How to prioritize your health this holiday season
The holiday season is fast approaching, and with that comes the craziness of a long to-do list, knocking health priorities right off that list.
Living a healthy lifestyle can become more challenging during the holidays with an influx of indulgent treats, less movement and increased stress. Prioritize your health by managing these concerns so you can feel your best and tackle the holiday season.
How to prioritize nutrition:
- Think simple. Make quick, healthy meals and snacks your go-to choice. Prepare meals on the weekend for quick meals during the week. Make a large pot of brown rice, roast a bunch of veggies or cook a large batch of chili or soup to use for several meals. For snacks, stock your home and desk with energizing and long-lasting snacks like nuts, fruit, veggies, string cheese, yogurt and popcorn.
- Be a mindful eater. Watch all those holiday BLT’s (bites, licks, tastes) that can turn into hundreds of extra calories. At parties, keep an arm’s length or more from the food table and candy dishes. Load your plate with a lot of vegetables and fruit before eating other foods to help fill your stomach. Keep tempting foods out of sight at home and at work. Ride out cravings by waiting 10-15 minutes before eating. Drink water, take a short walk, chew sugarless gum and don’t think about food.
- Limit alcoholic drinks. Alcohol can add hundreds of extra calories and also lowers our inhibitions, making it harder to resist tempting treats. Decide ahead of time how many drinks you’ll have. Aim for moderation which is one to two drinks per day. Alternate drinks with water or choose lower-calorie options such as wine spritzer, hard seltzer, lite beer or club soda with diet soda or juice.
How to prioritize physical activity:
- Sneak in movement by sitting less and moving more. Even 5 to 10 minutes at a time helps the body in various ways. Try setting a timer on your phone or computer to get up and move after 30-60 minutes of sitting.
- Pair exercise with other activities such as watching a show or listening to music or a podcast.
- Try fun winter activities to socialize with family and friends. Some options include sledding, tubing, ice skating, curling, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing and winter hiking. It’s even more beneficial to your health to do these activities during the day. Getting sunlight during the day helps regulate our circadian rhythm and ease the winter blues.
How to prioritize stress management:
- Be realistic with your time and how you’d like to spend it. Decide on important traditions and let go of less important items.
- Deep breathe for a minute or two when you feel stressed or overwhelmed. This immediately helps to dampen stress hormones.
- Create a stress-busting toolbox of activities you enjoy. Some ideas include coloring, doing a puzzle, taking a relaxing bath, sipping tea or hot cocoa, meditation, going for a short walk or listening to music.
It’s important to note that the risk for heart attack goes up during the winter and holiday season. This is due to stress and splurging on more unhealthy food and beverages.
Heather Klug is a registered dietitian with the Karen Yontz Women’s Cardiac Awareness Center at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee, Wis.
About the Author
Heather Klug, MEd RD is a registered dietitian and cardiac educator at the Karen Yontz Women's Cardiac Awareness Center inside Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center in Milwaukee, WI.