Preparing for a Healthy Holiday Season
Is there a way to enjoy all that the holiday season has to offer while still making healthy choices? Many individuals worry about falling off track with their healthy living goals during the holiday season. It’s challenging enough to prioritize our health and wellbeing the rest of the year, but adding the holidays to the mix might make it seem like an impossible task. The trick is to do some strategizing and planning ahead of time. Consider taking a look at the tips below to help you plan ahead and survive the holiday mayhem while still feeling great and staying healthy.
You may not have time to be active every day during the holidays, but staying active in some way will help give you energy and even reduce stress! Aim to exercise three times per week for 30 minutes. You can even split it up into three 10-minute brisk walks throughout the day by walking to do your errands, to visit friends or to do your shopping, for example.
The most important part of finding time to exercise is to plan ahead. Whether you’re traveling or hosting family and friends in your home, try taking some time to figure out what your options are so you’re ready for anything! For example, if you’re traveling, search for walking trails or gyms in the area or talk to your family members ahead of time and plan some activities that will get you moving (i.e. playing a game of tag or making a snowman). You can also plan simple and short workouts that don’t require much space or equipment (e.g. think of 10 exercises, such as push ups, lunges or squats, and do them for 1 minute each). There are many options that don’t require gym memberships or fancy equipment – just get creative and remember that choosing an activity you enjoy is the most important part!
The following are tips provided by Dietitians of Canada to help you and your family and friends make healthy choices this holiday season:
- Keep your eye on portion sizes. It’s often not what you eat, but how much that can lead to overindulgence at any time of the year. For those extra treats enjoy a small portion, such as one piece of shortbread, one piece of pie, etc.
- Serve healthier options. For example: fruit and vegetables with low fat dips or spreads such as hummus or yogurt instead of chips and creamy dips, or crispy pita triangles, flatbread, Naan as alternatives to high fat crackers.
- Include more plant-based foods in your meal. They add colour and texture along with providing lots of vitamins and minerals and fibre. As an idea, start with a squash soup, add vegetarian chilli or meatless shepherd’s pie topped with sweet potatoes and include a salad with wheat berries or cranberries.
- Limit the number of appetizers you eat, especially if you are planning to have a full meal later. Or, if you do have a lot of appetizers only have a light meal after.
- If you are having a buffet, choose the smaller size plate. Look at the choices first before you start filling your plate and take only what you need to feel satisfied.
- Eat three meals every day, starting with breakfast. If you are hungry between meals, try having a small healthy snack. Having a snack may help prevent you from overeating during the next meal.
If you do choose to drink this holiday season, it is recommended that you follow the Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines to ensure that you do so safely.
The Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines recommend no more than 2 standard drinks (i.e. one 12oz bottle of 5% beer, one 1.5oz shot of 40% hard liquor, one 5oz glass of 12% wine) per day most days and no more than 10 standard drinks a week for women, with no more than 3 standard drinks a day most days and 15 standard drinks a week for men.
Consider following these tips to help you drink safely:
- Eat before, and when you drink.
- Set limits for yourself and stick to them.
- Drink slowly. No more than 2 standard drinks in any 3 hours.
- For every drink of alcohol, have one alcohol-free drink.
- Plan at least 2 non-drinking days every week to avoid developing a habit.
- Your age, body weight and health problems may suggest lower limits. Talk to your healthcare provider for more information.
- If you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, or about to breastfeed, the safest choice is to drink no alcohol at all.
- Your brain continues to develop until your mid-twenties. Therefore, teenagers and young adults should consider delaying their alcohol consumption.
The holidays can be a stressful time, so consider putting everything down for 5 to10 minutes a day to practice mindfulness (a form of meditation). Being mindful means you are paying attention to the present moment instead of focusing on stressful situations, negative thoughts or planning for the future. Mindfulness gives the brain a much-needed moment to rest and recuperate.
One mindfulness exercise you can consider trying is mindful breathing. This exercise can be done almost anywhere and anytime. All you need is to find a comfortable and quiet place to sit. Then, sit up straight, close your eyes and start breathing in and out through your nose. Focus on your breath by breathing in and out slowly. Begin to let go of your thoughts. Forget about what you need to do later that day or about other stressful situations in your life. When you feel calm and relaxed, open your eyes and repeat as often as need.
Practicing mindful breathing will make you less likely to experience stress, anxiety, depression and negative thinking. It will help you improve your mood and engage with the world around you. Try it out! But remember, it takes a lot of practice before mindfulness becomes effortless.
All of these tips may seem overwhelming. Because it’s a busy time, consider committing to just one thing that you can do to feel your best this holiday season. Instead of waiting until January 1st to start your New Year’s resolution, try making a holiday resolution instead. Remember, small steps can make a big difference!