Holiday Eating Tips for Athletes

Christmas background

Holiday Eating Tips for Athletes

Athletes of every age and skill level prepare for practices, training sessions, competitions and entire sports seasons.

Eating season is no exception.

Yes, eating season.

More commonly known as the holiday season, the holiday eating season kicks off with Halloween candy and gets into full swing at Thanksgiving before barreling down the home stretch with a multitude of parties, large meals, cups of good cheer and tantalizing desserts throughout December.

It can be really easy to overdo it with food and drink. It can be especially frustrating for athletes who want to stay in shape but do not want to miss out on the festivities.

However, eating season doesn’t have to be so tough with some preparation, discipline and initiative.

Brett Singer, R.D., CSSD, LD, a sports dietitian with the Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute, has some tips for athletes to stay on track to meet their training goals while still partaking in holiday celebrations and feasts.

1. Know  your body and eating habits.

You should already be paying attention to your diet while you’re in training. While you may be off from school or work, stick to your normal eating pattern.  This will keep you on a normal schedule while preventing hunger and overindulgence. Ask yourself at meals, do you normally consume this many calories or this type of food? If the answer is no, plan accordingly.

 2. Stay active.

Every little bit helps when you’re consuming more calories. Take the stairs. Don’t search for the perfect parking spot.  Taking walks with family or friends before, after or during parties can help offset the extra calorie intake and doesn’t require full workout gear.

3. Be part of the solution.

If you’re the one preparing the meal or part of the meal, go healthy. Vegetables, fruits, and lean meat (without visible fat and skin) should be on your menu, especially if other portions of the cuisine aren’t so healthy.

There are plenty of healthy versions of traditional holiday recipes online. Here are some substitutes for common ingredients:

  • Spritzers for regular salad dressings
  • Skim instead of whole milk
  • Yogurt instead of sour cream
  • Two egg whites instead of 1 whole egg
  • Low fat cream cheese in place of whole fat cream cheese

4. Develop a winning game plan.

Just like in your sport of choice, you should approach the larger events in your eating season with a plan.


These tips will allow you to enjoy the season in full and save space on your New Year’s resolution list for something besides re-committing to your training diet.  For more tips, visit the IRONMAN Sport Medicine Institute website.

Tashika Varma