The food, fun and family of Thanksgiving are now history and the upcoming December holidays bring more meals, parties and gift-giving festivities. With so many opportunities to indulge in delicious foods and beverages, how can we keep healthy eating and exercise habits from falling by the wayside? Well, it’s not all that difficult if you make a conscious effort to focus on 10 simple tips, five to promote good nutrition and five to boost activity on cold days when exercising outdoors is less appealing.
- Load Up on Fruits and VeggiesThe USDA’s MyPlate features half the plate as fruits and vegetables. These foods are low in fat and calories and high in fiber to keep you feeling full on fewer calories. Consider bringing a veggie tray to a holiday party and giving a fruit basket or cranberry or pumpkin bread as a gift.
- Pare PortionsRemember, the first bite tastes as good as the last! So choose smaller portions and don’t go back for second helpings. When baking holiday treats, use mini-muffin tins, make smaller cookies and slice smaller pieces of pie and cake. At parties, don’t stand by the food table and make it a goal to talk to as many people as possible.
- Choose the Best and Leave the RestFill your plate with traditional holiday fare like sweet potatoes, stuffing and pumpkin pie and leave off those foods you eat throughout the year: mashed potatoes, rolls and chocolate cake.
- Simple SubstitutionsPrepare your favorite holiday recipes with fewer calories by replacing higher-fat milk, yogurt and cheese for lower fat varieties. Substitute half the butter, margarine or oil in baked goods with mashed bananas or applesauce. And use a low-calorie sweetener like aspartame or an aspartame/sugar blend in place of sugar in recipes that don’t require heating. Otherwise, add it at the end to maintain sweetness.
- Stay HydratedThirst can be mistaken for hunger so before reaching for a cookie or piece of holiday candy, drink a glass of water or calorie-free beverage like coffee, tea or diet soda. Inadequate fluid intake can zap your energy, something you definitely need during this busy holiday season.
Bonus: Eat slowly. By savoring each mouthful of food, setting your fork down and taking sips of a calorie-free beverage between bites and joining in the conversation will help your brain have more time to recognize you are full before you overeat!
Move More Indoors
- Turn on your iPod or radio and fast dance to the music for 10 minutes, 3 times/day to burn 100 – 150 calories
- Use a workout DVD, TV exercise show or YouTube video to do aerobics, yoga, Pilates or weight training to burn 50 – 175 calories/half hour
- Exercise during all the commercials (15 minutes) in a one-hour TV show: jumping jacks, jumping rope, squats, leg lifts, sit-ups, push-ups and running in place to burn 80 – 200 calories/half hour
- Use the treadmill, stationery bike or elliptical machine that’s gathering dust or serving as a clothes rack. Boring, you say? Turn on the TV or iPod and work away to burn 100 – 180 calories/half-hour.
- Play a game of ping pong to burn 80 – 100 calories/half-hour.
Bonus: Have stairs? Walk up and down 10 minutes, 3 times a day to burn 100 – 150 calories.
Weaving these habits into your December days will leave you feeling more energized and fit for 2016. Enjoy and healthy, happy holiday season!
Neva Cochran, MS, RDN, LD is a registered dietitian nutritionist based in Dallas. She was a freelancer with Woman’s World magazine for 20 years and currently serves as a nutrition communications consultant to a variety of food and nutrition organizations, including the Calorie Control Council. She is passionate about promoting fact-based food and nutrition information to help people enjoy nutritious eating. Follow her on Twitter @NevaRDLD and check out her blog at www.NevaCochranRD.com.