If you think you can’t enjoy the season without gaining weight, think again! Here are some of my best tips for navigating the holidays the healthy way.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year — right? Sure, the holidays are a joyous time filled with family, friends and cheer, but the season can pose many challenges for our waistline! Not only are our schedules packed and our to-do lists never-ending — leaving hardly any time for exercise — but we’re surrounded by tasty treats everywhere we go, which can be tempting for even the healthiest eaters. Don’t despair! You can get through these next few weeks without sabotaging your diet and fitness. Master these seven simple tips and you’ll survive the season feeling slim, satisfied, and stress-free.
Pick and choose. You can’t completely deny yourself all the delicious treats of the season, but you shouldn’t indulge in all of them, either. At the buffet table, aim for the veggie dishes, salads, and lean proteins like shrimp cocktail, and limit yourself to just one or two of the more decadent hors d’oeuvres. Politely pass on anything that’s smothered in heavy sauces or cream. And when you do decide to say yes to rich side dish or dessert, stick with a single portion.
Keep stress at bay. Between social events and shopping lists and money worries, stress can add up quickly, which is why it’s so important to take short time-outs. Perform a few simple stretches at intervals throughout the day to increase your blood flow, re-energize you and release tension. Try a few neck and shoulder rolls at your desk or some relaxing yoga moves at night before bed — you won’t believe how much calmer you’ll feel!
Have emergency snacks on hand. How many times have you noticed your tummy rumbling when you’re out shopping or stuck in traffic? Don’t let hunger pangs send you straight to the food court or drive-thru window, where you’re likely to eat something unhealthy. Instead, keep a stash of nutritious snacks in your car or in your purse. A baggie of homemade trail mix, an apple, or a banana are all simple choices that will keep well as you’re on the go.
Start the day right. When tasks start piling up, it’s easy to let your workouts slip. I highly suggest waking up a half hour earlier and knocking exercise out of the way first thing in the morning. Take a brisk walk or jog outside, pop in an exercise DVD, or hit the gym before work. All that heart-pumping movement will leave you feeling refreshed — plus, you can immediately cross one oh-so-important item from your to-do list!
Bring a healthy hostess gift. Heading to social events armed with a delicious, low-fat, low-calorie treat is not just polite party behavior — it also ensures that you will at least have one “safe” dish to enjoy! Keep in mind that “healthy” doesn’t mean you’re stuck bringing a tray of carrot sticks; there are plenty of guilt-free, yummy desserts you can make, such as my cozy gingered pumpkin pudding. You’ll be sharing the gift of health!
Plan ahead. Over the weekends, review the upcoming week’s meals and figure out ways to limit the time you’ll have to spend in the kitchen. Buy pre-cut, prewashed salad greens, frozen veggies, and thin (read: fast-cooking) cuts of meat. Do most of your slicing and dicing at one time, place the ingredients in storage containers, and then refrigerate until you’re ready to whip up quick weeknight meals!
Squeeze in extra movement. By burning extra calories throughout the day, you’ll be able to afford small splurges here and there without derailing your diet. Take a walk around the block during lunch, park your car at the back of the parking lot when running errands, and take a few laps around the mall before you start your shopping. Trust me, all this extra movement will really add up — and keep you from packing on the pounds this holiday season!