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Challenges to Eating During the Holidays

The Holidays are a fun time of year to enjoy family, friends and yes food.  However; for many people (athletes included) this time of year marks the beginning of a two-month long Holiday eating season (Halloween-New Year’s) that can end up in a few unwanted pounds.

In addition to the abundance of food that is available, runners may also be cutting back on mileage during the winter season.  Many runners I have worked with can hide poor eating habits with higher calorie needs.  When the holiday eating season begins, it is very difficult to manage eating.  

Besides being organized and planning meals, there are a few other ways you can prepare yourselves for the holidays.  Here is what I think are some of the challenges we face during the holidays:

1. Exposure to Challenging Foods

If you can, keep these foods out of sight.  The more times you have to see the food, the more likely you are to eat it.  You can also keep foods in the freezer or some place that isn’t easily accessible.  Even at the office, see if you can manage to avoid the “food room” or have co-workers bring goodies in unclear containers.  Seeing the food is most of the battle.  

Pre-package foods- putting some foods into smaller containers or snack baggies can help avoid the decision about “how much”.  Examples might be chex mix (1/2-1 cup servings), nuts (1/4 cup), cookies- 2/bag, etc.  

2. Stress

Many people cope with anxiety and stress by overeating.  Notice when you are stressed, this is not the time to clean the kitchen.  Avoid places where food is prevalent until you are in a more relaxed state.

Boredom can also be a form of stress to many people.  It is hard for many athletes to relax.  Do try to make time for “doing nothing”.  With practice, it becomes easier.  Catch up on some training books you have been wanting to read!

3. Expectation of overeating

It doesn’t feel good to overeat.  Don’t let people push food on you, set your boundaries.  

Make sure if you are attending multiple eating activities to pace yourself, you do have control over what you eat, quantity may be your best friend.  Go for smaller portions and notice how good it can feel to avoid overeating.  

4. Getting too hungry

Because of the hustle and bustle of the holidays, some athletes find they skip meals or snacks and then are too hungry to make good food decisions.  To help stabilize blood sugar, eat foods that contain fat, fiber or protein.  Healthy fat is found in peanut butter, nuts, avocados, salad dressings, oils (this food group is also high in calories so a little goes along way).  Protein is found in meat, dairy, eggs, nuts, and beans.  Fiber is found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and beans.

Start breakfast with a good dose of protein found in dairy, eggs or nuts.  Fiber is also found in oatmeal, whole wheat bread and high fiber cereals (those with 5 or more grams of fiber/serving).  

Lunch and dinner can also include a vegetable plus a whole grain and fruit.  

Here are a few of my favorite holiday recipes that I enjoy making this time of year.  


Healthy Chex Party Mix


¼ cup of canola oil (or olive)

5 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce

1 teaspoon seasoned salt

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

2 2/3 cup Corn Chex

2 2/3 cup Rice Chex

2 2/3 cup Wheat Chex

2 cups nuts (peanuts, mixed nuts, walnuts)

1 cup pretzels

  1. Set oven at 250 degrees.
  2. Place cereals, nuts and pretzels in roasting pan.
  3. Combine oil and seasonings, pour over cereal mixture in roasting pan, and stir to coat evenly.
  4. Bake 1 hour; stirring every 15 minutes. Spread on absorbent paper to cool.
  5. Store in large plastic zip-lock bag.

Makes 12 cups


White Chicken Chili


4 cups chicken broth

2 (19-ounce) can cannelloni beans (or white kidney beans), drained and divided

1 (16-ounce) can white navy beans, drained and divided

4 cups chopped cooked chicken breast

1 cup chopped onion

1 (16-ounce) package frozen white corn

1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chilies, undrained

1 tsp. Ground cumin

¾ tsp. Dried oregano

¼ tsp. Ground red pepper

  1. Place 1 cup broth, 1 cup cannelloni beans, and ½ cup navy beans, in container of a food processor, cover and process until smooth.
  2. Place bean mixture, remaining broth, remaining cannelloni beans, remaining navy beans, chicken and remaining ingredients in a Dutch oven or soup pot.  Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes.
  3. Ladle chili into individuals bowls.

Makes 8 (1 ¼ cup servings)

Nutrition Facts per serving: 311 calories, 4 grams fat, 1.0 grams saturated fat, 33grams protein, 32 grams carbohydrate, 5 grams fiber, 365 mg sodium.

Recipe from Low-Fat Ways to Cook One-Dish Meals by Susan McIntosh, M.S., RD.


