pears.
  • Roast the pairs, basting with mixture every 15 minutes until they are wrinkled and tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour
  • Use a slotted spoon to transfer the pears to shallow dessert bowls.  Pour the wine mixture in a small saucepan, bring to a boil.  Boil until slightly thickened, about 6 minutes.  Drizzle over the pears and garnish with cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, and orange zest.
  • Serve warm and try paired with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.


Gut Check Challenge Fuel & Hydration Tactics

By Whitney Sweat


Preparation for the Gut Check Challenge is no easy feat!  Undoubtedly you have been trail running, doing strongman training, and attending Gut Check classes.  While all of this is extremely important to you successfully completing the challenge, make sure you aren’t neglecting another key component of your training…nutrition!  Fueling for this type of an event is not easy, and there is no one size fits all approach to the best way to maintain your energy levels for the entire race.  What you do in the days, hours, minutes, and during the race will be crucial to performance, and how you feel after the race!

Remember that the primary fuel source used during this type of event is carbohydrate.  Fat will also contribute, as will protein in small amounts, but bottom line, if you don’t have enough carbohydrate on board your output and intensity will suffer.  During the event carbohydrate will come from 3 sources: 1) the carbohydrate you ingest prior to the challenge, 2) the carbohydrate you have stored in the body, and 3) what is consumed during the event.  Let’s look at each of these sources in more detail.

1) Carbohydrate ingested prior to the event:

You will only be able to eat so much prior to the event or else you may run into gastrointestinal issues that will hamper your performance.  Think about what you ingest prior to the race as “topping off” your fuel stores.  Make sure that whatever you consume the day of the race are familiar foods, this is not the day to have a different breakfast or pre-workout snack!  Practicing with different foods during training is a great way to understand your body and what it responds to best.  You will want your pre-race meal to contain an ample amount of carbohydrate, and moderate amount of protein, and minimal fat (excess fat can delay digestion and absorption, increasing the chance of race day stomach issues).  Some commonly used race day meals include:

  • Oatmeal with banana or dried fruit, plus 1-2 hard-boiled eggs, ½ cup Greek yogurt, or 2 TB peanut butter
  • Wheat toast or bagel with peanut butter and banana, plus 1 cup low-fat milk
  • Fruit smoothie made with fresh or frozen fruit, 1 cup Greek yogurt or 1 scoop protein powder
  • Whole grain cereal or granola with low-fat milk, dried fruit, and nuts

Be sure to take up early enough to allow time for digestion to occur (about 3-4 hours).  Include about 2-3 cups of fluid with this meal as well.  If you are prone to cramping or heat exhaustion, a sports drink or electrolyte beverage will be beneficial.  Also, include a small carbohydrate-containing snack about 30 minutes prior to the race and again, and again include about 1 cup of fluid.

  • Sports drink and small handful of nuts
  • KIND fruit and nut bar or Clif Mojo Sweet n’ Salty Bar
  • ½ peanut butter and banana sandwich
  • Peanut butter filled pretzels
  • ½ Naked Juice or Odwalla Protein Drink

2) Carbohydrate stored in the body

Your body can store carbohydrate in the form of glycogen in your muscles and your liver.  Your body converts this glycogen to glucose as needed during exercise.  During training, it is important that you are adequately recovering and refueling these carbohydrate stores. Prior to the even, you can ensure that your carbohydrate stores are full by 1) tapering exercise the week prior to use less stored glycogen, and 2) consuming carbohydrate-rich foods and beverages regularly.  Include regular meals and snacks into your daily routine, eating enough at each meal to keep you feeling satisfied (not stuffed) for about 3 hours.  Make sure 1/3 of your plate (about 1 ½ fists) comes from a carbohydrate source during meals (oats/cereal, bread, grains, starchy vegetables, pasta) and include carbohydrate containing fruits and vegetables on the other 1/3 of your plate.  The remainder of your plate should contain a protein source.

  • Grilled sirloin steak, baked sweet potato, roasted asparagus
  • Baked Salmon, brown or wild rice, steamed broccoli
  • Stir-fry vegetables with chicken and brown rice
  • Deli meat sandwich or wrap with side salad
  • Chicken burrito bowl with sautéed peppers and onions

Snacks should include a carbohydrate along with a protein source to help stabilize blood sugar levels.

  • Beef jerky plus dried apricots
  • Instant oatmeal pack plus milk and/or peanut butter
  • Hard-boiled egg plus grapes
  • Hummus and string cheese plus crackers
  • Rice cake topped with peanut butter
  • Cottage cheese or Greek yogurt and fruit
  • No Bake Energy Bites (can also be used as a pre-workout snack)

The days before the event are crucial to optimizing your body’s carbohydrate stores.  Although carbohydrate is important, you do not have to “carb load” in the more traditional sense.  A balance between food groups is important.  The night before make sure to have a familiar, easily digested meal that will provide you with the fuel mix necessary for an event like the Gut Check Challenge.  I like a plain meal of grilled chicken, baked sweet potato, and steamed green beans or broccoli.  Don’t neglect water and other fluids either the days before a race and minimize alcohol intake as it can dehydrate you.  Bonus, fruits and veggies are a great source of fluid from foods!

