The crunch of the leaves under your feet and the smell of pumpkin spice wafting out from your nearest coffee shop is a sure sign that the holidays are near! Each holiday season, traditions, nostalgia and excitement fill the air, and temptation often gets the upper hand. Looking after your mind, body and soul can be daunting when you’re up against rich Thanksgiving meals, boozy end-of-year parties and all the series you still need to catch up on. Poor choices and impulsive decisions do not have to put a damper on your holiday. So what if you could “have your cake and eat it too” using a few healthy holiday tips this coming festive season?
1. Set Clear Work-Life Boundaries
A Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index score states that Americans who take regular trips have better well-being than those who do not across all most income groups. A pro mental health tip for the holidays is to take time off.
This approach goes hand in hand with setting clear boundaries for yourself and your boss. A U.S. Travel Association study found that a staggering 768 million vacation days went unused in 2018. Setting boundaries allows you to distinguish where your work life starts and ends.
Absence does make the heart grow fonder. Remember your first month at a new job? Do you recall the energy and go-getting mentality you had? You can have that back by giving yourself the space to return to the center. Allow yourself the time to find purpose and meaning amid all the chaos life brings.
Chronically overworking yourself leads to a foray of different physical and mental issues. The World Health Organization (WHO) published a study stating that overworking was linked to 745,000 deaths yearly from stroke and heart disease. Boundaries are healthy and an excellent tool for prioritizing your mental health.
2. Reinvent Holiday Meals
It often feels as though nothing beats those old family recipes passed down from one generation to the next. Whether your favorite is sticky, sweet pecan pie or thick, flavourful gravy, these meals can often be high in sugar, salt and calories. The Calorie Council’s research reveals that 3,000 calories are consumed at holiday dinners. At the same time, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) dietary guidelines stipulate that daily calorie intake should be between 1,600 and 3,000 calories. Not every meal can be perfectly healthy, but there are many ways to tweak and tinker with your favorite dishes to have a healthier holiday.
Sticking to homemade recipes means ensuring each ingredient that goes into your dish. You can regulate salt and sugar. You can do away with trans fats. According to Nutrients Journal, these foods increase the risks of:
- Heart disease;
- Type 2 diabetes;
- Certain types of cancer.
Swapping out processed sugar for Medjool dates or fruit in desserts or thickening sauces with gluten-free or whole wheat flour without adding extra unhealthy fats are simple, healthy holiday tips that significantly impact.
3. Holiday Meals Are About Being Satisfied, not Stuffed
The goal of having a healthy holiday season is not to remove enjoyment but to savor it — overeating and ignoring your body’s signals that it’s full lead to feeling sick and fatigued. The University of Texas Cancer Center explains that overindulging causes the stomach to expand, displacing and putting pressure on other organs. The body has to increase heart rate and enzyme and acid production to cope with excess food digestion, causing exhaustion and heartburn, among other adverse effects.
Lunches and dinners often run late, so unhealthy snacking is an easy fix to grumbling stomachs. A great way to ensure a healthy holiday is by grabbing a healthy snack before leaving the house. Whether you’re on your way to a party or going gift shopping with the family, fueling yourself with satiating food keeps your spirits and energy levels high. Dr. Benjamin Vincent of Dundee University stated that decision-making is compromised when you are hungry, meaning you’re more likely to forgo healthier choices at the holiday dinner table.
Reducing portion size allows you to try a bit of everything on the menu while keeping healthy living at the core of your outlook and actions. Skipping foods you can have at any other time of the year makes space for you to enjoy the treats that are specially prepared for this time of year.
4. Alternative Holiday Meal Ideas
Who doesn’t love leftovers the next day? Whether it’s Halloween treats or Christmas lunch, there are healthy ways of extending the joy of the holidays without poorly impacting your health. Skip the ultra-processed Halloween candy and opt to have homemade treats in moderation. Have the turkey without the bread rolls and include colorful vegetables instead. Add the roasted potatoes to a salad or into a soup. This healthy holiday tip helps avoid food burnout and reduce waste.
Healthy living is not always focused on what you can cut out. Pack your meals with wholesome add-ins to diversify the gut microbiome. Numerous healthy food alternatives and additions are accessible and pack a punch in boosting overall wellness. Foods like flax seeds and collagen powder increase nutritional value without drastically altering taste or texture.
According to the American Society for Nutrition, Chia seeds are a rich source of fiber, protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Adding Chia seeds or avocado to desserts will enrich the texture and provide sources of healthy fats to beef up your list of healthy holiday tips.
5. Put Down the Bottle
The holiday season boasts many a drink: mulled wine, Baileys and eggnog, to name a few. With as many alcoholic drink options as meals, the temptation to overconsume is high. Alcohol units can add up without even noticing, so keeping tabs on how much you drink could be a good practice this holiday season.
According to the CDC, one drink or less per day is what you should consume to lead a healthy lifestyle.
If you are prone to reckless decision-making, ensure that you have an accountability buddy. It is also wise to keep yourself in safe spaces, says David Dorschu, who heads an addiction treatment program in New Jersey.
A great way to minimize drinking is by finding delicious non-alcoholic alternatives. The market for non-alcoholic drinks has grown, so everyone has options. NielsenIQ stated that the non-alcoholic and low alcohol market increased by 4% in 2021. So get creative with your drink choices this holiday!
6. Fit in Healthy Holiday Activities
Healthy holiday activities are a fun way of keeping things interesting, keeping you fit, and keeping your spirits up. Hormones are chemicals responsible for emotional regulation and other bodily processes. They travel through the bloodstream from various glands all over the body, promoting positive emotions. There are four primary “happy hormones:”
- Dopamine: a vital component of the brain’s reward system linked to experiencing pleasure.
- Serotonin: a mood stabilizer that reduces anxiety and is responsible for regulating appetite, sleep and digestion.
- Oxytocin: colloquially referred to as the “love hormone.” It elicits feelings of trust, empathy and care.
- Endorphins: a natural pain reliever. They release feelings of euphoria and satisfaction.
Healthy activities can boost the production of these hormones to make the most of the holiday season. Completing a 10-day yoga challenge or walking every morning can increase dopamine levels. Going outside and experiencing nature while hiking or swimming reduces anxiety and increases serotonin. Knowing that you don’t have to put these healthy holiday tips into practice alone is a considerable comfort. Having a buddy to join in raises oxytocin levels.
Have you ever heard of runner’s high? You can achieve it in part through the production of endorphins. If running a marathon on your holiday is too far of a stretch, other less intense workouts will achieve similar results. The holidays are a perfect time to start the kickboxing classes you’ve been meaning to go to or spend time exploring your neighborhood.
7. Care for Those Around You
Consumerism sweeps people up during the holiday season. According to Investopedia, Americans spent $10.14 billion on Halloween in 2021. They say that charity starts at home. You can enrich your holiday season by doing more for the elderly in your family. Among seniors’ holiday health tips is confirming they stay hydrated and access food that suits their dietary requirements. Ensuring that your home is accessible and has space for the elderly to rest after long travels is essential.
There are some great tools available online to assist you in discovering charities and foundations. Cooking food or donating old clothes is so appreciated by those in need. The significance of caring and giving to others during the holiday season is evident in how it affects others, but what about how it affects you?
A Parting Reminder
Ever question if holidays are good for you? Well, they can be if you swap in these healthy living tips. Whether you implement one or all of these healthy holiday tips, your efforts will be noticed. Your body will be thanking you and those around you will surely see it, too! So take these healthy holiday tips and implement them into your daily life. Who says you have to wait for the New Year to create resolutions?