It's ironic that, during a season of overeating, we ingest fewer of the nutrients we need, as we drink high-calorie beverages instead of water and replace healthy snacks with sugary treats. And to make matters worse, falling behind on exercise can actually increase the impact of those indulgences. In a 2013 study published in The Journal of Physiology, researchers found that after just one week of overeating and not exercising, participants showed poor blood-sugar control and their fat cells were undergoing potentially long-term metabolic changes.
Go for a run. That same study showed there was one thing participants could do to mitigate the ill effects of their dietary choices: Spend 45 minutes on a treadmill daily. While more research is needed, these findings suggest exercise does more than burn calories; it may also affect how the body metabolizes sugar.
Write it down. Start a food journal, not as a diet tool but as a reality check, suggests Lalita Taylor, an Edmonton-based dietitian. Writing down what you eat can help uncover patterns. If you realize you had a doughnut for breakfast and a glass of eggnog in the afternoon, skip the cheesecake at dinnertime to make room for other nutrients.
Drink smart. Cranberry juice, eggnog and cocktails are all major sources of sugar, so treat them the same as tiramisu or trifle. In fact, Taylor suggests pitting sugary drinks and foods against each other: Savour a glass of fine red wine and pass on dessert, or dig into a piece of pie and sip water.