10 Tips for Healthier Holidays

Halloween and Thanksgiving are over, Christmas, and New Years are all on the horizon.  With the major holidays coming up, it can be easy to slip into bad habits.  Rich meals, lots of sweets, and overeating can lead to unexpected weight gain.  With these tips and the right mindset, you can be healthy while still enjoying your holiday favorites.


  1. Don’t focus on losing weight.  You’re going to be presented with some large, rich meals this holiday season.  Instead of trying to lose weight, instead focus on maintaining your current weight.  You’ll be able to enjoy your meals without the pressure of losing weight.  After the holidays are over, you can return to your normal weight and nutrition routine.


  1. Make time for exercise.  This tip obviously ties into the first one.  Stick to your exercise routine as much as you can.  Resist the urge to take a nap after dinner and go for a short walk instead.  Take the time to go to the gym.  Diabetes.org recommends splitting your exercise or doing heavy housecleaning as a form of exercise.


  1. Don’t skip any meals.  You might think that you should skip your breakfast or lunch in order to cut back on your overall caloric intake.  This is actually counter-productive.  First, eating your meals will help keep your blood sugar and energy levels stable, according to WebMD.  Second, if you’re hungry when you sit down to dinner, there’s an increased likelihood that you’ll overeat.


  1. Eat slowly.  Take time to look over the offerings and take small portions of your favorite foods.  If there is something you don’t like, don’t feel obligated to eat it.  When you get to the table, eat slowly and chew thoroughly.  You’ll enjoy your meal more and be better tuned in to your body’s fullness cues.  When you feel satisfied, stop eating.  It might help to leave the table in order to avoid further temptation.


  1. Enjoy a sweet treat.  Some desserts, such as pumpkin pie, you probably only get to enjoy once a year.  Depriving yourself on a favorite treat is no fun, but you don’t have to go overboard.  Just as with the main course, moderation is the key to enjoying your desserts.  Take a small piece instead of a large one.  You’ll still feel satisfied without the extra calories.  And if you really want that whole piece of pie, try to balance it out by cutting back on the carbs during the main meal.


  1. Don’t freak about over-eating.  Even with the best intentions, sometimes we overeat.  It’s not the end of the world.  You don’t need to starve yourself by skipping meals the next day.  You don’t need to beat yourself up over it.  Instead of getting down on yourself, resolve to do better.  Start over the next day with your healthy eating and exercising habits..  Eat a lighter meal for your next meal and maybe get in a little bit more exercise.


  1. Offer to bring a healthy dish.  If you’re not hosting Thanksgiving or Christmas, ask your host what you can do to help.  Offer to bring a side dish.  Chances are, your host will be grateful for anything that you can bring.  Not only that, you’re guaranteed that at least part of the meal is healthy.


  1. Use herbs and spices.  Butter, heavy cream, and salt add a lot of flavor to foods.  However it is important to cut back on salt and fat if you want to stay healthy.  I’m not recommending cutting out salt entirely, as it helps bring out the natural flavor of many foods.  In fact, a lot of dishes taste flat if you don’t add salt.  Replacing some of the salt in savory dishes with herbs and fragrant vegetables will add layers of flavor.  Baked goods benefit from the inclusion of spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.


  1. Cut back on fat.  If you’re making a dip that calls for mayonnaise, try replacing some of all of it with greek yogurt.  A mix of sour cream and greek yogurt actually makes for an excellent dip base.  It has a bit of tanginess and the sour cream adds a bit of the richness you’d get from the mayo.  Try replacing heavy cream or whole milk with low-fat milk.  If a recipe calls for cream cheese, try a low- or no-fat variety.  If you can get away with it in a baking recipe, replace some of the butter with something like no-sugar-added applesauce.


  1. Cut back on sugar.  Baking recipes can be finicky.  Sugar helps to give a lot of baked treats body.  But it also imparts a bunch of empty calories.  Some people will tell you to cut back on the sugar by as much as 50%, but you’re likely to find that your baked goods come out a bit flat.  I suggest trying to find a sugar substitute that is specifically designed to be used for baking.  That way, you can use a 50/50 mix.  Your treats should still brown nicely, have enough body, and taste sweet.


The holidays can be a test of will, but they don’t have to break you.  If you take the time to consider your choices, you can still meet your healthy living goals.  So, are you going to give in?


How do you avoid holiday temptations?  Share your own tricks with us in the comments below.

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