Between all the treats and feasts of the holiday get-togethers and the cold weather that encourages staying in and snuggling up all day, it’s easy to let healthy habits slip. Packing on the pounds and decreased energy are among the most common consequences of the less-than-healthy lifestyle many of us take on. These simple and easy tips can help keep the holidays healthier all around.
SET A SLEEP ROUTINE
Getting enough sleep is essential to overall health. While it can be tempting to stay out late and wake up early with the goal of powering through — especially during the holiday season — setting a more or less fixed time to sleep and wake up can help maintain a schedule that allows you to get enough shut eye. Also consider banishing electronics from the bedroom.
KEEP AN EXERCISE JOURNAL
Even if no one else ever sets eyes on it, a journal becomes an accountability buddy while also allowing you to track your exercise. This is motivation to stay regularly active and provides a quick way of keeping track so you can adjust as needed.
EAT YOUR DAILY DOSE OF PRODUCE
Eating healthy can have more to do with what you do eat, than what you don’t eat. Ensuring you eat at least five servings of fresh fruit and vegetables will help youfill up on the good stuffso there is less room for the junk.
DON’T DENY YOURSELF LITTLE PLEASURES
Total abstention from treats can lead to binging and feeling bad, neither of which is healthy. Moderation works best, allowing yourself small indulgences in alcohol, sugar, carbs, or whatever your vice may be to leave you feeling satisfied and in control.
PLAN A GROUP PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
A walk in the woods or snowman building is something everyone can do together and brings the focus on fun and being active, rather than just sitting around eating and drinking. This also helps children and pets release their pent up energy.
WALK INSTEAD OF RIDING TO ADMIRE CHRISTMAS DISPLAYS
Even if the neighborhood with the best holiday lights is far away, you could still drive to the general area and take a stroll through the brisk air to take it all in. It's a fun way to work in exercise without physical activity being the main goal.
LIMIT SCREEN TIME
Too much screen time is not good for your brain or body. Especially during time off when it is tempting to stay glued to the phone, computer, or TV for hours, put some rules or guidelines on how many hours a day is healthy for you and your family.
INCORPORATE MEATLESS MEALS
The holidays bring big roasts of meat and poultry, typically more than normal. Meatless Monday is a popular way to cut down on meat and embrace a more plant-based lifestyle, which is good for balance and overall health.
Even just 2 minutes of meditation a day can help clear the mind and lead to sustained relaxation. Practice daily so that you can use those skills whenever you are feeling stressed, say, at a family holiday event!
WRITE DOWN WHAT YOU EAT
Food diaries help people eat better and usually less too. When you can see at a glance everything you ate, it’s easier to realize how quickly all those loose cookies, bites, and sips add up. It will also help keep track of daily fruit and vegetable recommendations.
USE UNDETECTABLE RECIPE SUBSTITUTIONS
A little less cream here, oil instead of butter there, a cup less sugar … it all adds up. There are plenty of ways to lighten up meals by subbing things like applesauce for sugar and oil in baked goods, or cauliflower for mashed potatoes, or even mixing them together for a healthier end product.
SET DENTIST AND DOCTOR APPOINTMENTS FOR THE NEW YEAR
If you know that the annual weigh-in or teeth-cleaning is just around the corner, lining up your appointments can help boost motivation to cut back on sugary and fatty holiday treats. It will also work as motivation to stay active and get enough rest.
CREATE A SUPPORT GROUP
Invite family and friends to participate on apps like Fitbit, or on a text exchange for motivation. The focus can be broad and incorporate general healthy choices or geared to one thing like eating healthy, moderating indulgences, or staying active.
GET INTO NATURE
The health benefits of just being in nature are numerous, but even if they are not obvious, it just feels good. A few minutes among trees, especially when combined with deep breathing of fresh air, can help relax and rejuvenate the mind and body.
TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF
The holidays can be a demanding time, with friend and family obligations. Taking some time for yourself is not just okay to do, but necessary. This time alone can recharge your batteries so that you can be social and giving to those around you.
SET ALCOHOL LIMITS
Liquid calories and sugar intake add up during parties, and it is easy to overdo it if you aren’t mindful of your alcohol consumption. Find a number of drinks that works for you per week, and map it out across the different events you have on your calendar.
With expansive spreads and so much good food around, it is all too easy to eat too much. Too much of even healthy foods isn’t good for our bodies. Practice mindful eating by stopping before you are full, and then go back for seconds a few minutes later if you are still hungry.
DON’T WEAR STRETCHY CLOTHES
Clothes that expand encourage you to expand. Sticking to form-fitting pants and jackets will gently encourage you not to over eat and provide motivation by being in your holiday wardrobe rotation.
Hydration is essential to overall health, even during the holidays. Cold weather can sometimes make it more difficult to get enough water, but warm herbal teas also count toward your daily intake.
WASH YOUR HANDS
Germs abound in this season that is equally about holidays andflus and colds. Especially since people are using a lot of transportation options and coming into contact with people through warm greetings, it’s important than usual to wash your hands regularly.
GET A MASSAGE
This time of year, springing for an extra 10-minute massage on top of a nail treatment, or even a full-blown 30- or 60-minute massage can really pay off. It's taking time out for yourself, and literally breaking up tension you may be holding in your body.
TRAVEL WITH HAND SANITIZER
When warm soapy water isn't available, hand sanitizer is a good option to keep germs at bay. This is especially true when eating snacks on the go in planes, trains, and buses.
KEEP HEALTHY SNACKS AROUND
If you have a bowl of fresh crisp apples rather than a platter of cookies, it is a lot easier to make a healthy choice. While it may be unreasonable to keep all treats out of the house during the season, try to stock as many healthy options as possible.
You don't have to say yes to every invitation. It's important to know your social limit so that you get quality over quantity of celebration time.
HARVEST YOUR OWN CHRISTMAS TREE
Cutting down your own tree is an adventure, exercise, and money saver all in one. Make it a group activity with family or friends to make it even more special of a memory in addition to contributing to your health.