It’s officially the season of cookies and candy canes, of sugarplums and savory pies. But a festive holiday spirit doesn’t mean you have to reach for your fat pants.
Follow these easy tips to keep your diet and exercise on track during the holidays. When the scale reads the same – or something even better – come January, that will really be something to celebrate!
Don’t skip meals to gorge later. “Skipping meals – especially breakfast – to make room for a feast will only cause you to overeat,” said Cheryl Kuhta-Sutter, registered dietitian with Novant Health Heart & Vascular Institute in Charlotte, North Carolina. “Try to stick to your regular meal schedule, even if you have a light breakfast. You’ll stay fuller longer and are less likely to consume extra calories at Grandma’s.”
Choose wisely. “Eating well during the holidays doesn’t have to mean depriving yourself of all your holiday favorites,” Kuhta-Sutter said. “Survey the spread and plan accordingly. Practice portion control, especially with rich foods and sweets. Be sure to still eat a wide variety. Fill up on fruits and veggies, and make sure to get in some protein to balance all those carbs. If it will help you stay honest, keep a food diary where you can take note of what you’ve eaten throughout the day.”
Consume fewer liquid calories. Everyone loves a good eggnog/cider/hot chocolate/wine/beer/festive cocktail. However, all those peppermint mocha lattes add up to a lot of empty, extra calories. “Drink lots of water,” Kuhta-Sutter said. “It’ll fill you up, keep you hydrated and help your body function better. You can still enjoy a few of the drinks you love, but if you’re getting enough water you won’t consume as many empty, liquid calories.”
Make holiday meals healthier. Chances are you aren’t the only person around your table trying to stay healthy this year. Good health is the best gift you can give your loved ones. Make it a family affair by putting a healthier spin on family-favorite dishes. “There are tons of websites devoted to healthier substitutes in recipes. You don’t have to look far for a healthier swap for your favorite casserole or side dish,” Kuhta-Sutter said. “Just be smart. Eat fewer fried, fatty, salty or sugary foods. Avoid processed ingredients. Fresh and healthy just may be your new tradition.”
Keep moving. Sure, the holidays are prime time to relax and spend time with family. However, that shouldn’t be an excuse to be inactive for days on end. “You don’t have to necessarily hit the gym, but ensuring you still get some exercise in during the holidays is extremely important,” Kuhta-Sutter said. “The idea is to just keep moving. It’s good for your heart and will help you digest and burn off those extra holiday calories.” Bundle up and get outside with your family for long walks or runs. Play football in the backyard. Or just help Grandma up and down all those stairs.
It’s OK to say “no.” Grandma may say otherwise, but you don’t have to say, “yes,” to everything you’re offered. Practice saying, “No, thank you,” and only save room for the foods you really want to enjoy. “Too many people eat to the point of being stuffed,” Kuhta-Sutter said. “Take your time and give your body time to signal when it’s full – and pay attention. Know when to say when.”
Pass on the apps. A few appetizers here and there can be lovely, but nervously cramming pretzels and chips before a meal can cost you. “Save those calories for the things you really want,” Kuhta-Sutter said. “Eating too many everyday, carb-filled snacks before your meal can fill you up and mess with your blood sugar. Hold off for a more balanced meal of the all the things you love.”
Get enough sleep and zap stress. Both lack of sleep and excess stress can dominate over the busy holiday season and both are enemies to weight loss. “Focus on what is attainable,” Kuhta-Sutter said. “Try not to get caught up in a whirlwind of seasonal stress. Reducing stress and getting enough sleep will keep you healthy during the holiday season.”
Most important, be honest about what you eat and don’t be too hard on yourself. “Each day is a new chance to start over,” Kuhta-Sutter said. “Enjoy the holidays in moderation and toast to your good health in the new year.”
Find additional health and wellness tips at NovantHealth.org/RemarkableYou.