We’re surrounded by food and commercialism year-round, but from Halloween on, it’s like being trapped in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory until the doors open for 2011. This article isn’t about dieting, though; it’s about being healthy through the holidays.
If you don’t care that you gain six pounds over the holidays, that’s fine.
If you do, or if you’re concerned about being heart- and dental-healthy than dieting, there are steps you can take to achieve your goals. In the end, it’s about what you want and what will make you happy and taking steps for your health to achieve just that.
Write it Down
Take a minute today to write down your health-related goals for the holidays now.
Make your goals positive, specific, measurable, and realistic. “Lose twenty pounds by January” is probably not the healthiest or the most realistic goal. “Run three times a week for at least one mile” is a realistic and measurable goal. It’s important to make a list of benefits each goal has for you—for your body, mind, social life, and more. If you have no motivation for your goals other than the goal itself, it won’t last.
The key to a healthy lifestyle is moderation, no matter the season. When an entire table is covered with rich foods, though, it can be easy to overeat several times a day. No matter your stance on weight, this simply isn’t healthy for your body, and nobody wants to sleep through the holidays entirely. If you know in advance that rich foods will be available at a dinner party later in the day, eat healthier the rest of the day.
Go for high-fiber, low-sodium, organic, low-fat, and filling foods so that you’re not starving when you get to the party. In fact, it’s a good idea to prepare your own heart-healthy appetizer at home to snack on before you get to dinner, where the appetizers will likely be richer than your body needs. Use small plates to provide less room for food at dinner parties and even at home.
Ever since the 1930s, Americans have been taught to clean their plates and waste no food. Food, however, becomes waste whether it goes into the trash bin or in our bellies, where it becomes excess calories and heart-threatening fat. Smaller plates will keep your portions more varied, and you can always go back for more if your body is still hungry. Rather than filling said small plate entirely with turkey and mashed potatoes, try a little of everything—especially veggies!—to get a balanced meal.
Instead of drinking out of a can, try making your own mix of fruit punch (out of real fruit juice) and add Russian or Jamaican kick, if desired. Pre-mixed drinks are not only expensive but stuffed with artificial sweeteners that have, in many studies, been connected to diabetes and obesity. Of course, real fruit juice has sugar in it, too, and calories are calories, so maintain the rule of moderation here.
Use spices and herbs to flavor vegetables, not so much salt, butter, or ranch sauce. Steam veggies rather than boiling them; this retains their nutrients better. Use wholegrain breads for stuffing. This is significantly better for your heart and digestive system than white bread. It’s a little harsh, but there’s a grain of truth to the adage – The whiter the bread, the sooner you’re dead.
Use pita bread or homemade (baked) sweet potato chips instead of deep-fried potato chips. Add raw vegetable strips to the platter, too. Trim visible fat off of meat. There’s still going to be enough fat in the rest of the meat where you can’t see it to keep it tasty.
Fruit with yogurt and a drizzle of honey or chocolate is a much healthier alternative to chocolate cake. Don’t make a habit of avoiding “bad” foods, though; you’ll just crave them all the more later and be less and less willing to turn a deaf ear to your cravings.
For every alcoholic drink, it’s a good idea to stay hydrated with a glass of water. Not only will this keep you sober longer and prevent the dreaded hangover, it will help to flush your body of toxins. And never, ever drive while impaired.
The holidays are no fun spent in a hospital or filling out insurance forms and checks.
Keep a Calendar
Stress eating is commonplace during the holidays, and having a calendar can help avoid stress in the first place by allowing us to organize our daily lives. Plan events, gift-shopping and wrapping, and get-togethers in advance; look at your calendar at least once daily and mull over it for a few minutes before going about your day. This will give you time to plan your day, week, and even month in advance. The promise you made to yourself about running three times a week will be much easier to accomplish, too.
Heather is a freelance writer and the resident blogger for gocollege.com, a free informational website offering tips and advice on online colleges.