December can be an overwhelming month, but you don’t have to give up on your health goals — yes, you’re busy and yes, it’s cold outside, but those are just excuses. No matter what month it is, there are always excuses to be had. With a little effort it’s totally possible to stick to your health goals during the holiday season without making yourself crazy.
Today I’m sharing some of my favorite tips for staying on healthy (and sane) during the holiday season… and don’t worry I’m not going to tell you to eat a healthy meal before you go to a party. Sure, that’s a fine tip if you’re going to a late-night party but if it’s a dinner party, that’s an awful tip because if you’re like me, you’d eat the meal before you go and then see the food at the party and eat more. <— I’m sure I’m not the only one that would do this.
Anyway, here are my top 10 healthy holiday tips.
1. Take a moderate approach – Stick with healthy eating 80-90% of the time and give yourself a little wiggle room to enjoy your favorite things, without stressing out about it. <— This is how I live every day of my life, not just the holiday season!
2. Don’t deprive yourself — If you skip all you favorite holiday treats, you’ll be more likely to binge later and/or be plain crabby. Have a mug of hot chocolate while decorating the tree and definitely eat a couple of your favorite cookies. Having a few treats isn’t going to derail all your progress.
3. Keep stress at bay — This one is tough when you feel overwhelmed with a busy schedule, parties, shopping, etc. Don’t let sticking to your diet and exercise routine stress you out even more. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, keep a journal, do a daily meditation (I’ve been using the now-defunct Stop, Breathe & Think app), incorporate more yoga and/or practice mindful breathing.
4. Move more – You’re bound to be busier around the holidays, but don’t let physical activity go by the wayside. Schedule family walks after a big meal, wake up early to do an exercise DVD, and incorporate more NEAT (Non-exercise activity thermogenesis) a.k.a activities of daily living. Need to go shopping instead of going to the gym? No problem — consider walking around the mall your low impact cardio for the day! A few good tips: park far away from the stores, take the stairs instead of the escalator and wear comfy shoes so you can walk at a faster pace.
5. Eat normally – Even if you have a big holiday meal planned in the evening it’s helpful to eat breakfast and lunch as you would on any normal day. Your meals can be a bit smaller than your everyday meals, but definitely don’t skip meals. This way you won’t be ravenous when dinner comes around and you’ll likely make better choices.
6. Don’t let one bad day of eating get to you – Say you went overboard at a party and had way too many sugary sweet treats, bacon wrapped dates, and an amazing gingerbread martini. Don’t throw in the healthy eating towel. Put that incident behind you and try to pick healthier options at your next meal.
7. For parties, offer to host or bring a healthy dish to share – If you host the party, you can be sure there are healthy options served. You’re going to a potluck bring a healthy dish to share (like my sweet potato casserole, this kale salad, or these quinoa gingersnap cookies). At least you’ll know one thing on the menu is healthy. 😉 If all else fails, have some healthy snacks like carrot sticks, a nutrition bar or homemade trail mix with you. This is particularly a good idea if you have dietary restrictions and are unsure what’s going to be served.
8. It’s okay to say no – Remember that you don’t always have to eat everything that’s offered to you. Just because grandma made her special chocolate pie just for you doesn’t mean you HAVE to have seconds. Be polite, but assertive when you’re full or don’t really want to eat something.
9. Hydrate when drinking alcohol — I like wine too much to tell you to skip the alcohol completely. 🙂 But if you do decide to drink, choose lighter options like vodka with soda water, a light beer or wine. And don’t forget to alternate your alcoholic beverages with a glass of water. I love sparkling water so I’m loving this Sparkling Vodka Cranberry with Lime.
10. Remember the real reason for the season — Eat, be merry and enjoy yourself, but remember that holidays aren’t all about the food. Step away from the table and enjoy all the other things the season has to offer: faith, family, friendship, LOVE, reflection, decorating, relaxation, etc.
Do you have any healthy holiday tips? Feel free to share them in the comment section!