Healthy Holiday Strategies

healthy_holidaySusanBiconBy Susan Brown
Health & Wellness Editor

Along with holiday celebration planning, it’s a good idea to plan a strategy for staying healthy through the season of overindulging. Skimping on sleep, not taking time to exercise, straying too often from a healthy diet, and increased stress all challenge the immune system, which is working overtime to keep you healthy throughout not only the holiday season, but the cold and flu season as well. If you subscribe to the notion that holidays allow for unlimited eating and skipping your workouts, you will likely end up with a few unwanted pounds along with some added regrets come the first of January. Remember, it’s all about moderation and sticking to your normal routine as much as possible.

It’s easier to maintain your weight than to lose those extra pounds. This means limiting your indulgences but not completely abstaining. Give yourself permission to enjoy an occasional and guilt-free holiday treat but limit your choices to one treat per party. If you have several parties to attend in one week, you may want to indulge in a sweet dessert at just one of them.

Skipping meals to save room for later does not add up to weight loss. If you’re starving when you reach the buffet table, you will eat more not less and may not make the best choices. It’s better to have small meals throughout the day to keep your hunger at bay and your blood sugar levels stable. Low blood sugar can lead to cravings for salty, fatty or sugary foods, obviously not the best choices to keep holiday weight gain to a minimum.  

While at the buffet table, eat low to high. Eat low calorie greens, vegetables and lean protein before indulging in higher calorie foods. By the time you get to dessert, a few bites may satisfy. As always, it pays to keep an eye on portion sizes as even healthy foods can come with a high calorie price tag.  

Add some immune boosting foods to your meals each day. Go for high antioxidant berries, high nutrient containing organic fruits and vegetables, and mushrooms, which contain immune activating beta-glucans. Green tea will not only warm your body, it’s full of polyphenols and catechins which aid immune response. Replace processed oils with coconut oil, which is rich in lauric acid that aids the immune system in fighting viruses, bacteria and pathogens.

Shopping while hungry is not a great idea. Eat a nourishing meal before heading out to the mall for a marathon shopping trip. Stopping at the food court is not the best option, so bring along a healthy snack, such as nuts or piece of fruit if you plan to be gone for hours.

It’s easy to confuse hunger with thirst. Be sure you are drinking enough water throughout the day to satisfy your body’s need. To know you are getting adequate amounts of water, check the color of your urine. Very light to almost clear urine is an indication that you are well hydrated. If it’s dark yellow, you are dehydrated and need to drink up.

There’s lots of ways to stay fit over the holidays. Ten minute brisk walks do wonders for stress relief. Turn on some holiday or favorite music and dance around the house. Do whatever it takes to just keep moving. Stand whenever possible and get up during TV commercials to do some jumping jacks, jog in place or do some stretching.

It pays to make sleep a priority. While some say you can’t really catch up on missed sleep, if you know you’ll be out late try to get in some extra rest the night before or the day after the celebration. With all that needs to be accomplished, it’s a given that sleep will suffer. Consistently getting 7 -8 hours of sleep each night helps regulate hormones, supports immune health, promotes recovery from the day and gives you energy for the next day. If you are time stressed, decide what activities you can pass on or delegate to others rather than depriving yourself of restful, rejuvenating sleep.

Wash your hands thoroughly and often. Germs can live on surfaces for 24 hours or longer. Most illness is transferred through touching infected surfaces as opposed to airborne germs. Health experts recommend washing hands with soap for at least 20 seconds. Germ ridden places to be aware of include surfaces such as door knobs, elevator buttons, coffee pots, refrigerator door handles, keyboards, phones and copy machines. You don’t have to become a germaphobe, but keeping some hand sanitizer or disinfecting wipes nearby is a practical idea that may help prevent an illness.

Remember to de-stress. For busy families, this may mean cutting back on activities, making fewer commitments or resolving to stick to your holiday budget. Give yourself a gift of time to clear your mind, take a relaxing bath or curl up with that book you’ve been meaning to read. Treating yourself occasionally allows for renewal of the patience and energy necessary to take on the tasks of the season while also taking care of yourself and others.  

Get back to the true spirit of the holidays by giving to those less fortunate. It can be something as simple as including a friend, neighbor or colleague who may be alone during the holidays to share in your family dinner or celebration. Volunteer at your local pet shelter or food kitchen and take the kids with you. Every little bit of giving helps someone in need, and that makes everyone feel good about the holidays.


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