Food, drinks, and endless desserts, oh my! The holidays are usually full of delicious food, late nights with family and friends, and great memories. They can also bring a lot of stress, sleepless nights, a hangover or two, and more than likely one too many servings of grandma’s delicious-yet-oversweetened dessert. It is no wonder why keeping wellness habits during this time a year is so challenging. To help you navigate the season we put together a few tips for staying healthy during the holidays.
Needless to say, this year might not look like your usual holiday. Big family events might be canceled, your happy hour brunch tradition will probably happen over zoom, and your yearly office holiday parties will most likely not happen at all. BUT, the holidays are still the holidays, and however, you decide to celebrate while staying safe there is a big chance that there will still be a hint of the usual holiday extravaganza, even if that means ordering the same delivery for everyone in your family to enjoy the same meal as you open presents via zoom.
But even in this strange year, and especially in this strange year, keeping some healthy habits during the holidays is key in order to find a balance between enjoying time with loved ones (virtually or in-person), and taking care of our bodies and minds. So here are a few tips to keep your wellness game on during this strange holiday season.
Let’s be honest here, keeping fitness routines going is hard enough during the holidays, add to that a global pandemic that makes gyms a potential breeding house for virus exposure, and bam! You get the perfect excuse to avoid the gym altogether. But even though staying on the couch might be safer than going to the gym, that doesn’t mean you should ditch the idea of physical activity and postpone your fitness goals for the new year (or the post-COVID days).
Staying active is a key component of both physical and mental health. The good news is you don’t have to train like an athlete to be healthy. Keeping some sort of physical activity through the holidays, even if mild, can keep your body and mind in shape.
Choose something that you enjoy!
Whether you are a triathlon junkie and go out for runs rain or shine, a morning yoga practitioner, an avid hiker, or a sucker for a neighborhood stroll, find a way to move that keeps you happy. A walk, a morning stretch session, an online dance class, whatever you choose make it something that motivates you to move, even if just a bit, every day.
Keep it simple
There is enough stress in your life right now to stress about a rigorous holiday fitness plan (Unless you are an avid athlete and planning and executing training sessions brings you joy, then, by all means, keep doing what you’re doing), so try to focus on ways to stay active that are simple and can be done at any point of the day and even be enjoyed with your close bubble.
Choose walking over driving places, or just walk without a destination. A good walk is a great way to get moving easily and benefit from some fresh air while you’re at it. Walk with a friend or your family and you’ll not only be moving your body but will be making time for meaningful conversations and connection. Or walk alone, listening to your favorite playlist or podcast to learn something new while you get your steps in.
Spend time outdoors
This is the perfect year to spend time outdoors since most indoor activities might be canceled or come with an added risk of exposure. Bundle up and move outdoors! Maybe try a new winter sport you’ve never done, or go on that hike you’ve never made time for. Rally your bubble and go on a ski day or snowshoeing trip in the mountains, or maybe go for a bike ride together.
Create a healthy challenge
I am a sucker for movement and fitness challenges. Challenge yourself, your family, or your friends on social media to daily movement challenges. Make it simple and fun. Maybe you challenge your group to do 100 squats a day, a 15-minute run, or to hit a target amount of steps in the day.
If there is a skill you’d like to learn how to do, like a pull-up or handstands, make it a challenge to work on the skill every day. You can embark on this journey with a few other friends to keep each other motivated. Track your progress with videos if you’d like and you can look back on where you started and how far you’ve come!
If you’re around children, getting some movement in will be easy. Set up a game of tag, run a dance party, or race the kids to the ice cream shop. This will keep you moving and also burn some of the sugar-fueled energy that children get this time a year.
Enjoy food mindfully
Part of the joy of the holidays is in sharing food with the people you love, so depriving yourself of all the special holiday treats you will encounter this season will probably feel like torture.
Allow yourself to enjoy the food that you love, especially those special treats that only come around once a year. That being said, moderation is key! Here are a few tips to minimize excessive overeating during your celebrations and enjoy food in a healthy manner:
Practice an 80/20 rule
The 80/20 rule consists of eating healthy, clean, and nutritious food 80% of the time, and enjoying treats that may not be as healthy but still bring you joy 20% of the time. This is a great mindset to have around food in general, not only during the holidays, but it is especially useful this time a year. Eating mostly healthy foods will support your body, keep it properly nourished, and allow it to function as it should. Enjoying “less healthy” food every now and then will allow you to still enjoy some of the foods you may choose to normally keep out of your diet but still love. This mentality will help you stay healthy and sane, and create a healthy relationship with food, where you are mindful of what will support your body and can still allow yourself to enjoy a special treat.
Don’t skip meals
You may think skipping lunch so you can save space for Christmas dinner is a great idea, but the truth is skipping meals will make you more likely to overeat later in the day. Have balanced meals throughout the day with a good amount of protein and healthy fats to keep you fueled and satisfied. Then when the fancy dinner comes along you’ll be less likely to overfill your plate with everything you see on the table. This way you’ll be able to enjoy the meals without overtaxing your body with the large sugar spikes that holiday food can bring.
With Christmas wine, New Years Champagne, and maybe a little extra coffee to keep up with the holiday rush it is easy to get dehydrated. In addition, many holiday favorites are full of sugar or heavy in salt and sodium, which can also have a dehydrating effect. Having some water handy or carrying around a travel mug with some herbal tea is a great idea.
Drinking enough water during celebrations will also help you avoid endless eating. Many times when we feel hungry we are actually thirsty, and with so much food around it will be tempting to eat it all until you’re uncomfortably full.
Hot water with lemon and ginger is a great choice to keep your metabolism healthy and help your body process all the delicious holiday food.
Enjoy the dessert!
Yes, refined sugars are not the healthiest. We won’t deny that. But in the spirit of fully enjoying the holiday season don’t punish yourself around food. Enjoy your dessert! Again, moderation is key. Try to stick to a single serving (if at all possible). If you’re eating out with your bubble, ordering a dessert to share with the table is a good choice as well (although you might want to ask if they can split it in the kitchen to make it COVID friendly. Gone are the days where you could simply order a piece of pie and four spoons.)
If you’re on the hunt for healthy holiday dessert recipes check out our Peppermint Chocolate Mousse recipe! It is vegan, gluten-free, and free of refined sugars! A perfect healthy tart for your Holiday spirit.
The bottom line: Enjoy the season. Spending quality time with loved ones (even if via zoom), and enjoying the little things that the holidays bring is just as important for wellbeing as keeping your healthy habits in check. Stay active as much as you can and keep your meals balanced, but don’t let the hyperfocus on fitness routines and ultra-clean eating get in the way of you and your loved ones enjoying time together. As with everything, balance is key.