Healthy Family Advent Calendar

By Debbie Koenig

Let’s get this out of the way up-front: I’m Jewish. But my husband is Catholic, and this year Hanukkah starts on Christmas Eve. So when I was thinking about fun ways to keep the family on-track during what’s always a hectic month, I had a brainstorm. I made a health-oriented DIY Advent calendar. It should help us prevent the holiday weight gain we’ve all come to expect. Plus my son, who we’re raising Jewish, has been begging for an Advent calendar. This’ll have to do. I’m sure it’s exactly what he’s hoping for, wink wink.

I’m not the craftiest person in the world, so I kept it simple. I took two sheets of crafting paper, one blue (for Hanukkah) and one red (for Christmas), and cut them into 3" x 1.5" strips. On the backs, I wrote the following food- and exercise-focused activities. Into a jar they go, tied with a festive ribbon, and each day from December 1 through Christmas, we’ll pull out an activity and do it.

1. Go for a brisk after-dinner walk to see the holiday lights.
2. Add a second vegetable side to dinner tonight.
3. Do 20 minutes of jumping jacks, crunches, and push-ups.
4. Make a Fall Harvest Salad (4 SmartPoints®/serving) to pair with simply cooked chicken tonight.
5. Dance to “Jingle Bell Rock” and other upbeat holiday songs.
6. Bust out the holiday-themed cookie cutters for Classic Sugar Cookies.
7. When doing your holiday shopping, park as far from the mall entrance as possible.
8. Pack two pieces of fruit in your family’s lunchboxes.
9. Have a snowball fight.
10. Choose one of these 15-minute fitness ideas.
11. Bake and decorate Gingersnap People (3 SmartPoints/serving).
12. Go sledding.
13. Map out a delivery route and walk gifts to friends’ homes.
14. Take a long, soothing bath. No interrupting kids allowed!
15. Cook a brothy, chicken-and-vegetable-packed soup for dinner, with leftovers for lunches.
16. Bundle up and hit the track.
17. Lay out the mats and have a family yoga session.
18. Eat vegetarian (or even vegan) for the day.
19. Go ice-skating.
20. Get cozy with White Chicken Chili with Salsa Verde (4 SmartPoints/serving).
21. Pick up some light hand weights (or even water bottles) for a quick upper-body workout.
22. Do 10 minutes of stair-climbing, three times during the day.
23. Celebrate Hanukkah on Christmas Eve with my Less-Oil Latkes (2 SmartPoints/latke)
24. Wake up Christmas Morning to homemade Cinnamon Buns (6 SmartPoints each) — get them started the night before.

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