It’s that time of year! The holiday season can be one of the most joyful times of the year – it’s all about family, fun and food! Ensuring you and your family eats healthy, even during the holidays, doesn’t take a lot of effort.
These five tips from the American Heart Association can help you stay on track with your nutritional goals during the holidays:
- Spice it up – A new study found that people who enjoy spicy foods appear to eat less salt and have lower blood pressure.
- Add color – Not only are bright colors donning shop windows this season, they are also at the supermarket and on the holiday buffet. From red apples to orange pumpkins or green pears, adding just one cup of fruits and vegetables a day is a significant step toward a more vibrant life.
- Pre-game – It’s easy to overeat or munch on snacks while in social settings. To help resist temptation, eat a healthy snack or meal before heading out. High-fiber foods like avocados are smart options because they keep you full longer.
- Mini-mize – Practice moderation, not deprivation. Opt for a small plate, help yourself to a smaller portion or ask for a to-go box in advance and place half your order out of sight in the container.
- Slow down – It takes time for your stomach to signal your brain that you’re full. Slow your pace by setting down your fork between bites, taking frequent drinks of water and pausing to talk with friends and family.
While watching your calorie intake is important, it is also important to make sure you are getting all of your nutrients in. Cutting back on calories is necessary to prevent weight gain, but getting a variety of nutrients is important to make sure you stay healthy. During the winter months it is especially important to make sure that you get enough vitamin D, which is provided from the sun in the summer months. Make sure you get all the nutrients you need by following these simple tips:
- Use whole grain bread for stuffing instead of white bread
- When baking, use half whole grain flour, half all-purpose white flour
- Limit consumption of red meat, opt for chicken instead
- Use oils instead of butter when possible
- Try and replace meat with fish at least twice a week
- Have a colorful plate, make sure you are eating veggies of all colors
- Drink plenty of low fat milk, or take a vitamin D supplement
Also, try some of these smart substitutions for your favorite holiday meals:
- Instead of butter, use a healthier vegetable oil or substitute equal parts unsweetened applesauce when baking.
- Use a lower-calorie sugar substitute.
- Use low-fat or skim milk instead of whole milk or heavy cream.
- Instead of only white flour, use half white and half whole-wheat flour.
- Instead of adding chocolate chips or candies, use dried fruit, like cranberries or cherries.
- Use extracts like vanilla, almond and peppermint to add flavor, instead of sugar or butter.
- Use whole-grain breads, rice and pasta instead of white.
- Bake, grill or steam vegetables instead of frying.
- Compare labels of your holiday ingredients, and choose products with lower amounts of sodium and added sugars.
- Use spices, fresh herbs and citrus juice to flavor foods and drinks instead of excess salt and added sugars
While eating right around the holidays is important, it is also important to try and stay active. Staying active when there is snow on the ground can be difficult enough, without the added pressure the holidays bring. Stay active this holiday season by following these few tips:
- Walk around an indoor public place, like the mall, if it is too cold to go outside.
- Try to find ways to exercise at home, using household items as weights if needed.
- Try to add in a few extra steps whenever you can.
- Park further away from the place you are going.
Another aspect of health that is often forgotten around the holidays is managing stress. While being physically healthy is very important, mental health is also a necessity for a good holiday season. Managing stress levels and allowing yourself plenty of sleep is very important. Here are some ways to manage stress this holiday season:
- Get at least 7-10 hours of sleep each night.
- Take time to relax each week.
- Practice meditation.
- Make time to do things that you enjoy.
Reference: American Heart Association, Holiday Healthy Eating Guide