By Kathy Brown-Miner, Registered Dietician, Exercise Physiologist
Navigating the holidays can be a challenge with all the parties and family gatherings as we typically eat too much, drink too much, sleep less and stress more. It is also a time for wonderful memories, once a year food, and spending time with your loved ones.
Balance is key during the holidays. Follow these tips to enjoy your holidays to the fullest.
Enjoy your veggies: Even during the holidays, make half your plate vegetables for the nutrients to get you through the season and lower calories to help ward off weight gain. Prior to a special event, eat your meals so you’ll be hungry but not famished. Eating your veggies first will help ensure you get those nutrients before being tempted by the high calorie foods. Be the first to offer to bring the vegetable tray with bean dip, salad or roasted vegetables to a gathering so you are set with at least one healthy option.
Savor the flavor: If you are having a special treat, give it your full attention rather than mindlessly eating. We may only notice the first and last bite as we are busy being social at the dinner or party. This holiday season try eating just two to three bites of your favorite sweet but really pay attention to why that food brings such joy and wonderful memories. When you savor the flavor, it allows you to slow your eating and listen to your fullness cues. If the food isn’t as tasty as you expected, put the fork down. You do not need to be a card-carrying member of the clean plate club.
Create a healthy eating plan: Have you ever eaten food simply because you are standing next to the buffet table or the dessert was plated for you? This year decide before the party or meal how you will keep your choices and portions in check. Choose a smaller plate mixed with healthy foods and small portions of the special foods you have been waiting for all year then position yourself away from the buffet table and enjoy conversations with friends and family you have not seen in a long time. Next, wait 15 minutes after you have finished then decide if you really want seconds.
Drink plenty of water: Staying well hydrated can help make sure your body is working at its best potential. Keeping water near you can give you that cue to keep you drinking throughout the day. Our brains may think we are hungry when really, we are often just thirsty so when a hunger feeling strikes, drink at least one-half cup of water. If you're going to have an alcoholic beverage, balance out that alcohol with a glass of water or seltzer to stay hydrated.
Stay Active: Continue with your regular exercise routine, but also make holiday memories by skating, sledding, making snowmen or walking around the neighborhood caroling with your family. Find a partner to keep you moving when you may be struggling that day. Even a 15-minute walk can get the blood flowing and ease tension.
Acts of Kindness: Studies show that volunteering and the act of giving not only helps others but gives us great joy and brings us purpose. Reach out to someone in need of support, love or help. Give food to a local food bank, make food for the teacher’s lounge or shovel your neighbor’s driveway.
Make time for downtime: Don’t get tangled in the tinsel. Give yourself a break if you feel stressed out, overwhelmed, and out of control. During the holidays, it is essential to stop, take a deep breath, and be in the moment. Go for a walk, put on your favorite seasonal music or movie, or sip on tea and read a book. Take a moment and give yourself a very important gift - health and time.
Get your ZZZZZs: Maintaining healthy sleep habits can help you feel refreshed and recharged so you can truly enjoy the time spent with those you love. As much as possible stick to your normal bedtime routine. Try to limit caffeine and alcohol to help you get to sleep and stay asleep.
Amongst the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, take the time to enjoy family and friends and relish in the many memories you have acquired. With a little planning, you can find peace and joy during the holidays.