5 Tips to make this holiday season healthier

Make this holiday season healthier
When it comes to healthy habits, it’s easy to say, “I’ll get back on track after the holidays.” But if we’re being honest with ourselves, we know it’s not that simple. It takes time and practice to create habits, and when we get derailed, it’s often tricky to pick up where we left off. This holiday season, instead of giving up my hard-fought health routine, I’m finding ways to incorporate it into my favorite traditions. Join me! Try these five tips to make this holiday season healthier.

1. Tweak your recipes. 

Cherished family recipes may be loaded with ingredients we’re better off avoiding. For example, when I learned how much sugar is in my mother-in-law’s sweet potato pie, I felt a little queasy. My husband can’t live without it, though, so I make it — but with substitutes. I swap sugar for applesauce and vanilla extract and trade condensed milk for coconut milk. So far, he hasn’t noticed it! You can try tweaking your favorite recipes, too.

2. Practice portion control. 

Feeling stuffed after a holiday meal seems to be synonymous with the season, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s taken me a few years, but I’ve finally learned the difference between being satisfied and feeling full. Not having seconds makes a big difference in how I feel and how well I can stick to the rest of my healthy habits. Make it easier on yourself and cut down on the amount of food around. For example, I don’t make a full turkey (and then eat the leftovers for days) anymore. Instead, I make a skinless turkey breast and season it well, and I cook it with a hearty bone broth so it has plenty of flavors.

3. Bump up your workouts. 

It can be hard to squeeze in a workout if you’re traveling or hosting. That’s why I like to increase how much I exercise leading up to the holidays. Before Thanksgiving, I was aiming for 10,000 steps, but now I’m shooting for 15,000. It doesn’t feel like that much extra, especially now that walking is part of my routine. I look for opportunities where I can reach my new goal, including walking when I’m on the phone or when my son is at tennis practice. While he plays, I walk around the perimeter of the courts. Look for times during your day that you can squeeze in exercise so that it becomes part of your daily life, including during the holidays.

Make it a half pour. 

Wine is one of the things I have trouble saying no to during the holidays, especially at a party. Everyone is in celebration mode, so they fill up my glass automatically. Once I’ve had one, it’s easy to accept another. To prevent this, I’ve started making my own wine spritzers. I’ll have half a glass of wine and top it off with club soda! It still looks festive (and tastes delicious). If even a half glass is a slippery slope for you, freeze fruit in ice and add it to sparkling water. You will love it!

Write your to-do list carefully. 

Your mental and emotional well-being isn’t worth sacrificing for the sake of the “perfect” meal, party, or gift. So for starters, add things like exercise and self-care to the TOP of your to-do list. This ensures you’ll have time for the things you need to do for yourself. You’ll enjoy your family and the season more if you feel good. If you need help from friends and family, ask for it. For example, if the gift-giving tradition in your family has become too much, work together to come up with a new solution. Be realistic about what you can take on. Know your limits, and give yourself permission to speak up when you reach them.

Pitfalls don’t have to be part of our holiday traditions! By taking small steps, we can make sure we stick to our healthy habits now and in the future. I hope you’ll join me in making extra room for your health this holiday season!

By Nicole Greene, Acting Director, Office on Women's Health
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