The holidays can be exciting yet stressful as we travel to see family and friends and search for the perfect gifts. Food unfortunately can add stress as we attempt to plan nutritious meals, attend holiday parties, and bake holiday treats. Here are a few tips for reducing stress and staying healthy this holiday season.
1. Move More: the holidays are a perfect time to get in your steps and burn some extra calories while de-stressing. Whether you are at work, home, or out shopping you can still move around.
a. Listen to music and dance while you cook or clean the house.
b. Spend time with family by walking together after a meal or playing a lively family game.
c. Walk around the office or outside with co-workers during lunch.
d. Park in the back of the parking lot or do some laps around the mall or grocery store.
2. Pack Snacks: Eat regularly throughout the day. Even if you are planning a large dinner, still plan to eat breakfast and lunch. Eating meals and snacks regularly will prevent excess calorie intake at dinner. Some snack ideas include: peanut butter and celery, cottage cheese and grapes, yogurt with berries, an apple or banana with nut butter, seasonal fruits, nuts, veggie sticks and dip, turkey on a whole wheat wrap, smoothie, etc.
3. Plan Ahead: If you know there will be extra holiday treats around the office or at your house, plan accordingly. Practice moderation and plan to enjoy one treat or bring along healthy snacks to curb your cravings. Choose one-time treats that you can only get over the holidays rather than over eating treats that you can get year-round. Or promise to make those once-a-year treats during a different month to avoid over indulging this month.
4. Start Small: You can always go back for seconds if you are still hungry so start with reasonable portions. Try choosing one lean protein (turkey, chicken, fish) and one starch first and then filling the rest of your plate with veggies. Eat slowly and if you are still hungry 15 min later then you get seconds or dessert. If you are worried about food waste, there are many fun ways to get creative with leftovers!
5. Eat Slower: Many tend to over-eat because they eat too quickly. Give your stomach enough time to realize that you have started eating before reaching for seconds. Try putting your fork down between bites or engaging in conversation to slow down your meal and enjoy the food. Aim to feel full but not stuffed after meals.
6. Stay Hydrated: Holiday cocktails are high in sugar and can increase your risk of dehydration. Drink alcohol in moderation and remember to drink water. Staying hydrated will help you feel good and look good (for those holiday pictures!).
7. Relax: So you ate too much, it is okay. It is typical to gain a pound or two over the holidays. Feeling guilty about it will often lead to even more unhealthy behaviors. Try to move around after you eat and then get back on track as soon as you can.
Overall, listen to your body. If you are hungry, eat. If you are full, stop eating. It sounds easy but it takes practice to master mindful eating behaviors. Even if you only make one healthy change this season, that is a success. Remember what worked for you this season and try to repeat or expand on it next holiday season.
Jillian Schoening MS, RD, LDN
If you want more information or one-on-one counseling, please contact my office at 919-370-7187 or firstname.lastname@example.org.