If you are focused on your health and fitness this time of year, it is imperative to have a strategy to prevent the loss of your hard-earned fitness and prevent unnecessary weight gain. I say, “unnecessary,” because you can still enjoy the holiday meals and festivities if you follow these simple rules of nutrition of Robert Forster new book, Healthy Running, Step by Step. For over 35 years, he has been helping clients with training, nutrition, injury prevention, recovery and rehabilitation. Of all of these,  nutrition is the most misunderstood science.

When it comes to nutrition, we have found that a simple, basic approach works well. The main concept is to find a healthy, “staple” meal plan for everyday use, such as one that accounts for eachmain  meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks), conforms to your caloric needs, and has all the essential nutrients you need to support your lifestyle and activity level. If you eat this way every day, it leaves room to deviate and enjoy holiday meals one or two days a week (hopefully not two days in a row) without suffering a significant weight gain.

Your “staple diet” should be easy to attain, and palatable. Keep in mind that every main meal must be balanced with protein, carbs, and fat. Here is a guide for the content and portion size of each of your everyday meals:

Complete Protein Source: Chicken, meat, fish,  because these foods provide all the essential amino acids. (One portion fits in the palm of your hand or 1/4 of plate.)

Vegetables – Muschrooms, broccoli, peas etc 1/2 of plate

Healthy Carbs: Beans, quinoa. (One portion is 1/4 of plate)

Snacks: To keep your metabolism revving and burning calories all day, snacking between meals is critical. Snacks should consist of 50-150 calories of healthy, energy-rich foods that will not spike insulin levels. Snacks should always protein and fat; never eat a carb-rich snack by itself. Fruit should be consumed with a cource of protein, for example an apple with nuts. Tto much sugar without a protein source will spike insulin release from the pancreas and direct your body to store the calories as fat. Good snacks: A handful of nuts, cottage cheese with fruit, small cans of tuna in olive oil, protein bars etc.

If you avoid processed foods that have been altered by the food industry to contain an unhealthy combination of salt, sugar, and fat, and which bear little resemblance to food as it appears in nature – and stick to your staple diet every day, then the occasional feast will not wreck your health or result in significant weight gain.