Strategies for Healthy Holidays
By Diane McIlhon, RDN, LD at MercyOne
Instead of seeing the holiday season as a reason to break from your wellness goals, use this time of year as an opportunity to forge new habits or strengthen the practices you have in place.
Wellness is all-encompassing. It isn’t just about eating healthy and exercising; it’s also about managing stress, staying engaged and prioritizing yourself. While this may seem overwhelming – especially during the holiday season – remember that you don’t have to be perfect or do everything at once.
Instead of seeing the season as a reason to break from your wellness goals, use this time of year as an opportunity to forge new habits or strengthen the practices you have in place. The strategies below will help you take control of your wellness during the holidays and allow you to truly enjoy time with loved ones and feel fulfilled this season.
Set Realistic Goals. Even as schedules fill with fun events, it’s important to honor your non-holiday wellness routine. It’s easy to make excuses, but the discipline will only make the season more enjoyable because you’ll be feeling your best.
It’s also important to remember that wellness isn’t “all or nothing.” If you miss a day of exercise or indulge in a special dessert, treat the next day as a fresh start. Even picking one wellness strategy to focus on is a step in the right direction.
Be in the Moment. During the holiday season, it’s easy to get focused on your “to-do” list or the next event. Remember to take a breath! Taking a deep breath is the perfect pause to soak in the senses and be actively aware of the present.
Exercise. Staying active is a top priority! It keeps your calories burning and helps with stress management. Adults should get 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week, which could be broken down to 30 minutes a day. If that seems overwhelming, take three 10-minute breaks for exercise each day.
Sleep. A good night’s sleep is foundational to your wellness. Getting six to 10 hours each night is important in keeping your immune system strong, feeling productive and managing stress. Exercising, eating healthy and limiting your “to-do” list can all help you sleep better.
Mindful Eating. Taking time for a moment of gratitude before a meal – reflecting on the farmers who provided the food and those you’re sharing the meal with – is the perfect start to a mindful meal. Throughout the meal, slow down and savor the food by engaging your senses in each bite.
In addition to slowing down, other achievable healthy eating habits include skipping second servings, using a smaller plate and limiting taste testing if you’ll be cooking. And be mindful of the extra calories and sugars in beverages – pop, alcohol and sports drinks!
If you’re worried about food options at holiday gatherings, offer to bring a dish that fits within your goals. You can also eat beforehand or fill your plate with vegetables and protein.
For additional strategies on mindful eating, read this Mindful Holiday Meals article.