The holiday season is here, which means you’re probably already making plans to eat, drink and be merry. But, in a season that lasts for more than a month, it’s easy to go overboard.
Try these tips to make healthy choices this holiday season — without feeling like you’re missing out on the festivities.
Avoid the urge to overeat
The holidays tend to disrupt our routines, which can set us up for unhealthy eating habits. Kari Kooi, registered dietitian at Houston Methodist, recommends using these tips to keep your diet on track during the holidays.
- Indulge, but don’t overindulge. Keep portions in check by limiting starches to a quarter of your plate and eating your protein and vegetables first since they can help you feel full longer. And, don’t forget to eat at a relaxed pace — so you have a better chance of stopping when you’re full.
- Prioritize fellowship over food. Remember, conversation doesn’t have calories! Try to make the holidays a time to focus on family and friends, rather than just eating and drinking.
- Get some rest. Getting enough sleep helps improve your impulse control with food choices and decreases cravings. Even though you may be busier, try to get at least seven hours of sleep a night.
Make time to get moving
The holiday season spans two months, so there’s plenty of time to slide off the exercise bandwagon — especially as your schedule fills up with holiday shopping and parties.
“Working out during the holidays can be challenging. However, it might not seem as daunting if you break it down to just 30 minutes a day and focus on making sure it’s effective,” says Kristin Salinas, athletic trainer at Houston Methodist.
Salinas says an effective workout is one where you spend time in your target heart rate zone, which is 50 to 85% of your maximum heart rate. Calculate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. For instance, a 40-year-old’s target heart rate zone is 90 to 153 beats per minute.
“There are plenty of ways to fit in the types of moderate or vigorous activity that can elevate your heart rate,” explains Salinas. “Moderate activity can be anything from walking, swimming or cycling, while vigorous activity includes running or strength training.”
Don’t let your mental health shift to the back burner
Staying merry during throughout the holiday season isn’t always as easy as it sounds.
“There are many aspects of the holiday season that can add to people’s stress levels” says Dr. William Orme, psychologist at Houston Methodist. “Extra tasks and responsibilities, family conflict and comparison to past holidays are a few reasons people will feel overloaded or burdened.”
Keep your holidays as stress-free as possible by following this advice:
- Be flexible. Expecting perfection during the holiday season is unrealistic — and can lead to unnecessary stress and disappointment. Make sure you give yourself some flexibility to deal with issues that might arise.
- Don’t be afraid to say ‘no.’ If holiday festivities start to feel like obligations, don’t be afraid to decline invitations or requests for help. Also, it’s okay to change your ‘yes’ to a ‘no.’
- Take care of yourself, too. It’s easy to put others’ needs above your own during the holidays. But be sure you’re also practicing self-care. Check in with yourself frequently and consider asking: Am I too stressed? If the answer is yes, make time to take a break and rest.