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  • Maegan McBroom, 500RYT, CHES

10 Tips for Staying Healthy During the Holidays

1. Stress management

Managing stress can be one of the hardest things many of us do in our everyday lives, much less during the holiday season in the midst of a global pandemic. What are some things that you do in your everyday life to manage stress? What of these things can you carry into the holiday season? Maybe sit down and make a list of reasonable goals for yourself. Maybe you have no stress management techniques and this is the first time you’ve thought about this, so maybe this year you just think of one goal and focus on that. A few tools that you can carry with you through the holiday season and any time in your life where you may be experiencing high levels of stress are: anapana meditation or mindful breath awareness meditation, make time for fun, do something that is just for you, the options are limitless!

2. Prioritize exercise

How can you keep your regular exercise routine going during the holiday season? If you will be out of town will you have access to somewhere you can participate in regular activity? Exercise should be done for about 30 minutes, 5 days a week . This is ideal, but any amount of exercise that you can fit into your day should be considered a win! 5-10 minutes is better than nothing!

3. Mindful cooking and eating

All eating starts with cooking or preparation of some kind. Cooking and preparing food is a wonderful opportunity to calm down and tune in. Smell, listen and enjoy your food as you go. I am sure you have heard the phrase, “made with love” and that is what this is. Find yourself in a place where you feel love and enjoy preparing your holiday meal as much as you enjoy eating it. When sitting down to eat, take time to chew each bite completely, really enjoy it, notice the flavors, and allow yourself to listen to the signals your body is sending you as you eat. This will give a greater feeling of fullness and greater signals of satisfaction will be sent to the brain. Wait 5 seconds in between each bite to notice how you are feeling and the signals your body is sending you, a sense of fullness or satiety, doesn’t happen instantly. Give yourself time in between each bite to notice how full you are feeling and what foods your body is craving more of.

4. Take a break before seconds

Don’t rush back up to refill your plate when you finish up. It takes about 20 minutes after you eat something for your stomach to tell your brain that you are full. If you are wanting another plate later, set aside all of the things you want and go back later for them when you are hungry again.

5. Size matters

A small portion on a large plate can leave you wanting more, while the same size portion on a smaller plate gives you the visual signal of satisfaction that you have more before ever eating. Silverware that is oversized can lead to taking larger bites and eating more than you are hungry for.

6. Don’t “hold out”

Don’t “hold out” or “save your appetite” all day before a large, decadent meal.

Skipping meals can lead to a variety of problems, including a drop in blood sugar leading to frustration, head fog and fatigue, all things that we are probably already suffering from around the holidays. Skipping meals can lead to a lowered metabolism which can lead to weight gain. Waiting all day for the foods that are considered superior leads to overeating and binging out on less healthy foods.

7. Think twice about liquids

When reaching for the beverage to accompany your meal, think twice. Beverages can often carry a hefty amount of empty calories. This holiday season opt for water whenever possible. Water is the medium for metabolism and can regulate it quite well. Water can also give you a feeling of fullness, or can make you feel hungry if you haven’t had enough of it. If you choose to drink alcohol, keep it at a limit. Alcohol leads to a multitude of health problems when consumed in excess. I’m sure you’ve heard them all before- damage to the liver, kidneys, and pancreas are just a couple of the problems that come with alcohol consumption. Further, alcohol is often paired with sugary beverages that are packed full of calories and, well, sugar.

8. ½ and ½

There are loads of yummy foods to consume during the holidays, but do not forget the fruits and the vegetables! There are various dishes that you can incorporate into your holiday meals to ensure veggies and fruits are a presence at every event you attend. Try to look at every plate that you fill up and make sure that ½ of it is fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables contain a high fiber return ensuring that the days following the holidays are pleasant (if you know what I mean). They also provide you with the essential nutrients that you need to get through life. If you are worried about heading to an event where you know only unhealthy food will be served, call the host the day or so before and ask what they are planning on serving so you can bring a dish that compliments theirs that's loaded with some fruits and veggies so you are never in a sticky situation.

9. Think smart, not hard

How can you think a little bit smarter this year? Swap green bean casserole for steamed green beans, swap out the butter on the mashed potatoes with a healthier option like smart balance, swap canned cranberry sauce for fresh, did you know cranberries are one of the most antioxidant rich foods you can buy in the produce section? Consider swapping the sweet potato casserole for a baked sweet potato with cinnamon and a healthy fat. Throw in a side dish of healthy roasted fall vegetables with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Trade the traditional white rolls out for a whole grain option! The options are truly limitless here.

10. Don’t be too sweet

The first bite of something sweet is always the greatest. No, really. The first time you bite into something sweet your brain gets a rush of endorphins or those “feel good” feelings. After this initial rush we are just continuing to chase this feeling. When you are going for seconds of something sweet, remember the second bites will never be as good as the first, and often continuing to eat these foods is just a reflex. Do you really want more? Or are you just continuing to eat mindlessly?

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