Five Tips For A Healthy Holiday

5 Ways to Keep Your Family Healthy This Holiday

from Maryann Jacobsen, MS RD


It's easy for families to get off track with eating and exercise during the holiday season.  There is so much to do, more indulgent-type food around, and less time to plan meals.  But with a little planning and forethought, it's not that hard to keep good health top of mind all season long.  These 5 tips will not only keep you family on track, but allow for full enjoyment of the season.


1. Don’t overindulge.  I think the number the holidays do on weight gain is exaggerated.  Research shows that the 7-pound-weight-gain-during-the-holidays is a myth. The average weight gain from Thanksgiving to New Year’s is about one pound.  But individuals who are overweight tend to gain about 5 pounds. 
All this talk about over-indulging, and starting the New Year virtuous, makes overeating as contagious as the flu.  In fact, a 2002 study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology found that people who anticipated going on a diet ate more than those who didn’t. And we don't want to pass that eat-all-month mentality onto our kids. 

So don’t buy into it.  Enjoy the traditional food that’s around during the holidays but break the tradition of overeating -- and your kids will follow suit.


2. Go for the Balance. Rather than trying to eat only healthy food, balance your family's eating this time of year.  So every Sunday, plan easy and nutritious meals for the week.  This way you have a plan for what to eat even when you're feeling overwhelmed. 

With normal eating during the week, enjoy the traditional holiday foods at parties and outings.  But the next day, it's back to the routine. 


3. Don’t graze, eat meals. In his research, Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating finds that the average person has already met 90% of their daily calorie needs before sitting down to their holiday meal.

So instead of grazing, fill a small plate with your favorite appetizers, sit down and enjoy every bite. Remind yourself that you need just enough to hold you over (but not to spoil your appetite) until the main meal is served.  And if you have extra holiday food on hand have a little bit for snack time and tuck it away until the next eating occasion so your family avoids the grazing fest. 


4. Be active. Exercise is your secret weapon during the holidays.  It’s a stress reliever and it gives you and your loved ones the additional energy you all need.

And there really is no better time to be active. The weather is crisp and the gyms are free of crowds. Take your family out for walks, hikes and park time to keep the activity going all December long.


5. Cut back on the to do’s. The stress of the holidays makes matters worse. Families aren’t eating together, food is grabbed in a hurry and many parents stay up late doing more stuff.

Ask yourself if you really need to do everything this year. Maybe it’s time to cut back, be choosy about how you spend your time and focus more on enjoying the season.


So there you have it, five reminders that it is possible to enjoy the holiday without sacrificing you family's health.


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