From the Desk of The Nutty Nutritionist

Planning for a Healthy Holiday Season

In Holiday Eating Strategies on November 10, 2010 at 9:12 PM

November signals the start of a festive season that extends into the new year.  It’s a time when we celebrate family, friends, and cherished traditions.  And, if you are like most people, your holiday plans are long on sumptuous meals and delicious treats, yet short on time for relaxation, physical activity, and eating on a regular schedule. 

Why don’t you give yourself a gift this holiday season??  Make healthful choices that fit your lifestyle so you can do all the things you want to do.  First, write  a list of  all the holiday festivities you plan to participate in.  Second, plan a schedule, building in time for preparations AND for yourself.  Yes, shopping, cooking, baking, decorating, entertaining, and card writing are all important for a fulfilling holiday season, but so is finding time to meet your personal needs.   A workable schedule includes time to eat well, take “time outs”, and exercise–a well-fueled, fit, and relaxed shopper is a force to be reckoned with!!!  A healthy diet and regular exercise throughout the holiday season will help reduce the stress that often accompanies too many tasks and too few hours in the day.

When it comes to healthful holiday eating, a sensible approach works best.  Enjoy all foods, just don’t overdo it.  Here are some suggestions for enjoying holiday foods in moderation:

1.  Eat a snack, such as a piece of fruit or a lowfat yogurt, before heading to a party.  This way, you will be relaxed mingling with friends right from the start, without feeling the need to head straight for the food table.   Being too hungry when you arrive leads to an all-night feeding frenzy…

2.  Survey the choices available and take a small portion of foods that appeal to you the most.  One of the biggest challenges is the tremendous variety of foods and treats at holiday parties.  Your best friend baked 10 different kinds of Christmas cookies?  This doesn’t mean you have to try all 10 varieties in one sitting!  Limit your selection to one or two of the most interesting ones. 

3.  Setting a goal to maintain your weight during the holidays may be more realistic than trying to lose weight at this time.  All foods can fit into a healthy eating plan provided you control portion sizes.    Eating small, frequent meals will help keep your appetite at bay, making tempting, high calorie  foods easier to resist.

4.  Caloric balance is key to managing your weight at holiday time:  a larger, high calorie breakfast can be be balanced by a smaller, low calorie dinner OR a high calorie intake one day can be balanced by lower calorie intake the next.

Everyone eats more than usual during the holiday season—special recipes and treats saved for this time of year are meant to be enjoyed.  Not only is over-indulging a good reason to make time for exercise, but so is the fact that physical activity can improve your sense of well-being and help reduce your stress levels.  Since time is of the essence during this busy season, and you may be challenged to fit structured exercise into your day, try incorporating some fun activities into your holiday celebrations.  This will make it easier for yourself as well as those you love to be more active.  Here are some ideas:

1.  Have your office party or family reunion at a local ice skating or roller rink.

2.  Work up a sweat by briskly performing household cleaning tasks before or after hosting a party—not only will you burn calories, but you will get your chores done much faster (allowing more time for relaxation)

3.  Go caroling through the neighborhood during a dinner party—this will  help everyone get away from the food for a little while 😉

4.  Plan an active “theme” party for New Year’s Eve, such as a 70’s or 80’s dance party or country square dance.

5.  When shopping at the mall, take the stairs  rather than elevator or escalator.   Window shop before buying by arriving at the mall an hour before it opens to walk the perimeter.  Park your car at the far end of the parking lot and walk (you will also avoid the frustration of procuring a “good” parking spot in an overcrowded lot!!).

7.  Spread holiday cheer by offering to shovel the sidewalk of an elderly person.

Holidays are special and only occur once a year.  Take time to relax and enjoy them.  Set REALISTIC expectations and strive for balance among family, friends, work, entertaining, and play.  Don’t be discouraged if you splurge on a special meal, eat an extra helping of a rich dessert, or skip your workout for a day or two.  Just eat lighter and move more for a few days afterwards, and get back into your regular eating and exercise routines when you can.  It is supposed to be a season of celebration and joy, not guilt and frustration.

Happy Holidays!

  1. What a kill-joy you are Clancy girl You had to spoil my holiday fun. Actually I do try to watch what I eat over the holidays. Only thing I have trouble with is Christmas cookies. I am sure you guessed that. I like your idea of shoveling walks for the elderly. Are you going to come over and shovel mine seeing as my husband will have back surgery next Wednesday? If you do I’ll serve you Christmas cookies with the low fat hot chocolate. 🙂 Of course I am kidding you.

  2. um…i don’t think you exactly qualify as “elderly” Mrs. C! Prayers for your husband’s successful surgery next week. I would love to come over for homemade Christmas cookies and hot chocolate. Just say the word!! Thanks for reading my postings and putting a smile on my face ;-0

  3. Not elderly! Wow I feel really good right about now. Christmas cookies and hot chocolate ( low fat and sugar free kind :)) Anytime just give me a call. I would lover to entertain you, then you can shovel the snow. LOL Thanks for the good wishes for my husband.

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