Looking for a more healthy holiday season? Now is a great time to get prepared – not just for those presents, but for those healthy habits. This time of year brings plenty of events and gatherings with friends and family, but all that excitement can also bring packed schedules, stress, less sleep, and of course lots of food. If you are worried that the holidays may derail your good habits, think again! Stop, take a breath and read on…
With an abundance of gatherings, work commitments, and a to-do list that keeps getting longer, you might find that the holidays start to take away from your current routine. Surviving the holidays isn’t all about food. Habits and traditions can be helpful tools to celebrate while still maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Try making the holidays less about sitting and eating and follow these tips to help make this holiday the healthiest yet:
If possible, try to keep the days between commitments as ‘normal’ as possible. Continue your regular work schedule, exercise classes, sports practices, etc. It is easier to continue a routine than to re-start an old one.
Busy schedules and the temptation of a warm living room can make it hard to get outside. But make it a priority to get out for some fresh air and activity. Planning some winter activities can help keep you active and create a connection with friends and family that doesn’t involve food. Make the activity a tradition that you look forward to so you can stay motivated!
Check-in with yourself and those close to you during the holiday season. It can be hard to slow down but decide what is best for you and your health. Be assertive about taking time for self-care and drawing boundaries with friends and loved ones. Your mental health is important, especially during the busy holiday season.
Manage your stress this holiday season by asking for help. Use meal and party prep to spend quality time with loved ones. Teaching others to make their favorite dishes or offering help to someone else can help alleviate everyone’s stress and provide a fun activity to do together.
Many events feature plentiful meals that are meant to be celebrated and enjoyed. Rather than worry, or deny yourself, allow yourself to experience the flavors. If a dessert is calling, have it and enjoy it! You can balance it out with a walk after dinner.
Sleep is not only important for your digestion but is essential to stress management. Skip the holiday stress eating and turn off the lights. Getting extra sleep can be a game-changer! Check out these tips on improving your sleep.
Most holidays come with their temptations that can cause us to get off track. However, there are some easy ways to celebrate without overindulging. How can we practice mindful eating and moderation while still enjoying those favorite treats?
Saving up your calories for the big meal can backfire and lead to overeating. Focus on consuming a small meal or snack every three to four hours to help keep your blood sugar stable. This will help ensure you don’t go into the holiday festivities feeling overly hungry.
Before you start filling your plate, take a moment to observe all the food options. Begin by serving yourself a small sample portion of the dishes that interest you the most and then go back for larger helpings of your favorites.
If a favorite is calling your name, enjoy it! Just make sure that you limit your portions by choosing only what fits on a small plate or napkin. Using a limited amount of space can help you select the foods you really want without the risk of overindulging from the start.
Practice by putting your food or utensil down between bites. This can help you reflect and give your body time to realize it is full. It can take approximately 20 minutes for our bodies to recognize fullness so savor those bites.
Whether you are hosting an event, attending a dinner, or planning a potluck, bring some healthy options. It is a great way to share new recipes with everyone.
Overconsuming alcoholic drinks will use up most of your calories and put you well over the daily recommendation. Replace alcohol with water which will not only improve your digestion but also reduce your appetite.
While many people may have adopted a different dress code being home (think sweatpants), putting on form-fitting clothes for a meal may help you be more aware when you are full.
Traveling can take you off normal routines and may derail you from your goals. Regardless of where you are headed, use these tips for staying healthy:
Traveling is a time to enjoy and even indulge a little. But it doesn’t mean you have to toss out your healthy habits. Check out the area to get healthy restaurant ideas or markets to grab a few essentials.
Pack a couple of healthy snacks to reduce cravings after a long day. Some choices are fruit, nuts, trail mix, and bars like RxBars or Kind with little to no added sugars. With many flights not providing meals and major highways lacking fresh, healthy meal options it is best to be ready to go.
Getting sick on vacation can put a damper on the fun so wash your hands more often and carry some disinfecting wipes in your bag.
Staying hydrated can help you arrive refreshed and energized. Pack a reusable water bottle so that you can fill up past airport security or before you hit the road. Learn more on the benefits of staying hydrated.
We all deserve some downtime but do your best to incorporate some movement into your day. Try walking or biking to check out local sights, go for a local hike, try beach yoga or check out the hotel gym. And don’t forget to breathe. Traveling can be stressful, and we all need to check in with ourselves
Family recipes come with plenty of tradition, but if you are trying to stick to your goals this holiday season it may be time for a refresh.
