Staying healthy during the holidays can be a challenge, but it's not impossible. Although sometimes it may seem that way. No sooner do we get through Halloween (do you eat as much candy as you give out, too?), then we are facing Thanksgiving (who doesn't love pumpkin pie?).
After that, we have Christmas right around the corner (bring on the candy canes and eggnog. Yum!). Everywhere we go, there's food. Delicious, delectable, mouthwatering food.
We know we should be strong – just say no! But, who can resist the gingerbread man? For many of us, the holiday season is defined by too much eating and too little exercise. Not to mention a hectic schedule, a long list of errands, and party planning that seems to eat away at our exercise time.
It's hard to stick to our health and fitness program. And, you shouldn't feel guilty about that. Yes, overindulgence should be avoided, but you don't have to deprive yourself either. It is the holidays, after all!
However, while you might not lose weight during the holiday season, you also want to do your best not to gain any. You don't want to spend your January trying to shed the pounds you packed on, do you? Save your New Year's resolutions for something fun like skydiving, buying a motorcycle, or learning how to water ski!
Tips for Staying Healthy During the Holidays
So, if your schedule is packed full, your exercise time is shrinking, and you can't seem to stop the visions of sugar plums from dancing in your head, then these tips for staying healthy during the holidays may help you stay on track – or at least stop you from derailing entirely.
Stay Active. Do your best to schedule a workout 3 times a week, even if it's a shortened version. However, if you can't fit a formal exercise session into your day, at least focus on staying active. Do a quick 5 minute workout, take a walk around the block, climb the stairs a couple of times, stop in-between activities to do a few lunges or some stretches, or dance around the house to your favorite holiday tunes.
With all the driving, visiting, and eating done over the holidays, you may find yourself sitting a lot more than usual. You may not have time to get to the gym, but you can still be conscious of how much you are moving and make an effort to stay active.
Exercise in the Morning. Once your day gets into full swing and you get caught up in all the busyness of holiday planning, you are less likely to find time (or energy) to exercise. So, do it first thing in the morning and get it out of the way, even if you have to get up a little earlier than usual. Not only will you feel better, but it will set a positive outlook for the rest of the day.
Eat A Healthy Breakfast. If you have parties later in the day, you may be tempted to skimp on breakfast. Don't! Not only do you need the energy, but when you begin your day with a healthy meal, you will be less likely to snack on those tempting holiday goodies stashed around your home. It's important to start your day off right by giving your body the nutrition it needs, even if you do allow yourself a little treat later on.
Have Treats With Boundaries. “Cheating” on your healthy eating plan is alright once in a while. Holidays are meant for eating, so enjoy it! But, be aware of how much you are eating. A nibble here and a little taste there can really add up by the end of the day.
Allow yourself one cookie or one small piece of pie, and then resist all other temptations. It's not about depriving yourself completely because, let's be honest, that doesn't work. Denying yourself that one candy cane truffle usually results in a 2 a.m. binge session where you eat the entire bag, right? So, it's ok to eat a treat – just set limits and keep portions small.
Find Healthier Recipes. It is probably a good idea to limit how much baking you keep in the house, but sometimes it can't be avoided. So, find healthier versions of your favorite treats, even if you bake a special batch just for you.
There are a lot of recipes that use coconut oil instead of butter, stevia instead of sugar, flax instead of eggs, and healthier grains instead of white flour. And, most of the time, you can't even tell the difference. They are just as delicious as the less healthy versions – without all the guilt!
Hydrate. Eggnog, apple cider, and all the other yummy holiday drinks are tasty, but don't let them replace plain pure water. You still need your 6-8 glasses a day – more if you are consuming drinks containing alcohol. Also, it is possible to mistake thirst for hunger, so before you reach for a snack, try drinking a glass of water first.
Choose Drinks Wisely. Many holiday drinks and cocktails contain a lot of calories, sugar, and fat. Enjoy in moderation and choose ones that are less likely to pack on the pounds.
Don't Go To A Party Hungry. Unless it's a dinner party, it is probably a good idea to eat something healthy before you leave your house. That way you will be less tempted to over-indulge on hors d'oeuvres, finger foods, and baked goods. If you can be discreet, you may even want to take your own healthier snacks to nibble on throughout the evening.
Keep “Non-Holiday” Meals Healthy. Not every meal is a party, so do your best to stick to a regular eating schedule and keep non-holiday meals as healthy or “normal” as possible. If you are going to be out holiday shopping, take a lunch so you are less tempted to visit a fast food restaurant, or put a meal in the slow cooker so you will have a healthy dinner waiting when you get home.
Make Healthy Choices. Even at a dinner party or holiday meal, you can make healthy – or healthier – choices while still allowing for a little indulgence. Choose white meat instead of dark meat, take a small portion of candied yams and a larger portion of salad, and eat half a dinner roll rather than the whole thing.
Keep Healthy Snacks On Hand. During the holiday season it seems that everyone around you is always nibbling on something, right? There are snacks, treats, and food everywhere. And, sometimes, you want to eat just because everyone else is eating. So, keep some healthy snacks in your cupboard, purse, or car so that you can join the crowd without feeling guilty about your choices.
Start a Healthy Tradition. Make physical activity a fun part of your holiday program. Have a holiday dance-off to Christmas music, a hula hoop competition, toboggan races, or go ice skating at a local venue. It's a great way to celebrate the holiday season with family and friends while still staying active.