How to Stay Healthy During the Holidays

Stay Healthy and Feel Good with Your Choices

Holiday Survival Tips
Holidays are Meant for Family, Friends and Good Cheer. andresr E+/Getty Images

 The holidays are meant for quality time with family and friends, some indulgence, laughter and good cheer. Unfortunately, it has also been labeled a time of stress with power shopping, holiday road rage, and the push to have everything perfect. Then there is the struggle with eating "off-track" and fear of gaining fat during this time of year causing additional stress and anxiety. Let’s all take a deep breath, realize perfection doesn’t exist, food guilt isn’t necessary, and we are all going to enjoy some of the sweet and savory temptations during this holiday season. Enjoying the holidays will be more meaningful and special if we take on a more relaxed approach. As we gather together to laugh, sing and be merry, there are ways to stay healthy during the holidays and feel good with our choices.

Keep up your healthy foods between splurges

Holiday Survival Tips
Make sure your frig and pantry are stocked with healthy food. andresr E+/Getty Images

Enjoying a few splurges here and there during the holiday will not break your fitness bank.  Maintain your usual healthy food intake and make sure your refrigerator and pantry are well stocked with “on-track” nutrient-dense foods like lean meats, vegetables, fruits and whole grains. If you’re eating super clean at 90/10 (allowing 10% splurge), consider dropping down to 80/20 or 70/30 for the few days where traditional holiday temptations are calling your name. A healthy lifestyle is never about restriction but creating healthier habits.

Holiday Survival Tip:  Eat a healthy meal or snack before attending holiday functions. This will remove hunger pangs and the temptation to grab and gobble. Enjoy one or two of your favorite holiday foods in proper portion size and move on.

Portion control

Holiday Survival Tips
Maintain Proper Portions to Stay on Track. Rouzes E+/Getty Images

The holidays provide a bounty of beautiful foods and it will be important to adhere to proper portion size during your meals. Take a look at your palm and that is approximately the portion of food to be ladled on your plate. When available, choose a smaller plate for visual satiety and to help you maintain the right portion sizes overall.

Holiday Survival Tip: Eating the right portion size will help keep your calories within your normal daily range regardless if the food is a splurge. Remember calories in vs. energy out influences weight gain.

Carry healthy snacks shopping

Holiday Survival Tips
Carry Healthy Snacks to Eat While Shopping. Anna Bryukhanova E+/Getty Images

Part of the holiday fun is shopping for our loved ones and there is nothing worse than becoming famished during the process. This is the time you start running to the nearest food kiosk and before you know it have inhaled an extra-large bag of buttered pretzel bites. Very delicious going down but now the guilt of a diet mistake is ruining your shopping experience and skipping lunch has moved to the priority list instead of the gift purchases. Hours of holiday shopping call for healthy snack planning and stashing.

Holiday Survival Tip: Plan holiday shopping with health in mind. Stash healthy snacks in your purse or jacket pocket to prevent hunger mode. Great ideas would be sandwich bags filled with portioned out raw nuts and dried cranberries or portable healthy nutrition bars with minimal ingredients.

Don’t skip your workouts

Holiday Survival Tips
Don't Skip Your Workouts During the Holidays. JGI/Jamie Grill Blend Images/Getty Images

Holidays can be busy with additional shopping, cooking and social activities creating minimal wiggle room in our calendars. Maintaining your workout will be important during this time, however, to help manage additional caloric intake and stress reduction. Use the holiday as a motivator for your workout and quality “me” time to unwind, recharge the batteries and take a break from the hustle and bustle.

Holiday Survival Tip: Schedule your workout on the calendar and don’t skip. Pick a time that doesn’t conflict with holiday events even if that means going to bed earlier to wake up early to exercise.

Drink plenty of water

Holiday Survival Tips
Drink Plenty of Water to Stay Hydrated and Flush Toxins. Daniel Allan Cultura/Getty Images

It is easy to get caught up in holiday moments where wine and spirits are pouring, water is forgotten, and dehydration sneaks up on you. Thirst while shopping is also a concern. Holiday foods are typically heavily salted and it will be important to keep our body flushed and in electrolyte balance. Consider the human body is over 60% water and this fact alone should explain our natural need to maintain hydration.

Holiday Survival Tip: Carry a water bottle to holiday events or when out shopping. Be mindful to drink water several times throughout holiday celebrations to flush out toxins and maintain a well-hydrated body.

Limit alcohol

Holiday Survival Tips
Limit Alcohol During the Holidays. Sofie Delauw Cultura/Getty Images

 Alcohol is a big part of holiday celebrations and can be enjoyed smart by keeping it to a minimum and drinking water between cocktails. Drinking too much is never a fun time and can easily happen especially if alcohol has been reduced or eliminated from your healthy lifestyle. You would be more susceptible to alcohol sensitivity and this would bring your party to a complete halt, several miserable visits to the bathroom, and the remainder of your time lying on the sofa eating saltine crackers.

Holiday Survival Tip:  Keep alcohol to a minimum (no more than 2 drinks) or avoid it all together. Wise alcohol consumers will drink 8 ounces of water for every 3 ounces of booze to dilute and flush the body of toxins.

Don't stress, this is about togetherness and family

Holiday Survival Tips
Don't Stress the Small Stuff During the Holidays. Rich Legg E+/Getty Images

We have enough stress in our daily lives to allow it to ruin our holiday season. Stress stimulates cortisol release and is linked to weight gain. This fact alone should send us to the meditation mat with deep breathing focus or the gym for some “cheap man’s therapy”.  Maintaining a stress-free holiday should be our goal and taking to heart the reason for the season should help keep it to a minimum.

Holiday Survival Tip: Let go of stress during the holiday and realize it’s a time meant for togetherness, family, friends, and meaningful moments. Forget all the hectic stuff, grab a board game and have some fun.

Don't be hard on yourself

Holiday Survival Tips
Cut Yourself Some Slack During the Holidays. David Ryle Stone/Getty Images

We tend to be hardest on ourselves with our bodies, fitness and really everything involving our life. You are following a fitness plan and feel pretty good but now the holidays are bringing you doom and gloom instead of joy. Your holiday thoughts race to getting fat, over-eating and each day those feelings swell to overwhelming heights. The first step is letting go of unrealistic feelings and expectations unattainable by anyone. Perfection doesn’t exist and only progress as we adopt healthy lifestyles.

Holiday Survival Tip: Cut yourself some slack this holiday and gift yourself permission to relax, enjoy some treats, and understand it isn’t going to derail all your positive efforts.


National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), HOLIDAY EATING: ALCOHOL, APPETIZERS, AND DESSERTS! OH MY!, Emily Bailey, 11/17/15

National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), SIMPLE NUTRITIONAL STRATEGIES – PART 1, Fabio Comana MS, MA, NASM-CPT, CES, PES, 12/24/13

National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), RELAXATION TECHNIQUES FOR THE HOLIDAY SEASON, Brian Sutton MS, MA, PES, CES, NASM-CPT, 12/12/13

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