3) Carbohydrate consumed during the event

A 3-4 hour race is long, no matter how on point you are with your nutrition prior to the race, you will need to ingest some carbohydrate, fluids, and electrolytes during the race to maintain your energy levels.  One solution is to wear a hydration belt with 2 water bottle compartments, fill one with plain water and the other with a sports beverage to provide electrolytes and carbohydrate.  You can also store portable snacks in the belt.  What you consume during the challenge will largely depend on what you are able to tolerate, but most importantly, remember this is not the time to try a new sports drink, bar, or gel since you don’t know how your body will react!  If you must rely on fluids only, make sure to use a sports drink that contains about 14-19 g of carbohydrates per 8 oz.  If you can consume more solid foods, you can get carbohydrates and some electrolytes this way and use more water.  You may consider adding in electrolytes to water (like Nuun electrolyte packets) if you aren’t going to have a carbohydrate containing sports drink, and if you are prone to cramping.  Ideally, you want to get 30-6-0 grams of carbohydrate per hour.  This may seem like a lot, but it can be accomplished using sports drink gels and blocks; that is what they are designed for!  Keep in mind, if you wait until you feel like you need fuel before you eat something, it might already be too late so start fueling about 45 minutes into the event!  Some commonly used foods and beverages during events include:

  • Sports drinks, gels, blocks, or bars
  • Pretzel sticks, crackers, or goldfish
  • Salted trail mix (dried fruit, cereal, nuts)
  • Peanut butter & banana roll-up (if able to tolerate solid foods)

Adding practiced and well-planned nutrition strategies to your event-day routine will enhance your performance and enjoyment of any race or event in which you compete.  The Gut Check Challenge is a great opportunity to start making it a priority, so make sure you add your fuel and fluids to your mandatory gear list!

No Bake Energy Bites

  • 1 cup old fashioned oats (dry)
  • 2/3 cup toasted coconut flakes
  • ½ cup peanut butter or almond butter
  • ½ cup ground flaxseed
  • ½ cup chocolate or carob chips (optional)
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Stir all ingredients together in medium bowl until thoroughly mixed.  Let chill in the refrigerator half and hour.  Once chilled, roll into ball of whatever size you would like.  Store in airtight container for up to 1 week.

Makes about 20-25 bites (depending on size)

Nutty Strawberry Banana Smoothie

  • 1 cup Vanilla or Honey Greek yogurt
  • 1 scoop protein powder (optional)
  • ½ cup fresh or frozen strawberries
  • 1 peeled banana
  • 2 TB nut butter
  • ½ cup almond or water

Strongwoman Sunday

“Gut Check gals, Jake & Joe getting after it! This one left a mark!”

From Strongwoman Sunday, posted by Gut Check Fitness on 3/09/2014 (83 items)

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Gut Check “Running with the Turkey’s” 5k & 10k

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“Thank you to all the incredibly fit, motivated and fun individuals that joined us today for this wonderful event! Happy Thanksgiving! And can I get a Gut Check?!”

From Gut Check “Running with the Turkey’s” 5k & 10k, posted by Gut Check Fitness on 11/28/2013 (Showing 100 of 199 items)

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Balboa Park Workout

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“Great job today gang! 2,402 exercises completed and over 6 miles of hills & trails. Not a bad start to the day. Really enjoyed the field trip and glad we could pay tribute to those that lost their lives on this day, Dec 7, 1941.”

From Balboa Park Workout, posted by Gut Check Fitness on 12/07/2013 (Showing 100 of 113 items)

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Gut Check San Diego Holiday Party — 2013

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“Another incredible year with wonderful people. Happy Holidays Gut Check!”

From Gut Check San Diego Holiday Party, posted by Gut Check Fitness on 12/08/2013 (Showing 100 of 122 items)

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Gut Check Workout hosted by Road Runner Sports — December 14, 2013

“Awesome time today! Had 100 highly motivated individuals join us this morning at RRS for a fun filled fitnesspalooza! Great way to start the day! Thanks for the support gang!”

From Gut Check @ Road Runner Sports Workout, posted by Gut Check Fitness on 12/14/2013 (49 items)

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Gut Check Last Saturday 2013

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“Last Saturday of 2013 workout and field trip. Another year bites the dust while eating ours!haha…Look forward to an even more healthy, fit and insane New Year! Can I get a Gut Check?!”

From Gut Check Last Saturday 2013, posted by Gut Check Fitness on 12/28/2013 (Showing 100 of 123 items)

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