The holiday season kicks off in October with bowls full of Halloween candy, and lasts through New Year’s Day. Regardless of which holidays you celebrate, if any, the holiday season means an abundance of sweets all around, altered work schedules, and for many, a tough time keeping up with healthy habits established throughout the rest of the year. But this doesn’t have to be true. There are a few ways you can enjoy everything the holiday season has to offer, without compromising your health.
1. Everything in moderation – While you don’t want to overdo it on holiday sweets, you also shouldn’t be too restrictive. Making sure you have small snacks available throughout the day can help keep you from overindulging later.
2. Exercise in new ways – It can be difficult to keep up with your established exercise routine, especially if your work or children’s school schedule changes over the holidays. But there are plenty of ways to work in exercise as part of embracing the holiday season, for example, by going ice skating, or simply taking a walk with your family after dinner. By making a little extra room in your schedule for exercise, you’ll have a little extra room for holiday goodies.
3. Get your greens – One health risk we see throughout the holidays isn’t just the increased intake of sweets, it’s the decreased intake of foods rich in the nutrients your body needs. Make it a rule to eat a healthy breakfast or lunch, high in nutrients, fiber, protein, and healthful fats, so that you can indulge a little more at (or after) dinner. Canteen’s Avenue C micro-markets and 2bU healthful vending machines make it easy to have healthy options available throughout the day! Also, look for our Choice Plus better-for-you snack options. Choice Plus includes the most popular products that meet certain nutritional criteria.
4. Stay hydrated – When dehydrated, the brain can misinterpret thirst for hunger, causing you to crave more unhealthy foods, or overeat when your thirst isn’t satisfied. Make sure you have filtered water readily available at your home, workplace, and on the go. Staying hydrated can also help fight off cold and flu germs that run rampant throughout the holidays.
5. Focus on activities – Lots of holidays are centered on the act of eating. If you celebrate Thanksgiving, this is a hard one to not make about food. But this doesn’t have to be the case for the rest of the days in the season. Embrace other activities, like tree decorating, caroling, board games, volunteer work, etc.
6. Try new things – Try a new spin on your old favorite recipes. There are lots of healthy recipe hacks, like substituting two egg whites for each whole egg, replacing white flour with whole wheat flour, or replacing oil or butter with applesauce in baked goods. When you make small healthy substitutions, the end products are just as enjoyable, and learning a new cooking process or recipe can be fun! Bring healthy alternatives to parties and potlucks – you may find that everyone is grateful to have something healthy to snack on.
7. Make time for eating – This may seem counterintuitive, but many people get so busy juggling family responsibilities, holiday shopping, and other activities throughout the holiday season that they don’t have time for their regularly scheduled meals, thus settling for what’s easily accessible – which is not likely to be the healthiest option. Remember to take advantage of breaks at work and try to stick to your family’s regular dinnertime.
8. Get enough rest – Along with making us too busy for proper meals, holiday obligations can cost us valuable sleep time. Lack of sleep is proven to make people more likely to overeat and more susceptible to illness! Don’t be afraid to skip a holiday party or activity if it puts you at risk of burning out.
Most importantly, know that stress is one of the greatest risks to your health, year-round. The holiday season can be stressful enough as it is, so the last thing you want to do is to add any unnecessary stress about your holiday health. Keep the above tips in mind, but always allow yourself a little leeway!