The holidays are a time to share with loved ones and give thanks for all that enrich our lives.
Unfortunately, this time of year has also become associated with overindulgence, unhealthy food choices, and expanding waistlines.
Now, I’m not saying that you have to say “no” to the occasional holiday treat.
After all, I fully intend to serve pie at my Thanksgiving feast this week… and will enjoy it.
But it’s the excess that can lead to a load of trouble… like upset stomachs, increased weight and that general “blah” feeling after you’ve indulged too much.
You don’t have to skip all the festivities to keep healthy this season.
Here are my tips to a healthier holiday season…
1. Don’t skip breakfast.
When you start your day off with a healthy, nutritious, and satisfying meal, you’re more likely to continue to make healthy food choices throughout the day.
Eat a breakfast that will keep you satisfied until lunch… so you’re not digging into the candy dishes spread throughout your house.
A morning meal of eggs, lean meat, and fruit is a smart way to start the day.
2. Fill holiday plates with fresh veggies.
Many holiday meals are served buffet-style, leaving the food choices in your hands.
This is a good thing because it gives you the power to decide what gets put on your plate.
Aim to fill half your plate with a rainbow of veggies.
Raw vegetables are your best bet because they haven’t been cooked in, or covered with, heavy sauces.
3. Watch the “extras.”
Calories can quickly add up if you start drowning your healthy food choices with creamy sauces and dressings.
If you feel you must have the sauce, try putting a small amount on the side and dipping your fork into the sauce before putting the food on the fork.
Keeping the sauce on the fork – and not all over the food – can help limit eating to excess, while still enjoying the added flavor.
4. Eat slowly.
It takes a while, about 20 minutes, for your brain to communicate with your stomach that you’re full.
When you eat your food slowly by chewing it more thoroughly, eating is slowed and your brain and stomach have time get on the same page.
Chewing your food more fully also helps improve your digestion.
By breaking food down into smaller pieces, your digestive system doesn’t have to work as hard to process and digest the food you take in, so you’re less likely to experience post-meal digestive upset.
5. Don’t drink your calories.
Wine and liquor can add calories… fast.
If you’re going to enjoy a bit of alcohol, consider a wine spritzer, with a mixture of wine and club soda instead of a full glass of wine.
And if you do indulge, be sure you don’t drink on an empty stomach.
Alcohol increases your appetite and diminishes your ability to control what you eat.
6. Keep up with your exercise routine.
With all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it’s important to take time for yourself.
Regular physical activity not only provides physical advantages, it also helps boost your mood and ease holiday stress.
Lace up your sneakers and take a walk around your neighborhood, especially after a large meal.
Or, if you’re at a party, grab a partner and take a twirl around the dance floor.
The goal is to move as much as possible, at least 20 minutes each day, to burn calories, aid digestion, and just feel better.
7. Don’t forget to get enough sleep.
Between holiday parties and family visits, the holiday season can leave you short on time… and sleep.
But it’s important to keep your sleep routine so that you can truly enjoy the season at your best.
A lack of quality sleep increases your shot of extra holiday and can disrupt your fitness routine too.
8. Socialize and circulate.
If you’ve finished eating, keep yourself busy talking to family and friends, away from the food table, so you’re not tempted to go back for seconds or thirds.
Holiday gatherings aren’t just about the food.
Use this time to get to know someone new, or catch up with an old friend.
The holidays are so much more than stuffing, yule log cakes, cookies, and cheese balls.
Focus on family and friends, and especially yourself, to enjoy a healthier holiday season.