Did you know, the average American only puts on about one pound during the season? It may not sound like a lot unless you gain that extra pound year after year. It can add up so make it a priority to break the cycle.
But don’t think that you must deprive yourself of all your favorites. With simple substitutions, you can make your favorites both delicious and healthy.
Use these tips to make this year’s holiday cooking healthier:
Swap sour cream for plain Greek yogurt. Sour cream is used in many holiday dishes and is relatively high in saturated fat (with limited nutritional value). Swapping it with plain Greek yogurt keeps dishes rich and creamy, cuts calories by about a quarter, and adds probiotics. It’s a win!
Choosing low-fat products will help reduce the risk of heart disease and most can’t taste the difference in most recipes.
Use in replace of heavy cream. This simple substitution in cream-based recipes to cut your calories in half without sacrificing taste.
Swap out the butter for one of these alternatives. Unsaturated fats, like those found in these vegetable oils, have been shown to decrease cholesterol levels. If you want to take it up a notch, use unsweetened applesauce. Using applesauce in place of oil when making baked goods can help cut your total fat and calories and keep your item moist.
Serve whole-grain bread instead of white bread. Using 100% whole grain in your stuffing recipe and for dinner, rolls can give a boost of fiber, antioxidants, and minerals.
Replace mashed cauliflower with potatoes. No one will even notice if you swap out some or all the potatoes for cauliflower as a side dish. It has the same texture and far fewer calories than traditional mashed potatoes.
If you choose to indulge in alcohol, try drinking water in between or try a ‘mocktail’. Avoiding alcohol will cut down on calories and added sugar to save for that pie you have been eyeing.
Kale and carrots add lots of Vitamin A to this hearty soup. It is a great recipe for using kale from the local farmer’s market.
Makes 3 servings. Nutrition Info: 1/3 recipe - 177 calories, 5g fat, 257mg sodium - Source: myplate.gov
Mixed vegetables, meatballs, and brown rice make a delicious and hearty soup that will warm you up on a cold winter night.
Makes 4 servings. Nutrition Info: ½ cup broth with 3 large meatballs - 246 calories, 7g fat, 420mg sodium - Source: myplate.gov
A healthy veggie alternative to the sweet potato or green bean casserole.
Makes 4 servings. Nutrition Info: ¼ recipe - 143 calories, 2g fat, 77mg sodium
A healthy side dish or dessert to complement any holiday meal.
Makes 4 servings. Nutrition Info: ¼ recipe – 115 calories, 5g fat, 169mg sodium
*Salad may look dry initially, but cabbage will release liquid as it stands.
Did you know that over half of New Years Resolutions fail by mid-January? For many that resolutions include plans for self-reformation where we start with the best of intentions and set a goal that can likely positively impact our lives. With the right strategies, you can ensure those smart habit changes will stick around for the remainder of the year.
Ensure your goals follow the SMART model to make them easier to track and achieve.
Create a tangible plan to keep you on track. Do you plan on working out regularly? Be specific and set how often.
Goals that are not written down are just wishes. Track changes by writing them down and finding a way to measure them. Want to exercise every day or eat more veggies? Pick a set amount of time or number of servings so that you can keep track.
Start small so you are not setting yourself up for failure right off the starting block. We want to do it all but be realistic. Evaluate what your current routine looks like and choose goals that won’t be overwhelming.
Why are we setting this goal? The most successful goals are the ones that allow us to flourish and succeed. Don’t set a goal to punish yourself – if it starts with negative roots, we likely will ditch it in a few weeks.
We all have that goal we will get to ‘someday’. Now is the time to get focused and turn it into a realistic timeline. Focus on smaller goals that you can celebrate along the way to your long-term behavior changes.
Pick a goal that means something to you and will work with your lifestyle. Focus on a habit that will make YOU successful in the new year and not something you feel forced to be doing.
Once you have a SMART goal in place, go ahead and put it into action. We all wish they could miraculously achieve themselves, but they do require a little preparation on our part. Are you planning to exercise every day? If so, join a local gym or research some videos you can do at home. Ensure you have the appropriate attire and water bottle ready and fuel up with healthy foods. With a good plan in place, you will be more likely to sustain it for weeks (if not months) to come!
There are plenty of obstacles and interruptions in life that get in the way but with a little planning, you can be successful. Remember to be flexible and when goals get away from you, re-evaluate. Modifying them along the way can help make them more representative of your needs and keep you headed in the right direction. Success takes time and does not have to be perfect – breathe and get back to work.