Shannon’s Healthy Holiday Hacks

Monday, Dec 05, 2016
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It’s easy to think healthy and holidays don’t belong in the same sentence, but it depends on your perspective of healthy. Healthy doesn’t mean weight loss, deprivation at a holiday party, or sacrificing time with family to work off a holiday meal on the treadmill. Healthy can be as simple as deciding to make small decisions each day that will carry you through the holiday season without guilt or additional pounds.

With more decadent food and less time for exercise, it can be challenging to stay in a healthy rhythm. Nonetheless, focusing on what you can control, not what you can’t, is a healthy holiday mentality. Here are 8 tips to help you roll into the New Year happy and healthy.

  1. Eat breakfast. The holidays are not a time to skip the most important meal of the day. Most holiday functions are in the evenings or weekends so breakfast is usually an easier meal to control. Aim for a balance of protein, whole grains and fruits and veggies. Skip the donuts or other tempting pastries and put your best foot forward with breakfast.
  2. Set realistic expectations and goals. The holidays are NOT a time for drastic measures, dieting or establishing some newfangled exercise routine. If we keep our goals realistic, attainable and still slightly challenging, we can have a sense of satisfaction by achieving most of our goals instead of feeling like failures when our goals weren’t realistic in the first place.
  3. Focus on what you can add in, not take away. So many of us contemplate deprivation during this time of year, but that typically leaves us miserable and eventually caving. When we cave, it’s usually not pretty- the whole plate of cookies, pint of eggnog, whatever your vice may be- it’s best to have a little and then ADD in some options you know are healthy. For example, add a piece of fruit (Medjool date, anyone?) to breakfast and a vegetable at every snack. You’ll feel fuller and it’s always nice to think about adding foods than taking away.
  4. Ask yourself “Do I really want this?”...followed by “Can I have this all the time?” I used to recommend just the first question, but more often than not, we want that baked good or holiday cocktail. So dig a little deeper to examine if the treat in question is often available. Grandma’s special cookies made only on Christmas Eve, Aunt Ruthie’s homemade eggnog or Uncle Bob’s Fried Turkey - those sound like timely indulgences meant to be enjoyed with friends and family. Just remember tip #3!
  5. Make a lap. This actually has two meanings. One, when at a party or event, make a lap around the spread before diving in. By taking it all in, it helps you decide tip #4 better and you can make a game plan. Two, take a few extra steps during your day- whether it’s taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking at the end of the parking lot or committing to sticking with your weekly spin class- look for ways each day to move a few extra minutes.
  6. When mingling at a party, position yourself away from the food and the bar. We are much more likely to order another drink and definitely keep noshing on food (sometimes straight from the serving dish- you know it’s true) when we’re near the spread. If there’s finger foods, all the more reason to claim a seat far away from the meatballs and creampuffs.
  7. Let’s talk drinks. Now’s a good time to reread tip #2 on realistic goals. Holiday celebrations inherently bring libations of all sorts. From premixed fruity cocktails, sangrias or even a margarita machine- all of these are flavorful but also packed with added sugars. Less is more with drink ingredients and choosing water, club soda or loading up on fresh fruit garnishes are healthier options for cocktails. Whether choosing beer, wine or a cocktail, I always recommend ordering a glass of water with every drink.
  8. Control the menu. Maintaining some of the control, even if it’s just a side dish at a potluck is a simple step to a healthier holiday celebration.  Signing up to bring a salad loaded with nourishing ingredients, baked goods with better ingredients and no refined sugars or ordering a fruit and vegetable tray (hello easy weekday snacks if there’s leftovers!) are simple ways to bring some healthy to your holidays.

Although these tips are especially helpful in the holidays, applying these concepts year round is ideal. Always aim for realistic health and nutrition goals, make breakfast a priority and focus on adding in healthy foods (instead of taking away) to help set you up for nutrition success! Enjoy your holidays and feel confident that every small healthy decision counts.

Natural Delights Guest Blogger - Shannon Garcia

Shannon Garcia is a registered dietitian and foodie with a master's degree in nutrition. She is an experienced recipe developer, media spokesperson and woman behind KISS in the Kitchen, the food and nutrition blog all about keeping it simple. Her dad always told her to "KISS it- Keep it simple, Shannon"; and she strives to incorporate this philosophy in her work. She is also the founder and owner of Lone Star Nutrition, LLC, a nutrition private practice in San Antonio, Texas focusing on pediatric and family nutrition.