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Balanced – Not Deprived – Living
Healthy Holiday Know-How – Keeping it Balanced and Joyful
Holiday Celebrations – Organized Chaos
The holidays: a time for merriment, joy, food and fun. But before the fun begins, there’s the planning, the packing, the traveling and the other stressful “to do’s”. Part of getting past the chaos and stress is finding ways to simplify and manage the many “methods of madness” surrounding holiday preparation practices and processes.
Finding A Reasonable Balance
- Plan daily “you” time. Regardless of whether you’re the host or the traveler, plan a reasonable window of time that belongs to just you. Use this time to unwind. Try reading a book, meditating, going for a walk, or driving somewhere you find to be tranquil and serene. Taking “you” time is not about being selfish; it’s about survival. When we take time to pause and reflect on what we need to do for ourselves, we reestablish personal balance, regain mental focus and clarity and can return to the festivities with a brighter spirit.
- Create healthy menu items. It’s inevitable – there will be pies, cakes, candies, potatoes, stuffing adult libations and, of course, leftovers. That’s ok! Enjoying somewhat sinful dishes is all part of the magic of the season; however, such indulgences should not become the habit. Take some time to identify some lighter and healthier dishes to prepare (and maybe even freeze) weeks before the holidays begin. Keep the fridge stocked with items such as yogurt, fresh fruits, hummus, and veggies for snack times. This makes it easier to reach for healthy snacks and/or a ready-made and balanced meal from the freezer instead of continuing to consume the leftovers days after the holiday is done.
- Fill the tank. If the holidays include attending parties, eat a small, light snack before the party. This way it is possible to keep temptation at bay, but still enjoy in a few of the richer and more indulgent items.
- Balance your plate. Although there are many rich food dishes available at parties, there are also lower calorie items to help balance your intake. When going through the buffet line, pile your plate high with the better options – fruits, leafy salads, veggies, lean proteins, etc. Eat those items first; then sample a few of the more calorie laden dishes.
- Remake recipes. The holidays offer a great opportunity to revise a favorite recipe by choosing healthier ingredients to substitute for the traditional staples such as butter, oil, eggs, and white sugar. Try using fat substitutes like Greek yogurt or mashed avocado. Pureed fruits or raw honey work well to sweeten baked goods. When it comes to the main holiday dishes, add mashed sweet potatoes to the table for a second starch option over traditional white mashed potatoes.
- Snack Packs. When you venture out to gift shop, pack some healthy snacks for the road. This will limit the temptation for grab-and-go type foods. Dried fruits and nuts are a great combination! Air-popped popcorn, or whole-grain crackers with natural peanut butter work well, too.
- Be active. No matter where you are – home, on the road to a family gathering, or in a hotel -always plan some time to be active. The holidays are a great time to engage in family activity time – going for a walk before or after a meal, practicing yoga in the hotel or using the fitness center if one is available, going for a swim (if an indoor pool is an option), etc. Keep in mind that activity does not have to be structured to be effective. The most important point to remember is to stay committed – even 15 minutes makes a difference.
It is a widely known fact – the holidays sneak up on us and are filled with a flurry of activity. Some simple planning ahead and prioritizing can make a meaningful impact on the amount of stress experienced around this time. Enjoy the holidays – wherever you may celebrate – and look forward to the fun and ignore the stress!
One more thought – make sure to enjoy the time. Deriving pleasure and joy from any experience is as much a part of being healthy as mindful eating and activity.