Nutrition Expert- Saba Shaikh, Practicing Clinical Nutritionist, Mumbai.
There’s lots to love about the holiday season. Preparing and eating large, elaborate meals and desserts, mingling with the holiday crowds, and spending time with friends and loved ones are just a few of the festivities that make the holidays so great. Of course, the same things that make the holidays so enjoyable can also get in the way of your health. So how do you stay healthy during the holidays?
The holiday season doesn’t have to be a vacation from good health. With a little effort and planning you can avoid the health pitfalls. Here are tips to stay healthy during the holidays.
When you’re eating, sit back and allow yourself to truly enjoy your favorite holiday flavors. Pay attention to the taste, aroma and texture of the foods. When the attention shifts from your body, redirect it back to your internal fullness and satisfaction cues.
Water accounts for 60% of our body’s total weight and we need to stay hydrated in order to maintain this ratio. Water is also necessary for several bodily functions, including maintaining our cell’s fluids and delivering nutrients. Drink plain or infused H2O as often as you can throughout the day. Limit your intake of high-calorie drinks.
Choose healthy substitutes
With a few simple diet tweaks, you can indulge in your favorite holiday foods without packing serious pounds. For instance, replace sour cream with greek yogurt in your favorite holiday recipes. Trade mashed potato with mashed sweet potato. And swap heavy dips like blue cheese dip and spinach and artichoke dip with these healthy bean-based dips and homemade hummus. In addition, choose broth-based soups over heavy, cream-based ones. And opt for lighter cheeses like cottage cheese, soft goat cheese and feta cheese instead of calorie-dense blue cheese, cream cheese or reduced-fat cheddar cheese. Additionally, load up on roasted veggies and lightly-dressed salads before reaching for ham or green bean casserole. You can also sneak in more vegetables in your diet by having a smoothie for breakfast or a snack.
Eat regularly — and often
If you skip a meal, sampling the cookies that your colleague brought is almost guaranteed. Eat a healthy breakfast within an hour or two of waking and plan to eat something about every four hours thereafter.
If your breakfast is at 8:00 a.m., then lunch should be around noon. Better yet have a small, healthy snack to tide you over between breakfast and lunch. This will minimize your risk of over-eating or of making poor choices when lunchtime comes around. Do the same thing between lunch and dinner.
Reinvent your holiday workout
It might be a bit challenging to make time for a sweat sesh when your social calendar and to-do lists are jam-packed. In order to stay motivated, plan your workout regimen around your holiday schedule. Instead of the usual 30-minute routine, do a 15-minute workout in the morning and evening or go for a 10-minute walk twice daily. The aim is to split your physical activity into smaller, more manageable time intervals. If you don’t have time to hit the gym, workout in the comfort of your home with the help of online tutorials and fitness apps.
Boost your immune system
Eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables is one of the best things you can do to bolster your immune system. This will ensure you’re getting some top immune-boosting nutrients, including vitamin C and vitamin A. Eating a handful of nuts and seeds daily is also a great way to fight illness as they contain immune-boosting minerals such as zinc and selenium. Lastly, don’t forget to stay hydrated and get proper rest, lack of sleep can weaken your immune system.
Make time for self-care
Don’t let the holiday madness take a toll on your mental and emotional health. Whether you’re caught up in cooking, holiday shopping or socializing, don’t put your needs on the back burner. Take some time off to relax and unwind, go for a walk, meditate, watch your favorite movie or read a good book, do at least one thing every day that makes you truly happy. In addition, get adequate sleep. Shortchanging your sleep can alter your hormone levels in a way that encourages weight gain and cravings for less healthy food. Try to get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep on most nights.
Relax and enjoy!
Emotional eating tends to increase over the holidays, so you might try incorporating relaxation techniques into your day to help manage stress. Even something as simple as taking three deep, mindful breaths can help reset your mood.
It’s also more difficult to eat well if you feel deprived by your current eating plan. Use these tactics to make healthy lifestyle changes instead of trying to stick to any particular type of ‘diet.’ Trust that these tips will help you stay on track and allow you to focus on the most important part of the holidays — relaxing and enjoying the festivities with your family and friends.