How to Have a Healthier Holiday Season
The holidays are quickly approaching, bringing with them family get-togethers, office parties, cocktail hours – and lots of delicious food! For many of us, it’s easy to overindulge during the holiday season. While it’s fine to splurge on occasion, it’s also important to maintain a focus on your overall health, particularly if you suffer from or are at risk for certain health conditions like diabetes.
So how can you take care of your health while still enjoying all the holiday season has to offer? Here are a few tips to help you find balance!
We’ve all heard the saying, “Everything in moderation”, and this adage can be especially helpful during the holidays. Rather than setting strict rules about what you can and can’t have (except for medical reasons, of course!), embrace a mindset of allowing yourself to have what you truly want – in moderation. For example, if you’re going to a family dinner or office party and know you’ll want to indulge yourself, try to eat a lighter, nutrient-dense meal earlier in the day. By eating healthy a majority of the time, you can enjoy the treats of the season while still maintaining your overall healthy habits.
Eat on schedule.
As much as possible, stick with your normal meal schedule. This can help keep your blood sugar steady and prevent sugar crashes, “hanger”, and overeating. If you are attending an event where a meal will be served later than your usual schedule, have a small, healthy snack (like a handful of nuts or a piece of wholegrain toast with avocado) at your usual mealtime and then eat a little less for your main meal.
Fill up on vegetables first.
Try to start each meal with a serving of fresh vegetables. This can help take the edge off your appetite, since we tend to overeat more when we are hungrier. Once your initial hunger has been sated, you can make more conscious choices about your food selection and portion sizes. As a bonus, you’ll be ensuring you eat at least one nutrient-dense food in each meal!
Pick your favorites.
Most of us have certain foods we associate with the holidays, whether that be Christmas cookies, latkes, or collard greens. However, most holiday gatherings offer us all these options and many more! The holidays can sometimes seem like an endless buffet and can overwhelm us with temptations. A great way to embrace and practice moderation during the festivities is to choose a few of your favorite special foods to indulge in and leave the rest. For example, if your mother only makes her famous pumpkin pie once a year, skip something you can get anytime, like mashed potatoes, and save room for the good stuff!
Remember to move.
Sometimes it can seem like there isn’t a free moment between October 31 and January 1. However, try not to forgo exercise during the upcoming season. Regular exercise is key to maintaining our mental and physical health, both of which can be challenged during the hustle and bustle of the holidays. To break a quick sweat, wake up 15 minutes earlier and get in a short Tabata or yoga workout. Make it a family affair by getting everyone out for a walk or a bike ride after a big dinner. Don’t set yourself up for failure by expecting to stick with your usual gym routine or start a new workout habit. Instead, find simple ways to work some movement into every day.
Take time to recharge.
The holidays can be fun and festive but for many of us, they can also be stressful and difficult. Avoid emotional eating by making sure you are taking time for yourself throughout the holiday season to rest and recharge. This can mean declining an invitation to a party you don’t really want to attend, leaving early to get to bed at a decent hour, or asking your partner or kids for help with cooking or decorating so you don’t get overwhelmed.
Think beyond the food.
Finally, while food is often the centerpiece of our festive gatherings, the holidays are really about so much more than just the meal. Whether it’s spending time with your loved ones, enjoying the beautiful decorations, or celebrating an important religious or spiritual event, take time to reflect on why the holidays are special to you. Doing so can help you slow down, remain present, and enjoy yourself in ways that go beyond just food.
November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, which means it’s the perfect time to prioritize your health going into this holiday season. Start with small steps now, and you can ring in the New Year with fewer worries about your health.
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