Give your family and yourself the gift of good health this holiday season by using strategies to incorporate exercise and good nutrition into the festivities.
Holiday shopping, spending money, family obligations, wrapping gifts, children’s activities, church programs, decorating, cooking and traveling can all can be stressful and drain your energy. As Charlie Brown says, “AAAAAHHHHH!”
So, what recourse do we have against the holiday onslaught? Create and find ways to stay active and make good nutritional choices in each and every holiday setting.
Physical Activity That’s Perfect for the Holidays
There is plenty of competition for our time during the Christmas season. If you have not been very active during the fall, you may not think it’s the best time to increase your activity level. However, medical research has shown that even moderate bouts of consistent exercise can have a significant impact on our overall health status. Here are some seasonal and fun ways to increase activity during the holidays:
The Mall Walk
Start each of your shopping trips with a 15-20 minute walk around the parking lot or mall.
While doing holiday decorating or cleaning, turn on your favorite holiday music and do 5-10 minutes of “light” calisthenics. Examples include body weight squats with dumbells in your hands, modified push-ups on the kitchen countertop, and high-knee marching while doing dumbell bicep curls.
Take the family to a Christmas tree farm and hike for 30-60 minutes looking for the “perfect” tree. If you already have your tree, take the family to a park to play games, nature hike, or play on playground equipment. When weather permits, plan a family sledding, skiing, or snowman-building afternoon.
Play family Charades instead of board games. If the weather is right, organize a family and friends touch football game for an afternoon.
Sing for Good Health
Plan a family or group caroling afternoon or evening around the neighborhood, local senior center, or nursing home.
Gifts to Encourage Activity
Purchase a new fitness DVD to encourage a time commitment for regular exercise.
Volunteer for Heavy Lifting
Volunteer to be in a church or community gift-donation program and request the most active job (loading/unloading gifts from cars or trucks, sorting gifts and walking them to the appropriate area, be a delivery person taking gifts to homes, etc.).
Healthy Nutrition for the Holidays
From carving the Thanksgiving turkey and cutting pumpkin pie to the New Year’s Eve buffet and champagne toast at midnight, the six weeks of the holidays can be a daunting nutritional challenge.
As a result, many people begin the year with a potentially significant weight gain on top of the pounds they didn’t lose in the summer and fall. If a person has enough of these cycles over the years, they may experience the phenomenon known to dieticians as “creeping obesity.” To prevent this negative cycle the following tips may help:
Keep normal days normal. On the days when there are no holiday activities, eat extra healthy because holiday “treat” days will be coming.
Avoid skipping meals, especially on holiday party days, so over-eating is not a temptation.
When hosting an event, don’t make food the focal point. Balance holiday dishes and treats with group activities like neighborhood caroling, in-door/outdoor games, or read holiday stories and have each person “act out” a character in the story.
Prioritize & Sample
Prioritize which holiday treats you really want, then enjoy 1-2 “small” sampling portion.
Be aware large gatherings with buffet style eating can create the temptation to over eat. For portion control, fill on“normal size” plate once for the evening.
Substitute juice spritzers or club soda with fruit for high calorie sugary sodas or holiday drinks. Make a lower-calorie version of your favorite holiday recipes. Substitute applesauce for oils in baked goods like cookies, muffins and cakes. Reduce sugars in recipes by 25% by adding more vanilla, cinnamon or nutmeg to increase flavor. Replace whole cream with evaporated skim milk in sauces, casseroles, and desserts.
When bringing food to family and friends’ parties, focus on healthy, low-calorie offerings like vegetable and fruit platters, baked tortilla/pita chips and veggie salsa, fruit/veggie fondue, or a fruit-based holiday dessert recipe.
Create a “healthy” snack supply at your desk or work space with Ziploc bags of veggies, fruit, nuts, whole grain crackers, cubed cheese, granola, trail mix and yogurt. Having healthy choices at your fingertips helps avoid the lounge or work areas where holiday treats are a day long temptation.
Sharing the gift of good health with family and friends can be a challenge during the holiday season. However, with some thought and preparation, it can be accomlplished in a festive and fun way while giving to others.
We have to keep our own cup “full” to be able to fill up someone else’s cup. It is after all the “Reason for the Season.”
“That God so loved the world He Gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have life everlasting.” ~ John 3:16
Looking to make 2016 your healthiest yet? Mercy Health & Fitness Center can help. Click here to learn more >>