We’ve all been there. Starting at Thanksgiving (or maybe even Halloween?) and going straight through New Year’s, you’re faced with rich food, parties, and irregular schedules that can wreak havoc on your health.
Even if you consider yourself healthy, a slice (or two) of pumpkin pie for breakfast, late night snacking on leftovers, skimping on high-quality rest, and forgoing the gym all make for a weakened immune system or an exacerbated chronic condition.
Tips for keeping your diet balanced during the holidays
We know it’s not easy to wave away all the goodies, but you can survive the holiday season without making a serious dent in your health if you follow some simple strategies.
If you’re attending a nighttime event, eat more lightly during the day; and when it comes time to pick and choose party foods, stick to small samples of your favorites. For example, if you go ahead and enjoy a cookie, you’ll be less likely to eat an entire sleeve of Oreos at home later.
Also, prioritize according to your preference. If the idea of drinking a trendy craft cocktail is more appealing than cake to you, don’t do both. Just indulge in a single treat.
Approach the buffet table with caution. Go heavy on the crudites, light on the dip, and don’t shy away from a slice of turkey or ham, just place it in the context of whatever else you’re eating. As you eat, be conscious of how full you feel. Remember the discomfort when you’ve overdone it in the past, and you’ll be less likely to overindulge.
It’s easy to forget how much you’re eating when you’re in the midst of socializing. Try to be aware of what you eat by making a pact with yourself to visit the food table just once, for example, or use an appetizer plate instead of a full-sized dinner plate. A couple of glasses of water pre-party can help you feel full, in addition to keeping you hydrated, which is always a good thing.
Staying active over the holidays
Being physically active is key to maintaining energy and supports your immune system significantly. Still, it’s easy to say to yourself that you’ll exercise tomorrow.
In order to stay active over the winter, we advise keeping things interesting with your workouts. This year we’re feeling more cooped up than ever, due to increased isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get creative about exercise.
Keep moving by subscribing to an online workout series or purchasing a stationary exercise bicycle. Enlist an exercise buddy and run together so you each stay accountable. Remember too, that you can work up a sweat by simply turning on the music and dancing for 30 minutes. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does need to happen.
What if I’m managing a chronic condition?
If you live with a chronic condition such as diabetes or hypertension, it’s even more critical to keep on top of monitoring your blood sugar levels and blood pressure, for example. Making the right health choices over two months of holiday merriment means you won’t end up in the hospital with a health crisis.
Planning your holidays, shopping, and enjoying festive activities may cause you to question if it makes any difference to skip your medication “just this once.” Unfortunately, when you get out of the habit of taking needed medication, you’re putting yourself at more risk than you may realize.
Keep to your medication schedule and use your phone to help remind you when it’s time for a dose.
A final caution: Gastrointestinal infections
GI infections make a special appearance during the holiday season. Forgo the nasty results of infections from food-borne illnesses by:
- Religiously using a meat thermometer when cooking
- Cooking stuffing in a separate baking dish, not in the turkey
- Never leaving leftovers sitting out unrefrigerated for longer than two hours
- Heating leftovers to 165 degrees
- Sticking to pasteurized beverages
- Eating only fully baked cookies (no raw dough!)
Try not to view the holidays as something you have no control over. With forethought, you can remain active and healthy through New Year’s Day and beyond.