Rather than basking in the post holiday glow, many of us begin the New Year full of remorse over holiday gluttony. We vow to do better next time, but the cycle repeats itself as predictably as the seasons. This year, do something different. Go into the holiday season prepared with strategies to eat healthy, stay active and manage holiday stress.
4 Tips for Healthy Holiday Eating
- Make and freeze healthy meals ahead of time.
Whether you’re doubling a recipe and storing half, or swapping meals with friends, freezer meal cooking can prevent habits like stress-eating or eating from boredom and temptation.
- Keep an eye on your portions (literally).
Using these simple visual guidelines makes it easier to eat healthy portions. A bowl of mac and cheese might be the size of a hockey puck; a meat serving is about as big as a deck of cards.
- Enjoy holiday foods in moderation.
There are many ways to enjoy holiday foods without overdoing it. Here are a few tips for holiday eating with moderation.
- Don’t walk into a room full of desserts unarmed. Skipping meals or forgetting to eat a light snack before parties leaves you hungry, which makes it harder to practice self-control.
- Buffet wisely. Choose your favorite foods rather than simply loading up your plate with one of everything.
- Strive for satisfaction. Take the time to enjoy your favorite foods and stop before you’re stuffed.
- Substitute. Check out #10 on the list of healthy holiday eating tips for ways to enjoy gravy, desserts and mashed potatoes without skimping on taste.
- Alcohol: not a best friend to your holiday diet.
Alcohol is not only a source of empty calories, but having a few drinks makes it easier to eat unwisely. Here are four ways to be safe and smart while you’re having fun.
- Hydrate between drinks
- Use low-calorie mixers
- Sip your drinks slowly and enjoy
- Keep the focus on family and friends
Holliday indulgences (and stress) can also negatively affect your blood pressure. It’s easier than you think to check your blood pressure at home.
4 Ways to Stay Fit During the Holidays
Travel, family gatherings, lack of daylight and gift shopping can make it difficult to exercise. Here are four simple tricks to keep you moving.
- Keep your running or walking shoes on throughout the season.
Wearing active shoes makes it easier to take the stairs, take the long way around the mall or workplace, or park the car at a longer distance. Use a pedometer or activity tracker to optimize your spontaneous workouts.
- 5- or 10-minute workouts really work.
Mini workouts are another reason to keep comfortable shoes on. 10-minute workouts (for example) build muscle, boost metabolism, and are easy to fit into your holiday schedule.
- Try holiday exercise challenges and fun runs.
Take a holiday fitness challenge or train for wintertime fun runs in your area. Recruit a friend to keep each other accountable.
- Schedule your holiday workouts, and take advantage of mornings.
Having a schedule makes it easier to keep your exercise commitment. As you make your schedule, consider morning workouts. Working out in the morning is both highly effective and keeps the rest of the day free for holiday activities.
4 Ways to Sidestep Holiday Stress
Being stressed-out has negative effects on your health and gets in the way of holiday fun. Here are some things to keep in mind, starting with mindfulness.
- Put holiday stress in perspective by noticing the moment.
Mindfulness is about creating some space between you and your worrisome thoughts. Tai chi, yoga and meditation are always to slow down and recognize stressful ideas for what they are—just thoughts.Mindfulness practices have also been shown to help with pain, which can bring its own forms of holiday stress. Self-care practices like using TENS units can help relieve tension headaches and chronic pain.
- Get the support you need and stick close to your circle.
For some, sad memories, grief and family dynamics can cast a difficult shadow over the holidays. Support groups, community events and gatherings can renew your sense of belonging and shared strength.
- Avoid “Clark Griswold Syndrome:” expect the unexpected at holiday time.
In the Vacation movies, Clark Griswold sets himself up for disappointment by creating rigorous expectations for the perfect holiday. Being prepared to compromise and stray from the plan makes the holidays more fun and sets a tone for shared enjoyment.
- Have fun during the holidays.
Making things special and celebrating life are the reasons human beings invented holidays in the first place. What you eat, how you keep busy, physical activity and mindfulness all have positive effects on your mood. But the most important element of a successful season is your outlook. Take a step back and remind yourself: winter holidays only happen once a year. Why not enjoy them while they last?