7 Tips for Staying Healthy Over the Holidays

It's ON...holiday season is here! Big plates of turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, and endless seas of pies. And that's just the FIRST holiday. Then we move on to company parties, dinners out, cookie competitions, and booze. With a month of indulgence, it's no wonder that people gain weight over the holidays. Then we all wake up on January 1st, thinking, "Okay, time to get back on track."

To say the least, the holiday season is most difficult time of year to keep our health goals in mind. But, it's not impossible! With a few strategies, we can all make waking up on January 1 a bit easier.

1. Fill your plate with veggies first. The typical holiday meal starts with huge portions of meat, mashed potatoes, stuffing and gravy. Then if there's a tiny bit of real estate left on your plate, you might sneak in a brussels sprout or two. Flip that strategy this year and try starting at the vegetable end of the table first. Fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables - you know, the broccoli, brussels sprouts, beets and salad. Then, move on to the other dishes. Eating more fiber-rich veggies will fill you up and may help crowd out at least some of the less-than-healthy options.

2. Practice mindful eating. We're all familiar with mindless eating, right? We sit in front of the TV with our favorite binge-worthy show and compliment that binge watching with binge eating. Or, we're standing next to the food table at a holiday party, mindlessly snacking on whatever's within arm's reach, while catching up with friends or coworkers. This holiday season, try a different approach to eating those favorite cookies by being mindful. Slow down, appreciate and bring awareness to each bite. Engage your senses to experience that food completely. Doing this will allow you to honor your hunger and satiety signals. Don't believe me? Try the raisin exercise.

3. Plan time for physical activity. With ever increasing holiday obligations, what is supposed to be a joyful time can quickly become stressful and overbooked. Enter exercise. Now, I'm not talking about going to 90-minute classes six times a week (though that would be great!). I'm talking about fitting in realistic amounts of physical activity - brisk walks, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, saving a few minutes for deskercise. But here's the key: you have to schedule it. If you don't schedule it, it won't happen. So go put it in your calendar. Now. :)

4. Don’t skip meals. Some of us will skip lunch in anticipation for a huge holiday dinner. This strategy, while well-intentioned, can easily backfire. So, before leaving for a party, eat a light snack like raw vegetables with some hummus to curb your appetite. You'll thank yourself later when you're less tempted to overeat.

5. Take the focus off food. There are a lot of traditions around the holidays. Cookie making, gingerbread house decorating, and hot cocoa runs are just a few. Try mixing it up this season by adding a few non-food activities. Go for a winter hike. Try an escape room with the family. Take the family ice skating. Volunteer in the community. Who knows...one of these might stick to become a new tradition!

6. Watch what you drink. Non-water beverages can pack in the calories quickly. A couple of glasses of juice, and we're adding hundreds of calories to our daily intake. A glass of wine can have 150-200 calories. While that doesn't sound like a lot, it suddenly adds up if we have two or three glasses with dinner. Try curbing those calories by alternating water with your favorite beverage.

7. Be kind to yourself. This is the most important one. The holidays can be stressful enough, so give yourself a break and practice self-care and kindness. It's okay to say no to that 7th holiday gathering. And it's also okay to overindulge once in a while - we all do it. Just don't pile on the guilt and beat yourself up about it. Instead, acknowledge it, and know that tomorrow is a new day.

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