Chunky Cinnamon Applesauce*


Serves 8

8 medium Granny Smith apples or other tart cooking apples, cut into fourths (peeled or unpeeled)

2/3-cup sugar

¾ cup apple juice

1 Tablespoons margarine, melted

1-teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • Mix all ingredients in 3.5-6 quart slow cooker.
  1. Cover and cook on high heat setting 1-½ hours to 2 hours or until apples begin to break up.  Stir well to break up larger pieces of apples.
  2. Serve warm or chilled.  To chill, cool about 2 hours, then spoon sauce into container; cover and refrigerated until chilled.

* Recipe courtesy of Betty Crocker’s Slow Cooker Cookbook.

Julie Hansen – M.S., R.D.N, C.S.S.D., C.D.

Julie Hansen is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and an Exercise Physiologist.  She is also a Certified Intuitive eating Counselor and a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics.   Julie has been working in this field for over 30 years and she loves it.

Her experience providing nutrition counseling and exercise prescription enables her to help a variety of clients, from competitive to recreational athletes;  from individuals wanting to lose or gain weight and from those of you with eating disorders.  I use the Intuitive Eating principles in all of my counseling.


  • Running- 5K to Marathon distances including Boston.  Master’s Track-middle distance
  • Triathlons- Sprint distance
  • Course records- Triathlon-Huntsman Senior Games


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Post-Run Nutrition: Tri-berry Smoothie

Running in the heat can significantly decrease appetite.  During the summer months when we are all ramping up our training, this can lead to a sub-optimal energy intake if we are not careful.  Getting some food in our system within 45 minutes after a run is essential and a smoothie can provide a simple, cool option to replenish the nutrients we need after a hot run.


1.5 cups Frozen or fresh berries (Costco frozen berry mix works well)

1 cup Spinach

1-1.5 cups milk

3 Tbsp. of frozen orange juice concentrate  

1 banana

Optional: Add protein powder and/or flax seed

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by on Jul.25, 2017, under Nutrition, Recovery

Feeling Overly Fatigued When Running? Low Iron or Vitamin D May Be The Culprit.

by Jason Blackham


Do you have excessive fatigue with your running? If you do, you should consider seeing a physician to have blood work done.  The most common causes of fatigue in athletes is poor nutrition, sleep problems, underlying medical problems, iron deficiency, and Vitamin D deficiency.  When seeing patients experiencing fatigue, I usually check a panel of labs to look for underlying causes as well. In this article, I will address iron deficiency and Vitamin D deficiency.  

Low Iron Levels

One of the most common underlying reasons for fatigue in athletes is low iron levels.  When iron levels are low for long enough, anemia or low red blood cell counts result.  However, one can be iron deficient without having anemia.  Anemia is most common in women athletes during the ages of menstruation due to loss of blood with menstrual cycles combined with not having enough iron in the diet.  Other major causes include bleeding usually in the GI tract, stomach or bowel, and not enough iron in the diet as well as other medical problems.  

Read More….

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Rehydration: The Key to Peak Performance During and After Exercise


by Julie Hansen, M.S., R.D., C.D.

Proper fluid replacement before, during, and after exercise can positively influence how you feel and how you perform.  Most people do not realize how quickly water can be lost from our bodies when exercising.  The heat production rate in active, exercising muscles can be 100 times that of resting muscles.

On the average, the body loses more than two liters of water each day through perspiration, urine, feces and respiration.  During exercise, sweat losses of up to three liters/hour are common.  Technically, dehydration occurs when body water loss equals one percent of body mass (performance is affected at a fluid loss of two percent).  For example, a 150 pound person becomes dehydrated after losing one and one-half to three pounds of body weight.

Thirst is an unreliable indicator of fluid needs after exercising in hot weather, partly because the intake of water quickly dulls the thirst sensation.  Further, rehydration with plain water dilutes the blood rapidly and stimulates an increase in urine production that leads to greater dehydration.

Rehydration will occur more rapidly when beverages containing sodium (the major electrolyte lost in sweat), are consumed.  Ingesting a beverage containing sodium allows the plasma sodium to remain elevated during the rehydration period and helps maintain thirst while delaying stimulation of urine production.  The rehydration beverage should also contain glucose or sucrose because these carbohydrates provide a source of energy for working muscles, stimulate fluid absorption in the gut, and improve beverage taste.


The following guidelines will help athletes maintain proper hydration during practice and competition:


  • Weigh in without clothes before and after exercise, especially during hot     weather.  For each pound of body weight lost during exercise, drink 2   cups of fluid.
  • Consume a sports drink containing sodium to quickly replenish lost body fluids.  The beverage should contain 5-8% glucose or sucrose.
  • Drink 2.5 cups of fluid two hours before practice or competition.
  • Drink 1.5 cups of fluid 15 minutes before the event.
  • Drink at least 1 cup of fluid every 15-20 minutes during training and competition.
  • Limit beverages containing caffeine and alcohol because they increase urine production and add to dehydration.


