The holidays are full of family, friends, great food, and great memories. But we are made to believe that they aren’t always compatible with a healthy lifestyle. Now that the holiday season is here, it’s easy to take a step back on the healthy eating and exercise that we typically maintain.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Fortunately, with a few tips, it’s possible to maintain a healthy lifestyle year-round.
It’s no secret that holiday living doesn’t always go hand-in-hand with healthy living. The yummy, indulgent recipes are a little different to our every day eating. With these 11 tips, you’ll be able to stay mentally and physically healthy throughout the holiday season.
1. Find healthy alternatives to your favourite dishes
Healthy eating doesn’t mean you have to give up your holiday favourites — all they need are a few modifications. You can use less butter, yogurt instead of mayonnaise and bake the chicken instead of deep frying it.
2. It’s all about moderation
Moderation will be your saving grace during the holiday season. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying an delicious, festive dinners — but you’ll want to make sure that your meals surrounding it are healthy and nutrient-dense. Have a light lunch like salad with olive oil dressing, and opt for a healthy breakfast the next morning like avocado on whole wheat toast. By eating healthy during the holiday season, you can afford to go all out for a few big events.
3. Opt for homemade instead of processed foods
Homemade everything can be difficult when you have a lot going on, but it can also ensure that you’re eating much healthier. Canned, processed, and premade foods are full of excess salt and sugar that you can avoid by making the dishes yourself. Reduce your sodium intake by making your own cream of mushroom soup, and reduce your sugar by making cranberry sauce from scratch. Both take only moments to stir in a pot before letting them simmer.
Making the food from scratch will also make you much more aware of what you’re eating and when, giving you more control and awareness in the long run.
4. Add more vegetables
It’s easy to go all-out with our favourite recipes, but sometimes eating better is as simple as keeping more healthy choices on hand. Increase the number of vegetable dishes on the dinner table, finding small twists to dress them up without making them unhealthy. Roasted asparagus can be beautiful on its own, and roasted carrots or sweet potatoes are rich in taste and a bright pop of colour.
When in doubt, serve vegetables first — like a salad before dinner or a vegetable-based appetizer earlier in the afternoon. This will help everyone make sure they get the vegetables they need instead of filling up on buttery mashed potatoes.
5. Slow down during meals
While the holiday food might make us eager to eat, a key tip to staying healthy over the holidays is to slow down during mealtime. Eating slowly can give our stomachs enough time to send the hormonal signal to our brain telling us that we’re full, which will stop us from accidentally overeating. This can help us maintain better portion control as a result.
6. Remember portion control
Speaking of portion control — portion control will be your best friend throughout the holiday season. Eat small snacks during the day, and have three medium meals instead of three extra-large ones. This will improve your digestion and reduce the amount you’re eating, both during meal times and overall. If you’re worried about portion control, you can use smaller plates or reduce the number of dishes you serve at each meal.
7. Take a walk after dinner
Walking after a meal can give you several distinct benefits. First, you can get exercise at a time when you might not otherwise be exercising as frequently. It can also provide some quiet alone time to de-stress and aid your digestion all at once. All of these factors combined are good for your physical and mental health, and can contribute to weight loss or maintenance.
8. Don’t forget exercise
There’s a million other things to do, and if you’re away from your home gym, working out can seem even more difficult. Despite that, it’s important to maintain regular exercise for both your mental and physical health. Exercise is good for your body and can also relieve the stress that’s so commonplace during the holiday season.
Even if you can only exercise in small bursts throughout the day, make time to do some jumping jacks on the patio or go hiking with your family.
9. Try to stick to your typical sleep schedule
This can be challenging with the increase in parties and family in town. But sticking to your sleep schedule will improve your quality of sleep both now and after the holidays. Irregular sleep schedules can lead to poor sleep quality, fatigue, poor eating habits, and daytime sleepiness that can take time to reverse. Avoid this by going to bed and waking up as close to the same time as you usually do.
10. Take time for yourself
The holidays are full of family and friends, and while this can be a great thing, it can also be draining and stressful. Whether you’re staying with family over the holidays or just attending a large number of events, remember to take time every day for yourself. Go for a walk, meditate once a day, or offer to go to the store for a few minutes of quiet. Even extroverts need time to recharge.
11. Drink smart
Don't over indulge in sugar packed ciders and drinks. Stick to zero sugar tonics and mixers with your gins and vodkas. Avoid drinking too many cocktails too.