9 Tips to a Healthy Holiday Season from NYC Registered Dietitian

Healthy Ways to Navigate the Holidays

holiday meals

It’s here. No matter what you celebrate, or don’t celebrate, the holidays come. They bring loads of activities, noise (sounding Grinchy here, I know), and expectation. Lines at the grocery store are longer. Traffic is more intense. And I haven’t even touched on meeting up with family, in-laws and more. (And it’s been an election year. UGH!)

There are school parties and office parties. There are cookies and cakes on every corner. Everything smells like cinnamon. And it seems like everywhere we go, someone is offering a hot, frothy, sugary beverage. Since we’ve been wired to feel guilt, all these decadent flavors can often bring stress and anxiety, instead of joy.

Suffice to say, the holiday season can be crazy chaotic and stressful. Add the high-sugar, high-calorie deluge, and our bodies, and minds, take a hit. 

Here are 9 tips to a healthy holiday season (without falling into the cliché of Hallmark movies!)

  1. Be Holiday Smart: The holidays happen. Every single year. So, know what makes you anxious. What causes you stress? Long lines? Consider online shopping. Cooking a huge meal? Consider a potluck. You don’t have money? Make homemade gifts. Be honest. “I don’t have money for an elegant party dress this year.” Take the mystery out of it. Invitations every other evening? Say, “no” (see below). These small changes can make a big difference.
  2. Say no. You don’t have to attend every party, every activity. If the dread of going to an event outweighs the actual joy of going, then opt out. Simplify your schedule. Prioritize. Stay at home, order a pizza, and watch a movie with the family. Finding balance is key. (And it’s okay to be honest about it, too. “I’m overwhelmed and need a night at home watching bad TV.” Who won’t understand that feeling?)
  3. Stick to the middle. The periphery of any holiday party is a virtual landmine of high-sugar, high-fat foods. Indulge in the holiday flavors, but mindfully. Pay attention to what you’re eating. If you’re within arm’s length of the food table, it’s more likely you’ll snack and not listen to your body. Heavy holiday foods can end up making us feel lethargic and unwell.
  4. Remember the magic of tradition. Eating our favorite family recipes shouldn’t weigh us down with guilt. You’re not “cheating” when you eat these foods. You’re celebrating tradition and history. Prepare these foods with your grandma, aunt, mom, or children. Talk about what these flavors mean to you. Enjoy them!
  5. Stay hydrated! Often, we mistake hunger for thirst. Drink sparkling water with berries or lime. Drink lots of water. But be beverage aware as holiday drinks can pack on lots of unwanted sugars and calories. Make sure your host doesn’t cap off your drink (the never-ending glass of wine). Listen to your body.

    volunteer

  6. Volunteer. Giving and volunteering are powerful ways to engage with the community’s needs. Help your children organize a food drive for a local shelter. Instead of playing “Secret Santa” at work, have a book drive for a local school. There are so many powerful ways to bring meaning back to the holidays. 
  7. Pile them on …  the veggies and fruits. This time of year, our immune system takes a hit, not to mention our digestive system. Keep those fruits and vegetables coming (but steer clear of too many creamy sauces). A great holiday snack is cut-up vegetables and yogurt dip. Eat the vegetables and fruits before piling your plate with everything else. This will help keep you balanced.

    pumpkin.roasted

  8. Pay attention. Pay attention to signs you might be over-stressed: change in sleeping and eating habits, exhaustion and fatigue, digestive issues, headaches, dizziness and more. So stop, listen to your body, and make some changes.
  9. Say, “Thank you.  Gratitude is a fundamental part of happiness. Gratitude is appreciation for the things we have (health, family, a job, a meal) and acknowledging them. Taking the time to reflect, not live on automatic, on the gifts of this life will help you 

I am grateful for you as a reader. I am grateful for the opportunity to share what I love – information about nutrition and exercise.