By Tara Miller, MS RD/N, LACERSWell Program Manager, and Candace Wilkie, LACERSWell Intern
There are many reasons why this could be the most wonderful time of the year: spending quality time with loved ones and friends, sipping hot chocolate, nibbling on holiday treats, and celebrating traditions. But if your holiday season seems more like an exercise in overeating, overspending and overstressing, it may leave you thinking, “Is it over yet?” Find the joy this time of year can bring by using these tips to keep this holiday season healthier.
Never Arrive Hungry
You’ve probably heard experts say to never be hungry when you do your grocery shopping, but that same advice goes for holiday gatherings. Despite popular belief, opting to “save” calories by skipping a meal usually results in over-consuming later, especially when there’s open access to party fare. Instead, plan on having a small meal or a moderate snack before social engagements, and you’ll likely make better food choices throughout the event.
Bring Your Favorite “Fitter” Dish
As the social calendar ramps up, maintaining a healthy routine can be challenging. Luckily, you may not be alone in wanting to stay on track. Resources like www.cookinglight.com or www.sparkpeople.com can help you lighten up favorite holiday dishes, and may even prove to be a welcome and delicious surprise to your guests or host/hostess.
According to WebMD, by simply giving people a larger plate size, the average person will end up eating 25 -50 percent more food. To avoid this, consider using a small cocktail plate and refrain from overloading or stacking your portions. Indulgences can be just as rewarding in little packages, so mindfully enjoy small portions of your holiday favorites and skip the food items that are unhealthy, and less appealing to you.
Plan a Food-Free Event
Food, as the main attraction, is not required for making memories that last a lifetime. The real ingredient needed is quality time with friends and families, so try planning an event that centers on conversation. Consider creating holiday greeting cards and customizable gift tags, decorating ornaments and wreaths, or wrapping gifts together. You can add physical activity to the mix by leading a stroll through your neighborhood to enjoy the lights and festivities, or walking the mall before the stores open.
Additionally, you can join a volunteer organization and use the holiday season as an opportunity to make sure those who are less fortunate enjoy the season.
It’s the Most Expensive Time of the Year
A well-planned budget is the linchpin of a stress-free holiday season. An NBC News poll indicated that of those surveyed with holiday debt, 59 percent of participants expected to take that debt into the New Year. This year, take a moment to plan out a budget that includes the practical dollar amount for everyone on your list and potential gift items that are within your means. Additionally, if using a credit or debit card, consider maintaining a notebook to track receipts, total amount spent on each transaction, and payment method (cash or charge). Reviewing your budget regularly will ensure you stay debt-free.
For a tool you can use now, and to add a point to your “Passport to Health,” check out the featured challenge “Healthy Stress-Free Holiday Budget” at www.LACERS.org/lacerswell.
We here at LACERS Well wish you a happy and health holiday season!
Alive! republishes this from 2016.