Holiday decorations

Making Healthy Choices Through the Holidays

By: Dr. Peggy Malone

Christmas is often a time where our health and wellness is not necessarily top priority as we enjoy holiday parties and meals filled with lovely treats and indulgences.

Do you love Christmas dinner but hate the way you feel afterward? 

I’d like to give you some tips today on how you can make better and healthier choices through the next week or so as you go to Holiday parties and partake in your big Christmas feast.

Similar to what we talked about at Thanksgiving, Christmas dinner is known as the time for heaping plates filled with all the delicious comfort, home-cooked fabulousness that we can get. That is usually followed up with sweet yummy desserts that are overflowing with sugar. This year let’s focus on something a bit healthier.  

First, eat before you head to the party. Don’t show up to dinner or to the holiday party starving or you will be more likely to make poor choices. 

Before you go, makes some goals about what you will eat and what you will indulge in. If it’s planned ahead of time, you can give yourself permission to have a bit of a Christmas treat instead of throwing caution to the wind when you see the dessert and eating everything in sight!

When the appetizers come out, focus on the veggies. They are a great healthy way to get your tummy a bit full with something good for you before you start in on the main meal.

There are usually many many dishes at a Christmas table and our eyes are often bigger than our stomachs. So take a look around the table or the buffet before you start and make a plan of what you will serve yourself.  

Take your time and enjoy the meal. The faster you eat, the more you eat. It takes about 15 minutes for your brain to register the feeling of being full. Think about how you can scarf bite after bite of food down with ease, then about 15 minutes later you realize you are so full you are sick and you can’t even fit one more bite in you.

Try putting your fork down between bites and chat with your family. More talking and less eating will slow you down and you will be surprised at how this method works to help you to eat less!

Stop eating when you are full. This one sounds like a no brainer, but the hype of the holiday often pushes people to eat lots and then go for seconds. Decide before the meal to go slow and listen to your body for the “I’m full” signal.

For dessert, if you have planned to indulge… just have a tiny taste.

Make sure to drink plenty of water. Water is super important for many of your bodies systems and drinking it will help you to feel a bit more full before you eat.

Many people like to indulge in a few adult beverages at holiday time. It’s a good idea to enjoy alcohol in moderation. Alcohol lowers your inhibitions, which makes it that much easier to justify a third helping of your mom’s mashed potatoes or stuffing. 

Drinking water or sparkling water between your alcoholic beverages will help you stay hydrated, limit alcohol calories, and stay sober.

In past posts, we have talked about finding your “Why”. Before you head out to holiday parties or Christmas dinner where the tempting treats will be, it’s worth checking in with your big ‘Why’. 

Why do you want to get healthier and stay that way? If you feel tempted, it’s a good idea to have this at the top of your mind through the holidays to keep you on track.

The other thing that is worth mentioning here, and we talked about this last week, is that holiday time can be very stressful for many people. Check in with last week’s post for tips on how to manage holiday stress.

Often we travel long distances by planes trains or automobiles to be with our families at holiday time.  This sustained sitting posture can cause all sorts of grief to your body. Make sure to stop and stretch every hour or so to break up the sitting.

If you have a regular exercise plan, stick with it! Get up early to get your workout in if you must or make sure to include some physical activity in your day each day through the holidays. It counts even if it is a 10 minute walk!

When everyone is full and happy after a big meal, instead of sitting around and getting sleepy, why not encourage everyone to head out for a family walk. It’s a way to get everyone moving. If your family isn’t into it… go yourself. Get your body moving!

Christmas doesn’t have to be the downhill slide into the New Year. You can start now making some good healthy choices so that when January 1st arrives, you will already be on track for 2013!

Have a healthy and happy Holiday season!