Healthy Living During the Holidays

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We work all year on making healthy choices – eating plenty of vegetables, getting daily exercise, sleeping 7 hours per night – only to be completely overwhelmed and tempted at every holiday of the year.  THE Holiday Season (Thanksgiving – New Year’s) tends to be the toughest of them all to keep up healthy habits.  We have so many holidays in barely over a month’s time, it can easily turn into a 40 day food + booze-fest, and on top of that, the added stress of gift buying, cookie making, cake baking, Christmas partying, and family gathering can make it near impossible to hit January 1st without an extra 10 pounds and a pounding headache.

If you really think about it, The Holidays are supposed to be enjoyed celebrating with the ones we love most, reflecting on the year behind us and anticipating the year ahead. With a little bit of planning, you can avoid completely sabotaging your healthy lifestyle without feeling deprived.

1. SLEEP

You might have to leave a few parties a couple of hours early or skip out on a family breakfast, but try to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night. This can reduce your cravings and keep your cortisol (stress hormone) levels at bay.

2. Prioritize Movement

Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise 5-6 days per week. Trust me. You’ll feel better and have a much better attitude towards your friends and family. No time during the day? Suggest a family walk after dinner rather than digging into the sweets.

3. Hydrate

Water gets more buzz during the warmer months; however, staying hydrated can keep you from getting the mid-afternoon munchies. Our bodies sometimes mistake thirst for hunger. So drinking water consistently throughout the day can clear up any confusion.

4. Fill Your Plate with Veggies

If vegetables are available, focus on filling most of your plate with them.  Salads are a great option because they don’t generally have any hidden ingredients like butter, sugar, or all-purpose flour. Go easy on the dressing to save some extra calories for dessert.

5. 3-Bite Rule

Follow the 3-Bite Rule on the more decadent dishes. You don’t have to deprive yourself of your favorite holiday foods, but just have a bite or three. Eat slowly and enjoy the taste without the guilt.

6. Fruit for Dessert

You probably don’t have dessert every night during any other part of the year so don’t start in December. Enjoy your 3 bites of your favorites, and then enjoy fruit as your post dinner sweet for most of the month.

7. Eat a Healthy Breakfast

Plan to have healthy breakfasts full of protein and fiber to get your metabolism started early and to start your day on the right foot.  It makes sense to think that skipping breakfast saves some calories for a party or holiday meal in the evening. However, it can actually be counterproductive. If you walk into a party ravenously hungry, you will likely overeat and reap the consequences the next morning.

8. Bring Healthy Options

If it is appropriate, offer to bring a dish or two to parties and meals. This gives you some control to have healthy options to eat. It is also a great opportunity to bring fruit for dessert (see #6).

9. Drink Equal Water : Non-Water Beverages

The Holiday Season is full of plenty of boozy, high-calorie beverages. Stick to no more than 2 non-water drinks whether you choose cocktails or hot chocolate. Drink at least an equal amount of water to keep your digestive system going and to avoid dehydration. Drink at least one glass of water before bed and one glass as soon as you wake the next morning to stave off the headache.

10. Give Yourself Some Grace

This season is all about the Grace we have been shown and a time for fellowship and celebration. You will fall out of your routine to some extent, but don’t beat yourself up over it. Enjoy your time with friends and family and follow these tips as much as you can to hit January 1 feeling rested, refreshed, and grateful for life and the ones you love most.

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