From the mouthwatering meals to the decadent desserts and festive cocktails, the holidays are certainly a time of indulgence. But for those trying to stay on track toward their healthy living goals, the most wonderful time of the year can also be one of the most challenging.
If you’re excited for the holidays but also a little worried about how they might impact the healthy habits you’ve worked so hard to put in place, follow the 10 simple tips below. They’ll help ensure you can savor the celebrations without compromising your goals:
Be the hostess with the mostest… healthy options
Hosting is rarely easy. But it certainly makes it easier to ensure healthy options make it onto the menu. If you’re hosting this holiday season, include a big, colorful salad or a fresh fruit tray on your table, and serve yourself a generous portion before piling on the less nutritious options. Make simple tweaks to recipes—opt for low fat cheeses instead of full fat varieties, replace fatty cuts of meat with leaner options, and choose whole grain versions of rice, breads and pastas—to increase the nutritional value of your spread.
Don’t show up empty-handed
If you’re leaving the hosting to someone else, you can still ensure you have access to healthy options by being the one to bring them! Offer to bring a salad, veggie soup, fruit tray or healthy side dish. Your host will be happy for the help—and you’ll be relieved to have at least one nutritious option on the table.
Keep easy grab-and-go options on hand
The holidays are hectic. Keeping healthy, ready-to-eat snacks on hand is a great way to ensure you’re prepared when the shopping lines are extra long or the traffic is extra heavy. Good fridge-free options to toss in your bag include trail mix, whole grain crackers or popcorn, apples, bananas, oranges and zing bars.
Take advantage of the hustle and bustle
Jam-packed schedules and uncooperative winter weather can make it challenging to work in a workout. But staying active is a great way to keep your body and mind healthy through the stress that often accompanies the holidays. If hitting the gym before your busy day begins—or even after it ends—isn’t an option, there are other ways to fit more movement in as you make merry. Walking a few extra laps around the mall while you’re doing your holiday shopping is a great way to squeeze in a little extra physical activity. Bundling up and taking a long post-dinner stroll around the neighborhood with your family to check out all the holiday lights is another. Shoveling snow is a great workout, as are ice skating and sledding. Get a little creative and you’ll find it’s not so difficult to meet your movement goals.
Mind your drinks
From the cocktails to the cocoa, there are lots of delicious drinks to enjoy this time of year. And enjoy, you should. But if you save your indulgent sips for special celebrations instead of hitting the Starbucks drive-through on your way to work every day in December, you’ll have better luck hitting your health goals.
Don’t deprive yourself, just save it for the celebrations
One of the worst things you can do is to be so restrictive that you end up miserable instead of merry. If there’s something you really want to eat, go for it! A few indulgences here and there won’t undo all the progress you’ve made. Just be sure to choose your treat wisely—there’s no need to pile your plate with cookies if what you really want is a brownie! And try limiting your indulgences to special events and gatherings. If you wouldn’t normally eat a box of candy canes on a Tuesday night while watching your favorite show, don’t start now. But if your sister is bringing her famous cheesecake to your New Year’s party, by all means, dig in!
Settle on down for a long winter’s nap
While some late nights can’t be avoided, try your best to maintain your regular sleep schedule throughout the holiday season. Getting enough sleep (somewhere near the eight hour mark, according to most experts) will give your body and mind the time it needs to recover from the day’s activities and will ensure you have enough energy to enjoy all that tomorrow has in store. Of course, we’re not advising you to stop tearing it up on the dance floor of your company holiday party. Just maybe skip the holiday movie binge-watching once you get home.
Never head out hungry
Showing up to the festivities ravenous is a recipe for disaster—we don’t have to tell you what happens when you combine extreme hunger and a table full of (delicious) food. Nosh on healthy options like fruits, veggies, nuts, yogurt and hardboiled eggs before heading out so you have something in your belly when you arrive. And, make sure you’re staying hydrated—it’s easy to misinterpret thirst for hunger.
Remember what it’s all about
Sure the food is great but ultimately, the holidays are about spending quality time with the ones you love. Focus on catching up with family and friends instead of chowing down on the food, and you’ll find yourself satisfied in a different, more lasting way.
Don’t beat yourself up if you overindulge
The holidays were meant to be enjoyed. If you went a little overboard on the cheese plate or made a few too many stops at the dessert table, don’t beat yourself up over it. Overindulging one or two days won’t derail your healthy diet. Commit to eating clean, drinking lots of water and getting moving tomorrow and you’ll be back on track in no time.