Maintaining a healthy diet during the holidays is tricky. The holidays have a way of tempting even the most disciplined of us to indulge in more than a few sugary treats, and this season in particular is infamous for the weight gain that typically comes along with it. Studies have shown that the average weight gain over the holidays is one pound, and that can really add up over the years. Are you looking for ways to enjoy the holidays without compromising your health and fitness? Here are some great tips for maintaining your weight and fitness goals over the holidays.
Seek out active holiday activities.
As this article points out, much of the unexpected weight gain we experience can be traced to living a more sedentary lifestyle. Many of us spend our time watching movies, baking, and enjoying food together during the holidays, so it makes sense that in order to get out of that holiday weight gain rut, you should seek out active holiday activities. Here are some fun holiday activities you might consider doing with friends or family—while sneaking in a little exercise:
- Picking out a tree at a Christmas tree farm
- Walking around the neighborhood admiring Christmas lights
- Christmas caroling around the neighborhood
- Delivering gifts to neighbors
- Shoveling snow for neighbors
- Ice skating
- Skiing or snowboarding
- Sledding or ice blocking
- Having a snowball fight
- Making snow angels
- Building a snowman
Opting for activities like these will give you a greater sense of wellbeing, and chances are you’ll crave healthier foods after all that exercise you’ll get.
Look for healthy takes on traditional holiday dishes.
Many traditional holiday dishes—sweet potato casserole, fruit cake, banana bread, and stuffing, for example—are less-than-healthy indulgences that we tend to enjoy only during the holidays. Instead of flooding your diet with these types of dishes during the holiday season, consider making healthy takes on these traditional dishes. Instead of sweet potato casserole, for example, you might make rosemary seasoned roasted sweet potatoes. Instead of traditional stuffing, you might opt for a healthier stuffing made with whole wheat bread or riced cauliflower. Instead of traditional banana bread, you might make a lighter banana bread using honey, a healthy oil, and some whole wheat flour. Whatever the traditional holiday dish, there is sure to be a healthier recipe option lingering out there on the internet.
Don’t feel pressured to try every dish at parties.
Holiday parties tend to be filled with way more entree and dessert options than anyone could ever need. Rather than feeling pressured to try every single dish, only put those things on your plate that give you true enjoyment. In addition, never eat or drink something just because it’s something that people enjoy over the holidays.
Start your meals with healthier foods.
Another technique: start any holiday meal by eating the healthiest options you are going to eat, saving sweet treats and savory indulgences for last. That way, you’ll get more of the nutrients you need and only need a few bites of the less-than-healthy dishes to satisfy your tastebuds. Just make sure you’re not overindulging in healthier dishes either, as even this can lead to weight gain.
Give yourself permission to indulge once a week.
It’s okay to enjoy holiday dishes and treats in moderation throughout the season; just make it a goal to only do so once per week. Instead of letting Thanksgiving turn into a week of leftovers and pie for breakfast, for example, give yourself permission to enjoy yourself on Thanksgiving Day, and then practice healthy, disciplined eating habits every other day of the week. Giving yourself permission to enjoy certain foods on controlled occasions will keep your eating habits in check, and it will prevent you from experiencing “food guilt,” which oftentimes only turns to even worse eating habits.
Easy on the drinks.
Indulging too much in alcohol is another surefire way to gain weight during the holiday season, and it can lead to host of other health complications as well. This article, for example, discusses at length the physical symptoms you might experience after spending a night overindulging in alcohol. To limit your alcohol consumption during the holidays, consider volunteering to be the designated driver or bringing a healthier nonalcoholic drink such as peppermint tea or hot apple cider to any holiday gatherings you attend. You can also alternate your alcoholic drinks with glasses of water. In addition, don’t forget that even non-alcoholic drinks such as hot chocolate or eggnog can really up your calorie count during the holiday season. Be sure to enjoy drinks like these in moderation.
By: Maurine Anderson