Holiday Survival Tips

Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D. discusses tips for success to keep this holiday season balanced, enjoyable and most importantly delicious. 

With three children and a career, I’m always trying to find balance in my life, and even more so during the holiday season.  If I’m not careful, the extra shopping, cooking, and cleaning will sap my energy and throw my schedule way out of whack.

I’m not alone, of course. Families across the country are faced with too much food, not enough sleep, and a lack of time to exercise from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. Here are some tips to stay sane and healthy during the holidays.

Eat breakfast every day. Eat a balanced breakfast to prevent overdoing it later on.  Examples include: eggs scrambled with sliced mushrooms in a whole wheat pita pocket and a piece of fruit; whole grain cereal, low-fat milk, and 100% fruit juice; and oatmeal prepared with milk with ¼ cup California raisins and ¼ cup sliced almonds mixed in.

Plan. Everyday life happens between holiday celebrations, so don’t forget about planning simple, balanced weeknight meals to help you and your family eat right. Utilize ingredients, like mushrooms, that you already have on hand for party appetizers and incorporate them into nightly meals.

Take “Me Time.” It’s easy to run out of steam during the holidays. Set aside at least 30 minutes daily to sit quietly, read, or exercise. You’re not wasting time; you’re investing in your stamina.

Sleep on it. Make sleep a priority for yourself and your family. Chronic fatigue means poor food choices and higher caffeine intake, which, in turn, affects sleep. Most adults need about 7 to 8 hours a night, and kids require upwards of 10 hours.

Put it off.  I like to defer some get-togethers until January, when life calms down considerably. It’s OK to put off parties with friends and neighbors until the New Year so that you have more time to sleep, eat, and enjoy December.

Avoid all-out sacrifice. Forgoing the seasonal foods you love is no fun! Take very small portions of the foods you must have from the holiday table. The first few bites are always the best.

Snack strong.  When you don’t have time for sit-down meals, rely on snacks with protein and fiber to fill in food gaps. For example: Greek yogurt and fruit; a wrap filled with mushrooms, broccoli and other wholesome veggies; and a hard cooked egg and whole wheat crackers.

Don’t bank calories.  You can save up some calories during the day to spend on eggnog, mashed potatoes and gravy or a mixed drink. Just don’t arrive hungry to holiday gatherings.  When you’re famished, your willpower to eat healthy is diminished.

Shop on a full stomach. Stay focused at the mall by eating before you shop.The hungrier you get, the greater the chance for impulse purchases and for doing some serious dietary damage at the food court.

BYOA.  Do you overdo it on appetizers and then you’re too full for a meal? Me, too. Bring your own starter, such as stuffed mushrooms, fresh vegetables and low fat dip, or fruit, so that you know you’re munching on something light and healthy.

Minimize the damage. Eating “perfectly” is not the goal during the holidays. So you overate and had too one too many cocktails… Time to move forward. Get a good night’s sleep and do better tomorrow.

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