Strategies for Healthy Holiday Eating

It’s here again, that time of year when we open our homes to families and our tummies to calories–lots of them.  And I would be remiss if I didn’t publish my annual healthy holidays article for all my wonderful blog readers!  So here we go.

There are six weeks of holiday festivities ahead of us.  Ugh!  But being mindful of our wellness is especially important to baby boomers and older adults, given the spike in heart attacks and stroke this time of year.  And with our 2021 holidays comes the added stress of COVID 19.  I’m sure many of us know families who have lost loved ones over the past year and a half, and others who are still suffering from the aftermath of the disease.  My family is Italian, so there’ll be lots of hugs this holiday season, but stay safe!  Follow the guidance of local health professionals and use safe practices in terms of distancing, masking, vaccinations, etc.

And while you may be tempted to throw in the towel on your health until sometime in January, it’s important to keep the end-game in mind: making satisfying food choices that support lifelong habits.  These decisions also help support a healthy immune system, so vital these days.

So don’t be too rigid (this season does really come only once a year, and eating is part of the holiday tradition), but don’t give in to the never-ending temptations either.

Here are a few strategies to help you get through the next few weeks with wellness in mind:

1)  Move!  Get up and walk, do squats, or take the dog out–at least once an hour.  My Fitbit reminds me to stand and get in some steps throughout the day; it’s a handy reminder not to sit too long, which tells your body to get ready for shutdown.  Too much sedentary time leads to an increased risk of cancer, dementia, obesity, depression, heart disease, diabetes, back pain, and early death.  Not exactly the wish list you want to pass on to Santa this year. 

2)  Sleep.  I know it sounds trite, but 7 – 8 hours of sleep really are critical.  Not enough sleep is linked with increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, depression, increased inflammation, and decreased immune function.

3)  Try to keep your normal routines.  If you usually walk 20 minutes 5 days a week, continue with this pattern for the next few weeks.  If you get up early for your special morning routine, don’t skip too many days.  Healthy habits can help pull you through the upcoming onslaught of yummy temptations and second helpings.

4)  Keep things in perspective.  Don’t expect perfection from yourself during this time.  Think of healthy food choices and exercise as a way to keep your energy level up and insure longterm health.  

5)  Bring your own healthy food choices to dinners and potlucks.  At least there’ll be one item you can eat and enjoy!

6)  Eat a healthful snack and drink a large glass of water before the feast so you won’t feel uncontrollably famished.  

7)  Serve yourself on a slightly smaller plate, 9″ – 10″.  Studies show we tend to fill up our plates and eat accordingly.  If you start with a smaller plate, it “looks” like more food, and you’ll feel satisfied with that lesser amount of food.

8)  Go light on the following items:

  • butter and cream
  • candy
  • cheese and cheese sauces
  • eggnog
  • fried foods
  • gravy
  • processed meats
  • sugar-sweetened drinks
  • sweet baked goods

Thank you for your loyal support!  I wish you and your families and friends a happy, healthy Thanksgiving!

And for more ideas to stay well this time of year, reach out to me.

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