Healthy Holiday Habits!
We’re entering into the busy holiday season - a time to enjoy friends, family, and food.
Contrary to popular belief, you can have all three without derailing a healthy lifestyle. Perhaps in past years you’ve found yourself over-indulging in unhealthy and sugary food and beverages at various celebrations and festivities. Your fitness and nutrition plans took a back seat to holiday activities, because many traditions and events involved scrumptious treats and long evenings of drinking and eating.
You will be heartened to learn that with appropriate (and simple) strategies, you can meet your health goals and still enjoy the holidays. Yep, you can have your cake and eat it too!
If you read my articles and blogs, you are aware of the importance I place on exercise for overall health and well-being. Besides helping to burn the excess calories we might take in, exercise is especially important for mental health. Many people feel especially low or depressed during the holidays. Fortunately, regular exercise fights against depression and leads to better overall mental wellness. Exercise promotes better sleeping habits, which reduces stress and anxiety. The relaxation you achieve lowers your cortisol levels (the stress hormone). As a result, you are less likely to eat high-fat, high sugar foods. Combatting weight gain and feeling better at the same time is a pure win-win!
TIP: For maximum benefits, I encourage you to aim for 30-90 minutes of moderate intensity five or more days a week.
DON’T COME HUNGRY
There exists a poor yet popular strategy for many to skip meals or even fast in preparation for the onslaught of calories they anticipate at upcoming family dinners or celebrations. I guarantee that this is a BAD IDEA. It will lead to over-eating and a slower metabolism. It is a better idea to feel satisfied before you head to the event. While at home, first have a little something nutritious and fill up on a few bites of lean protein (fish, chicken), fiber-rich food (fruits, vegetables, whole grains), and healthy fats (avocado, nuts, seeds). Your serotonin and dopamine levels (the happiness hormones) will go up, signaling to your brain that you are happy and relaxed. You should feel entitled to enjoy some of the holiday fare, but you will more likely make healthy choices and be satisfied with less. Incidentally, fiber-rich foods are high in volume and will satisfy hunger, yet are relatively low in calories.
TIP: For maximum benefits, have breakfast! Research shows that those who do, consume fewer calories throughout the da
WHAT YOUR PLATE SHOULD LOOK LIKE
Bring on the vegetables! Fill at least half your plate with veggies – and, no, I do not mean green bean casserole or spinach artichoke dip! I’m talking about vegetables that are full of fiber and nutrients and will satisfy hunger: leafy greens whether as salad or sautéed, kale and collards, roasted broccoli or cauliflower, winter squash, beets, sweet potatoes. The rest of your plate:
ONLY the things you really love and are looking forward to. NEVER fill your plate with something simply because it’s “there.”
ONLY small portions you can then savor and enjoy.
WAIT! NEVER RUSH TO HAVE SECONDS. It takes time for your body to signal to your brain that you are full. Wait at least ten minutes, listen to and trust the sensations of your body, and then decide if you are actually still hungry.
TIP: For maximum benefits, eat the veggies first! You will end up eating fewer calories overall.
PRACTICE MINDFUL EATING
Year round and especially at holiday time, you can develop a healthy lifestyle with this simple practice: between every bite of food, put - your - fork – down. Eating slowly leads to better digestion – and builds your Mind-Body connection. Eating becomes a ‘mindfulness practice’ when you listen to your body’s physical cues and reconnect with your natural hunger and fullness signals. Slowing down allows you to genuinely relish and savor all of the flavors of your meal. Slowing down avoids the indigestion and stomach upset that follows gobbling up food and rushing through a meal. And, slowing down allows time to trigger the signal from your brain that you are full. Feeling full leads to eating less.
TIP:For maximum benefits, take ‘breaks between bites’ and enjoy more moments of sharing and connecting with those around you.
PLAN TO INDULGE
Choose your splurges! Move toward a healthy relationship with food. If there’s a night or a meal you’re especially looking forward to, simply anticipate indulging a bit. Plan your day around it. Drink extra water. Add a little more exercise time. Load up on leafy greens throughout the day.
TIP: For maximum benefits, preparing for splurges carefully will make you feel accomplished, happy, brimming with good health, and entitled to enjoy your treat and celebration!
SWAP THIS FOR THAT
Even holiday dishes can be healthy.
Use Greek yogurt in recipes instead of sour cream.
Mix in soda water instead of something sugary in alcohol drinks.
Alternate between water and alcohol to minimize intake and stay hydrated.
Forego the ice cream on top and you can still have that piece of pumpkin pie you’ve been waiting for.
On Christmas morning, choose the bacon OR the sausage, but not both.
TIP: For maximum benefits, practice mindful eating and savor the treats you really do want - not because you’re famished – but because they’re delicious.
JESSICA’S FAVORITE TIP OF ALL:
WALK IT OFF!
Following a big holiday dinner, my absolute favorite thing is to gather everyone together and take a group walk. In general, walking is an easy activity that improves overall health and well-being.
Boost your mood by spending time connecting with those around you!
Speed up your metabolism to burn calories faster and accelerate the rate of digestion! An increased metabolism is a key factor in getting your blood flowing, maintaining a healthy weight, and living a healthy lifestyle.
Elevate circulation to increase the levels of adrenaline and endorphins - mood and energy boosting hormones.
TIP: For maximum benefits, walking is invigorating even in crisp and cold seasonal air. If it’s just too rainy or snowy, move the furniture out of the way, turn on the music and DANCE!!!
If you do happen to eat more than you planned, don’t beat yourself up. Let this be a time of celebration and relaxation. A slip is not necessarily a fall. Simply get back to your healthy eating habits as soon as you possibly can. Use these tips to stay healthy and fit this season, and all year long. Most of all, enjoy the holidays!