Healthy Holiday Tips

For many of us, the holiday season presents a variety of emotions: the joy of spending time with friends and family, the stress of cooking and primping for endless parties and get-togethers, the pleasure of time off work, the strain of what to buy for whom and for how much. With all these potential drains on our limited time and energy, it’s easy to find ourselves putting our weight goals on the back burner—until after the holidays when things calm down.

While the holidays are not a great time to try to lose weight, there are plenty of things we can do to avoid weight gain and the temptations of numerous parties and potlucks. With a combination of physical activity, smart food choices, and being kind to ourselves, we can all get through the holidays without having to go up a belt loop!

Keep the following tips in mind to help you navigate the holiday season:

• Bring something nutritious to parties that will prevent you from overindulging on less healthy options. A little extra time spent on presentation of a fruit salad or veggie platter can turn people’s reactions from “Oh, you brought carrot sticks…” to “Oh, look at that Christmas tree made out of veggie spears!” For great ideas on food presentation, check out Pinterest.

• Stand away from the buffet table. If delicious finger foods are within arm’s reach, your arm will keep reaching. Instead, fill a small plate with a little bit of everything that looks good and a lot of the healthy dish you brought, and enjoy it somewhere else.

• Have a drink strategy. Not all drinks are created equal. Holiday-inspired cocktails like egg nog can pack several hundred calories per drink. Instead of drinking heavy drinks like this all night, just have one to satisfy your craving and then switch to something lighter like a vodka soda or red wine. Also alternating between alcoholic drinks and water will not only reduce your future hangover, but cut down on your overall calorie intake, as well.

• Plan ahead. And not in the “Shoot, I forgot to make anything for this party, so I’ll just swing by the store en route” sort of way. More like seeing if you can fit in a short workout before heading to a gathering. Not only will your body be better able to metabolize anything you eat post-workout, but you’ll feel better mentally. Cookies? Who needs them?

In the event that you don’t have time for full workouts, fit activity in where you can, whether that’s taking the stairs, parking at the far end of the lot, or doing a few extra squats while putting on your party pants.

• Indulge intentionally. It’s common for people to fall prey to the all-or-nothing mentality, but the holidays are a time of joy and celebration, traditions, and once-a-year treats. If Grandma’s pumpkin pie really is famously good, eat a piece and enjoy every bite! There’s no need to feel guilty about it or tell yourself that since you had one piece, you might as well have the whole pie! Eat it slowly, put your fork down between bites, talk about how good it is, and then stop when you reach a bite that wasn’t as delicious as the first or when you’re no longer hungry.

Keep these tips at front of mind to help you navigate this holiday season. But if it doesn’t go as planned, be kind to yourself. A slip up doesn’t mean you failed. Do the best you can with what you have and enjoy the holiday season with family and friends.

Esther Matus is a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach based in Norfolk. She specializes in helping women prioritize their health and happiness while juggling the demands of everyday life. Check out her website to read more and learn about her services.

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