Healthy Holidays- 12 Christmas Tips?

“Small cheer and great welcome makes a merry feast.”

William Shakespeare

Holidays are a special time to slow down, refocus and prioritize what is most important to us-our core values, spiritual practices, relationships with family and friends and love for our fellow brethren.  The holidays can also be a time of increased stress, so we want to encourage mindful awareness, healing practices and cultivating the stillness of heart to be fully present and aware to build precious memories and joy!  Below are some helpful hints and strategies to assist with making our holidays “Merry and Bright.”

  1. Start a journal and take note of the positive and negative impacts of how certain practices, habits, relationships, food and “self-talk” influence our mind and body.  With the New Year right around the corner, what better time to start a “Gratitude & Mindfulness Journal.”
  2. Be purposeful about self-care practices and slowing down and focusing on precious quality time with family and friends.  Build holiday traditions and memories such as special readings, events and time together, taking the focus off the gifts, foods, and external trappings of the holiday season. 
  3. “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine” says the proverb (Proverbs 17:22).  There is no better way to stimulate laughter and a “merry heart” than seeing the holidays through the eyes of children.  
  4. Enjoy the holidays and your family traditions and treats!  Grandma’s favorite sugar cookie recipe that has been in the family for generations should be enjoyed and celebrated.  The key to enjoying these foods and healthfully navigating the holidays is portion control.  And do not feel guilty for enjoying those once-a-year special treats!  The stress generated by guilt is more damaging than these occasional indulgences. 
  5. If a recipe easily lends itself to some healthy substitutions  consider cutting sugar in half and adding “sweet” spices such as cinnamon, allspice, vanilla.  Spices are the ultimate win/win in cooking as you have decreased sugar and added in health promoting anti-inflammatory spices.  Also, cinnamon will help with blood sugar control.  Using spices in desert type dishes may allow for the reduction of sugar without sacrificing taste in addition to adding healthy phytochemicals. 
  6. Make vegetables more of the main attraction in horduerves and meals:  Utilize colorful raw veggie platters paired with a fiber rich hummus such as Sweet Potato hummus and roasted vegetables as a hearty side dish.  Vegetables are rich in antioxidants and high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.  They are filling and easy to season with a variety of health boosting spices and herbs that include savory herbs such as parsley, thyme, rosemary, marjoram and sage that pair well with holiday meals.  
  7. Be choosy. Survey the offerings of the holiday meal and horduerves and make wise choices based on what your favorite once a year holiday special treat foods are.  Avoid treats and higher calorie items you can have any time of the year if desired.  Be very selective how you “spend” your calorie dollars over the holidays and make sure it is worth it to you!  
  8. Get a small appetizer plate and stick to what you have selected instead of grazing and picking throughout the party.  Be sure to balance your plate with vegetables. Then focus on socializing and sharing time with friends and family. 
  9. Do not arrive to the party hungry! Eat a light meal or snack that is high in fiber and contains protein to help you control your appetite and avoid overeating. Nut butters or hummus with veggies would be a good choice.  
  10. Take a walk with friends and family within an hour after the meal to assist with digestion and blood sugar control.  This would be a wonderful holiday tradition. 
  11. Think about your drinks and liquid calories: 
    • Remember alcohol is optional. Alcohol decreases inhibitions and judgement and can lead to reckless decisions.  So, this holiday season, if you chose to consume alcohol do not underestimate its effects and exercise moderation and safety.  
    • Do not drink on an empty stomach.  Food can slow the absorption of alcohol and reduce the peak level of alcohol in the body by about one-third. Food can also minimize stomach irritation and gastrointestinal distress caused by alcohol. 
    • Drink plenty of water and offer a variety of non-alcoholic drinks-water with lemon/limes, sparkling flavored waters, herbal teas and mocktails. Nonalcoholic drinks help to counteract the dehydrating effects of alcohol. Also, the other fluids help to slow the rate of alcohol absorption into the body and reduce the peak alcohol concentration in the blood. 
  12. Again, remember to practice Self-Care during the holidays and take care of your physical health.  Ensure adequate sleep and a nutritious diet.  Engage in deep breathing and other relaxation activities. Most of all, maintain realistic expectations around the holidays and release the unrealistic goal of the perfect Norman Rockwell Christmas!
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