The holiday season is off and running! All the stores are full of Christmas merchandise, radio stations are playing non-stop Christmas music, many homes are already lit up inside and out for Christmas, and of course, the stores are stocked with all kinds of Christmas candy and treats. And it’s only just Thanksgiving! If your house is like mine, you may even still have Halloween candy lurking around and calling out to you. Temptations and treats are everywhere you turn!
So how do you manage your health through this season, and still enjoy the celebrations, family gatherings and parties without arriving in January feeling like you really blew it? While it may not feel like an easy thing to do, with a little pre-planning, awareness and creativity, all those yummy foods and cocktails don’t have to lead to a hefty holiday weight gain.
Here are some tips to help you stay on a healthy path through the holidays:
- Be prepared. Make a plan to avoid eating the super-high-calorie foods at celebrations, like processed meats, fried foods, creamy soups, and rich desserts. Fill up on lighter and more sustaining foods like lean meats, fruits, veggies, hummus, grains and nuts. If you need to bring a dish to share, bring a healthy one so that you have an option.
- Focus on your most favorite holiday foods. You can eat bread, mashed potatoes, and corn casserole any time of the year, right? Instead, go for just the things that you always look forward to at this time of year – those foods that you probably wouldn’t get during the rest of the year. Think pumpkin pie, candied sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, special holiday cookies... you get the point.
- Eat before you go. When you arrive hungry at a gathering, it’s a quick way to self-sabotage and make choices you normally may not make (“hangry” anyone?). So, have a healthy snack before you go to tide you over and then still enjoy the party foods, but maybe not quite so much! And don’t try to “save your calories” during the day for dinner or a party because you’re going to be starved, are bound to overeat and then regret it.
- Don’t even consider dieting now. You’ll only feel deprived, left out and hungry. Focus more on just maintaining where you’re at now by trying out the tips in this article.
- Be aware of alcohol consumption. First of all, make sure you drink water between cocktails. It's a really smart move: it keeps you hydrated, slows down your drinking, helps keep you feeling fuller, so you may not be as likely to overeat, and minimizes the after-effect of the alcohol the next morning. Also, consider those indulgent drinks like eggnog to be a dessert rather than just a drink. And drink mixers can really pile up the sugary calories, so choose wisely.
- Make some healthy substitutions. Replace sour cream with plain Greek yogurt, and use 2% milk in place of whole. Try mashed cauliflower in place of mashed potatoes, spaghetti squash in place of pasta, cottage cheese for cream cheese, or rolled oats instead of bread crumbs.
- Hide the holiday treats. When you keep treats out of sight, they should be more out of mind, which helps to avoid or cut back on the mindless eating. The harder they are to just grab and pop into your mouth, the less likely you are to cave (especially if you’ve put some in the freezer!).
- Keep moving! Our busy holiday schedules can play havoc on our normal exercise or activity routines. Try to make time on your calendar to get some kind of movement in on most days – and actually book it on your calendar as an appointment to yourself. You're worth keeping that appointment! If you can’t get to a gym (if that’s your thing), you could do a quick routine at home using just your body weight. Use Google for some ideas to do that. Remember, the more you stay active, the more likely you are to keep eating well (most of the time) and the less you’ll feel the effects of all the parties and dinners you plan to enjoy this season. Also remember, fun outdoor winter activities can be counted as exercise! Think skating, sledding, skiing, snowman-making, snowball fights, or even a walk to go caroling. And even shopping and all the walking that goes with that can be good for you!
- Don’t feel guilty. The holidays are meant to be celebrated with friends, families, work colleagues, neighbors and more. Stay aware and mindful of your actions and choices, and you'll be much less likely to get carried away. And don’t beat yourself up if you get a bit off track at this time of year, because you’ll always be able to get back on track quickly if you practice some or all of these tips while enjoying the season.
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