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A healthful lifestyle for the holidays

December 06, 2011|Lynn Little

It is difficult to maintain a healthful lifestyle during the hectic holiday season. Planning for the challenges helps prevent seasonal stress and weight gain.

Make exercise a priority now so that you will burn extra holiday calories, fight off stress and avoid the New Year rush at the gym.    

Even if you do most of your holiday shopping online or by catalog, you will probably find yourself at the mall. Use the shopping time to your advantage:

 Park and walk. Park as far from the mall entrance as possible. You will save time by not circling the parking lot for a good spot and you will get some exercise walking from your car.

 Take a walk around the mall before and/or after shopping.

 Choose the stairs or walk the escalator instead of taking the elevator.

 Avoid food court temptations by stashing healthful snacks in your purse.

However you celebrate the season, it usually involves at least one large family meal.  Plan holiday meals, looking for low-fat recipes for some of your holiday favorites. Take moderate portions of the foods you like. If you have planned well, there should be low-fat items on the table. Push away from the table before you feel full. Quality time with family and loved ones will be more memorable than gorging on treats.  

If leftovers and extra holiday treats keep you heading for the kitchen, take action:  

  •  Freeze leftovers in single servings for lunches/quick dinners.
  •  Take extra desserts to work to share with co-workers.
  •  Share food with an elderly neighbor.
  •  Invite friends for a post-holiday potluck dinner.
  • Holiday parties don't have to sabotage your healthful habits. Decide which social events you will attend. If you go to the gatherings where you feel comfortable and will enjoy the company of other guests, then you will spend more time socializing rather than eating. Plan to take along a healthy dish.   
  •  Bring along a heart-healthy appetizer like veggies and low-fat dip or a light dessert like angel food cake.
  •  Fill up on low-calorie beverages like diet soda or club soda with a twist of lime instead of high-calorie alcoholic drinks and eggnog.
  •  Fill your plate with small servings of your favorite foods. Wait at least 10 minutes before going back for seconds to be sure you are still hungry.

Make new traditions that emphasize healthful choices. Gather a group of friends to walk the neighborhood singing holiday carols. Experiment with low-fat modifications to your family's favorite recipes. If you are overwhelmed with holiday food gifts, share with neighbors. Spend a few hours helping out at a soup kitchen or food bank.  

Take time to reflect on your personal reason for the season. Use the last week of the year to refocus, recommit and remember what you love about the holiday season. Greet the new year with no regrets, no guilt and no diets.



Lynn Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with University of Maryland Extension in Washington County.

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