Want to Enjoy the Holidays in Good Shape? Use These 8 Holiday Health Hacks

Want to Enjoy the Holidays in Good Shape? Use These 8 Holiday Health Hacks

The holiday season is upon us! For many people, this season can offer some challenges to a healthy lifestyle. Schedules often become crowded and we are bombarded by holiday-themed foods nearly everywhere we turn. 

Let’s face it, during the fall and winter season we tend to gather with loved ones and celebrate with food. The pandemic has made the limited and safe social and family gatherings even more of a priority this year. Here are some of our nutrition experts’ favorite tips to support a delicious and joyful season. 

  1. Don’t skip meals to justify over-indulging at a later time. Use snacks to manage your appetite and avoid “saving” up for the big feast. Using healthy snacks around holiday events can help you make better food decisions. 
  2. Stay hydrated. In general, staying hydrated is always a good idea! You can avoid overeating and that “too stuffed to move” sensation by making sure you have something to sip on during your meal. This can slow your pace and help with satiety (feeling full). Keep an eye on calorie-dense beverages such as holiday cocktails, hot chocolate and egg nog. No need to avoid these delicious beverages all together, just be mindful of what, and how much you are drinking.
  3. Mindful eating. The holidays are a wonderful time to step back and reflect on fond memories, loved ones, and consider what you are grateful for. In fact, thinking about what we are most thankful for has been demonstrated to be one of the most impactful things you can do to improve health and quality of life. Believe it or not, this concept can be applied to our food as well. Simply being mindful of our food choices can make a positive impact on what we choose and ultimately our health.
  4. Lifestyle eating. We often look at holidays and vacations as times where we get to “cheat” on our diet. This might mean we break the normal, healthy routine we usually follow. Sometimes the desire to “cheat” can shed light on the unrealistic nature of the “rules” we have set for ourselves. When we have chosen an eating pattern that supports our lifestyle, there is no need to “cheat” or break “rules.” We allow ourselves to eat in a way that supports a healthy lifestyle. This means foods you love can be included in balanced moderation.
  5. Don’t forget the vegetables! Try prioritizing vegetables this holiday season. From roasted brussels sprouts to your uncle’s famous green bean casserole, try filling half your plate with non-starchy vegetables. Extra points for leafy greens!
  6. Get moving! Plan to make time for some physical activity. Get your friends and family to accompany you on a holiday stroll. A bit of exercise is a great way to foster relationships, improve your health and maintain brain function.
  7. Enjoy! Holiday time is meant for us to enjoy ourselves, friends and family. Although it’s important to be mindful of your food choices, don’t be so hard on yourself. At the end of the day, just focus on moderation and prioritizing your favorites. Reducing stress is just as important as the foods we eat. So get out there and have a great holiday!
  8. Food substitutions and adjustments. The Lifestyle Medicine team of dietitians put together some helpful food substitutions and adjustments for you to consider during this holiday season.
Instead of….Try…
MayonnaiseLight mayonnaise
ButterApplesauce, fruit puree or switch to olive or avocado oil
CheeseReduced fat cheese
Cream cheese1/3 less fat cream cheese
Whole milkReduced fat milk
Whipping creamFat-free whipped topping
Egg2 egg whites or egg substitute
CreamButtermilk, 2% milk or coconut milk
Sour creamPlain Greek yogurt or fat-free sour cream
SaltConsider reducing salt and using more fresh herbs and spices to add flavor

The Lifestyle Medicine team at Valley specializes in helping people prevent, treat and even reverse disease by replacing unhealthy behaviors with healthy ones. Learn more about Lifestyle Medicine, its programs and services at valleymed.org/fitness.

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Valley Medical Center's Marketing and Community Outreach Office