Try your own homemade sports drink:

5% Carbohydrate:

4 Tbs. sugar

4 cups water

1/8 tsp. salt

2 Tbls. lemon juice


6.5% Carbohydrate:

5 Tbs. sugar

4 cups water

1/8 tsp. salt

2 Tbls. lemon juice

Julie Hansen

Julie Hansen, M.S., R.D., C.D. is a Registered Dietitian and Exercise Physiologist.  She has been running competitively in road races since 1980 and competing in triathlons since 2005.  Julie currently teaches a Sports Nutrition course for Weber State University and a Weight Management course for the University of Utah.  She is the dietitian for the Weber State Athletic department and works part time as a dietitian for Kimberly Clark Corporation in Ogden, Utah and for Solstice Residential Treatment Center in Layton, Utah.  Julie also has a private nutrition practice in Utah working with individuals who want to lose weight, improve performance, lower cholesterol or prevent disease.

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The Challenges of Maintaining Training & Eating over the Holidays: Setting Yourself up for a Successful Season

by Kristi Spence

Perhaps this is a familiar scenario: The morning and evening air is a bit chillier than it has been, evening daylight is waning, and the weather forecast hints of snow. Holiday gatherings are filling up the calendar, and with a fall marathon behind you, your race calendar has wound down for the year.  With the change of the weather and the bustle of the season, it is no surprise that it is easier to skip the occasional day or two of training and change your eating habits. For many people, these uninvited and unintended behaviors encroach slowly, followed by staunch resolutions for the New Year.  But this cycle is not inevitable and breaking this pattern does not equate with strict dieting and discipline… it is all about balance. This holiday season, challenge yourself to devise a workable, fun, plan that incorporates both the endorphin rush of training with the delicious taste of pumpkin pie.


To get started, you must first know what you are up against. Each of us faces unique barriers. Identify your specific challenges during the holidays?

  • If from past years, you know that shorter days make it harder to fit in an evening run, can you carve some space out earlier in the day? Can you meet a friend? What adjustments can you make to set yourself up for success?
  • If you want some down-time from running, but you still want to maintain your fitness, perhaps your 6-day per week running plan needs to be modified to a 3 or 4-day per week plan garnished with some fresh cross training ideas.
  • If holiday parties mean overeating and snacking, be sure to eat something before the party. Then you can sample only what really sounds good.
  • If you tend to overeat during the holidays, practice slowing down, enjoying the company and tasting the food.
  • If portion size is your challenge, try using smaller plates.
  • Do you have a hard time with the cold weather? Maybe you can substitute some cross-training activities or figure out how an afternoon, instead of a morning workout might fit into your schedule
  • Perhaps your challenge is that the word “holiday” is synonymous with relaxation and a day off.  Perhaps you can work this day-off into your training or consider different, fun activities with family and friends. There is no rule that you have to run, but if you would like to figure out how you can run on a holiday, perhaps you can meet a friend and celebrate the day together, or get up and out early before the bustle of the day.

Read More….

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Turning 50 and losing 40 – My journey into Running

by Kathryn Macleod
Turning fifty, is a milestone. For me it was huge. I admit to being quite vain and also to fighting getting older.
I wanted the day to pass without ceremony and attention. A few days after my July 12, 2012 Birthday, I took a trip to Vegas with my husband and another couple.
The celebration was to begin with a shopping expedition. I had this visual image of what I would look like in my special new outfit. I spent far too much money, but purchased what I thought was the perfect outfit.
That evening my husband took some pictures of me. I distinctly remember looking at the pictures and this huge lump came in my throat.
I was not “fat” but I was certainly quite chubby. I actually cried. That same weekend, my husband took a picture of me on my horse. Another weepy moment and another eye opener.
I had to do something. What could I do to change my lifestyle?


Las Vegas 2012
Las Vegas July 2012


Riding Horse 2012
Riding my horse Winston


I have always been an active person. I teach dressage riding professionally (think ballet on horseback), I ride many horses a day, muck stalls, lug hay, and do all sorts of manual labor.
I grew up in Prince Edward Island, Canada and studied Education at a university. I competed with my horses and my riding students at a very competitive level — coaching students to represent Canada in North American competitions.
How did this active person let the pounds just gradually slip on? I had done the diet thing many times…diet down for a vacation south…only to gain it back.
I was hitting middle age and for the first time ever…I was gaining weight on my middle. I weighed 167 pounds.
Social media intervened and so did the era of the “app”. I saw someone post on Facebook about a program called C25k [couch to 5k]. I googled it. Interesting, I thought, perhaps this is what I needed to do?
In August of 2012, I downloaded the “app” on my phone and I created a Facebook page called “Let’s Get Fit c25k”. I convinced several friends to take on the challenge with me.
I then put on whatever running shoes I had and ventured out my door.I did not know it, but my life was about to change.
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