Even for those who try to eat well and exercise regularly, the holiday season can be a challenging time, given the plethora of seasonal treats and the urge to cozy up under a blanket.
Everyone deserves a chance to kick back and relax, and the end of the year is a prime time for some well-earned extravagance. Luckily, a few smart tips can save even the most robust revelers from falling head over heels into a spiral of overindulgence.
Here are a handful of maneuvers to keep your holidays bright and your health in check:
Pre-Party Like a Pro
Everyone’s familiar with this November/December scenario: It’s been a long day, there’s a party tonight, and you can just snack on hors d’oeuvres and drinks in lieu of dinner. No big deal when done once or twice, but when it happens on a regular basis, it’s none too good to keep loading up on fried bites and sugary beverages.
However, you can mitigate the party munchies by prepping a quick pre-event meal, even if it’s just a bowl of steamed vegetables and grains or a heart-healthy piece of fruit and cup of oatmeal. The fuller you feel and the steadier your blood sugar, the less likely you will be to graze and guzzle all night long. When there’s one party after another to attend as the weeks roll on, those wise choices can add up.
Give Yourself the Gift of Fitness
It’s a common mindset that you should only be thinking of others during the holiday season, but taking care of yourself should remain a priority. So, add yourself to your own gift list and get a jump start on the winter blahs by signing up for weekly training sessions at the gym or a class membership before the party invitations start rolling in.
Load your calendar with one or two paid workouts a week to keep some balance in your life, trying out new things along the way to keep yourself mentally engaged. Since balance is the name of the game, a monetary investment to keep active can counter the effects of too much holiday season.
Step Up That Sugar Rush
Whether it’s a sense of nostalgia, extra time off from work or just a shared love of mint chip mochas, something about the season causes people to catch up with one another over hot beverages and sweet treats. Since most of these seasonal items are available for a limited time only, indulge when you want, but consider pairing them with activities that get you up and moving.
Instead of hanging out at a cafe, get those lattes to go and take a walk around the neighborhood while you catch up on life. In 20 minutes flat, you’ll likely cover a lot of conversational ground — and a mile or more to make your Fitbit proud. Better still, bundle up, fill some thermoses with cider or cocoa, and use a tool like Let’s Move! to plan a route around a local park or rec area.
Likewise, you can up the ante and suggest sharing a yoga class with a friend instead of meeting for a drink.
Swap Out Your Snacks
As the temperatures drop and the days grow shorter, sometimes all you want to do is to curl up on the couch and watch a favorite holiday movie or binge on the latest streaming obsession. No problem, just stock the pantry with smart snacks to keep you content during the downtime.
If you’re in need of something with crunch, reach for veggie sticks and hummus or popcorn made with olive oil. If your sweet tooth needs soothing, try some extra-dark chocolate and raw almonds. A quick switch from junk food standbys to more nutrient-dense bites can keep TV nights healthy and make for a more satisfying holiday season.