16 Ways to Have a Healthy Holiday Season

Genius tips to make your season merry and bright (and filled with weight-loss success)!
16 Ways to Have a Healthy Holiday Season

Hoping to shed some pounds during the holidays? No matter how motivated you are, this is probably not the season to make drastic changes to your routine. With all the lists you're making and checking twice, you barely have time to breathe, let alone challenge yourself with a new weight-loss or fitness plan.

But that doesn't mean the holidays have to be an unhealthy time. In fact, it's important to keep long-term health goals in mind, even if there's no time yet to really start on them.

If you ignore those goals altogether, says Karen Miller-Kovach, MS, RD, chief scientist for Weight Watchers International, they may be much harder to address—mentally and physically—in the new year. "The 10 pounds you wanted to lose by Thanksgiving may seem like a hill, but if you overdo it in December, the 18 pounds you'll face on January 1 will feel like a mountain," says Miller-Kovach.

Have a Healthy Holiday!
Even in the hectic weeks ahead, you can make small adjustments that will make it easier for you to tackle your weight-loss goals in the New Year. The first step toward a healthful holiday season is simple and effective: Don't use the season as an excuse to splurge. The second is to always be on the lookout for ways to fit healthy behaviors into your life.

Challenge yourself to use these easy tricks:

  1. Always eat a healthy dinner before you go to a holiday party.

  2. Bring "safe," healthy foods to potlucks.

  3. At appetizer tables, choose two or three of your favorites and put them on a small plate or, better yet, a napkin. Then, walk away. When you're done with your food, throw away the napkin or take your plate to the kitchen. Avoid large plates.

  4. At a buffet, cover most of your plate with vegetables and fruits. Then find room for smaller portions of the high-calorie main dishes.

  5. Watch out times when you feel guilty for overeating. Just because you slipped up at lunch isn't license to overindulge all day. Remember: One meal is one meal. One day is one day.

  6. On the nights you decide to have a drink, limit yourself to one or two. And don't indulge every night, says Fink. Also, choose wisely—a gin and tonic has 155 calories for 7.5 fl oz, while the same size frozen strawberry daiquiri has a whopping 450 calories.

  7. If you are drinking, alternate alcoholic beverages with nonalcoholic, calorie-free drinks such as like flavored seltzer. Or, choose wine spritzers, which are half wine and half seltzer.

  8. Drink extra water to help flush out the excess sodium you consume during rich meals.

  9. No matter how busy you get, make time for a healthy breakfast. Eating a morning meal will help control cravings later on.

  10. If baked goods are your holiday weakness, consider hosting a cookie party: Ask every guest to bring one batch of his or her favorite cookies, plus the recipe, and share. This way, you and your family get a variety without having to bake loads. (For extra credit, challenge your guests to bring low-fat or low-calorie cookies.)

  11. Store healthy snacks at the front of your fridge and pantry, and go for them before you treat yourself to the splurge stuff.

  12. Just say "no" to packaged holiday candies and cakes! So what if they're red and green or blue and white—with all the homemade goodies hanging around, you don't need them.

  13. Streamline your grocery shopping with lists of the ingredients you'll need for a week's worth of quick, easy meals. This way, you won't be limited to last-minute convenience and fast foods during those nights when you're dashing around.

  14. Online shopping is a great time saver, but it means you lose out on the mall walking that usually goes with shopping. Make it up by figuring out exactly how much time you saved (say, 15 minutes per gift), then increase your cardio by that much for the week.

  15. On heavy-eating weeks, compensate for the extra food with more weight or resistance training. "It will increase the metabolic rate of the muscle tissue," says Fink. That means your body will be better prepared to handle the extra calories.

  16. Add health-related gifts to your wish list this year—they could help make for a slimmer, healthier New Year!

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