Healthy habits for the holidays

FRANKLIN LIVING– Ah, the holidays. We in the South know how to do them like no one else. The savory dishes, football games in front of the TV, enjoying time with friends and family – there is no merrier time of year. And there is no time of year when we are more likely to forget to maintain our healthy eating and exercise habits. There is a reason most of us start the New Year with a resolution to lose weight and get healthy. The following are just a few tips to help you make wiser eating choices and stay a little healthier during this wonderful season.

Think about people, not food!

Concentrate on socializing and having fun. Spend time talking and reminiscing with family and friends. Think about all that you are celebrating and not just how great the food is.

Don’t arrive on an empty stomach.

A popular strategy for holiday eating is to skip breakfast and or lunch and “save” those calories for dinner or a night-time party. What this actually can result in is overeating, and we wind up consuming more calories than we would if we had eaten beforehand.

Offer to bring a healthy dish.

Offering to bring a healthy dish will give you a good option, and your host or hostess will be grateful. Some examples of healthy holiday choices are turkey breast, tossed salad, steamed veggies, fresh fruit, plain rice or plain potatoes.

Practice “less is more.”

Moderation is key. Instead of having a taste of all 10 desserts, six dips and four versions of cornbread dressing, pick one from each category and choose small portions of each. If possible, choose a smaller plate or utensils. Remember to eat slowly as well. We have all learned that it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to get the message from your stomach that you are full, so take small bites and chew slowly.

Make protein the star.

When faced with the plethora of chips, dips and finger food platters, one way to actually fill up and feel satisfied when faced with all those endless little bites is to make protein one of your plate’s primary features. Higher protein diets tend to make you more satisfied and less likely to overeat. So opt for the proteins, then add the side dishes of fresh fruits and veggies, grains or finger foods.

Eat what you love.

It is very easy for us to eat something just because it is there, and with the bounties we serve at holiday gatherings, this is a common pitfall. Focus on only eating the foods that you really enjoy, and skip the foods that you are “meh” about. Don’t eat or drink something just because it’s a “holiday food.” If you don’t enjoy eggnog, skip it.

Make physical activity a priority the day of.

If your exercise routine feels tedious and boring already, you won’t get excited about doing it when you are overbooked, tired and overworked. Instead, think about finding new fun ways to get moving. Try a new workout class or video and bring a friend or family member. Organize a family activity like a hike or even a scavenger hunt.

Stock up on sleep.

First of all, it isn’t effective to bank sleep during the week in preparation for late nights out on the weekend. It is helpful to make getting enough sleep a priority. Adequate sleep is associated with better stress management abilities and a healthy balance of hunger and satiety hormones. Less than seven to nine hours of sleep a night is considered inadequate and can lead to changes in mood and appetite.

Finally, don’t let the guilt get to you.

We all have that post-holiday guilt over our unhealthy slip-ups, but try not to get too worked up. Concentrate on this time of relaxation and celebration. Don’t let a slip become a fall. If you make unhealthy choices, just try to get back to your healthy habits as soon as possible.


Sherry Jolley is CEO at Red Bay Hospital.

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