Navigating the Holidays, Nutritiously

Most of us experience a host of challenges during the holidays. We’re crunched for time, with social gatherings, volunteer service, shopping excursions, family activities, and faith events all crowding the calendar and making it even harder to fit in time in the kitchen and for enjoyable exercise. The kinds of food that are common at these events are often filled with ingredients that contribute unhealthy fats, added sugars, and sodium and represent another challenge. Yet many of these meals are special markers of this time of year, and we may not want to give them up altogether. Here are a few ideas that can support you to have a joyous and celebratory holiday season, while also keeping health in mind.

  1. Move your body. No time to get to the gym? That’s okay – take advantage of many of the free fitness classes available online – from yoga to high-intensity bootcamp workouts, YouTube has it all, so choose what feels best for you.
  2. Prepare for action. Plan ahead for those busy days and prepare a few freezer meals or have a plan of action for Sunday meal prep to get some cooking done in advance. By cooking in advance, you can have a freezer full of quick, easy, and nourishing meals that can be ready as fast as it takes to have takeout delivered. Soups, stews, and casseroles are all good candidates for freezing in single- or family-size portions.
  3. Keep your balance. Whether you’re cooking meals or enjoying those offered at events, build a balanced plate to ensure you’re supporting your goals for energy, health, and well-being throughout the holidays. Filling half the plate with fruits and vegetables, a quarter with whole grains, and a quarter with lean proteins (ideally prepared with a plant-based fat), with room to enjoy wholesome family favorites and rich holiday treats alike.
  4. Be mindful. Enjoy a reasonably sized portion of your favorite holiday dish or two and skip other dishes that you can make anytime during the year. Maybe it’s your grandmother’s stuffing recipe or your uncle’s sweet potato casserole that you wait for all year; whatever you choose — enjoy it without guilt. But maybe skip the cheesey appetizer or the extra slice of pie that you can choose anytime during the year that won’t satisfy your craving during this holiday season.
  5. Stay hydrated. Many holiday drinks are filled with sugar that will lead to dehydration, making you feel thirstier and sluggish throughout the day. Stick to water or alternate with water to make sure that you keep hydrated. Or opt for a mocktail – a non-alcoholic cocktail – that will add fun, flavor, and freshness to your drink without the buzz of alcohol. Read more about mocktails here.
  6. Be social. Remember that the holidays are about family and friends. Spend time catching up with family members, be it in small or large groups, and less time stressing about your holiday to-do list.

The holidays don’t have to derail your efforts to take care of yourself with nourishing foods and physical activity. By planning ahead and using these strategies, you can enjoy the best the season has to offer while still making your health and well-being a priority.