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Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or another holiday occasion, I’m sure you will agree this time of year can be a little crazy.

First, it’s a time crunch with a whirlwind of family events, parties and shopping to attend all in just a short few weeks.  Then there is all of the work that goes with hosting a party, including hours in the kitchen cooking and baking and days spent cleaning the house before and after your hosted event.

Not to mention all of the delicious and tantalizing food and drink that can easily derail the best healthy eater out there (shortbread cookies anyone?).  And I can’t forget the stress many of us experience.  Whether it’s from the crazy event schedule, dealing with rude shoppers or difficult family members, or concerns over the financial cost of paying for gifts, stress can happen in an instant.

Instead of just trying to survive the holidays this year, grab the holiday bells where they jingle and make a commitment to have the best holiday season ever!  Use these 3 Super Strategies For A Healthy Holiday Season to take charge and experience the full glory of your celebrations.

#1 Plan Ahead for Healthy Eating
We’ve all been here: you just loaded turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and roast carrots on your plate and there is no room to add the ham, cheesy broccoli casserole, fresh baked dinner rolls, Brussels sprouts, and salad still to come.  Plus, you spied four different desserts and an assortment of cookies for after dinner.  Think there is no way to stick to your healthy eating goals?  With a little planning and discipline, it is totally possible.

  • Follow the 80-20 rule: 80% of the time prepare and eat healthy whole food and 20% don’t worry about what passes your lips. If you are making healthy food choices most of the time, then eating a few cookies or pieces of chocolate is not going to hurt (just make sure those three cookies don’t turn into five or ten!).
  • Control your portion sizes.  Overeating is a key reason why our waistlines expand during the holidays. Our body can only use so much of the energy (calories) provided from the food we consume.  That means any extra calories not utilized are converted to and stored as body fat.
  • Never go to a party hungry.  Eating a healthy snack at home (or during the drive there) before arriving can help curb your temptation to eat large servings of everything in sight. Good pre-party snack options include a combination of protein, vegetable and/or carbohydrate, and fat.
    • 1 oz. of cheese with whole grain crackers.
    • Apple slices with nut or seed butter.
    • Carrot and cucumber sticks with hummus.
    • Bowl of chicken or bean soup with vegetables.
    • A sandwich on whole wheat or grain bread with nitrate-free chicken or turkey slices, lettuce, and tomato.
    • Small salad with spinach, romaine, beets, and goat cheese with a splash of lemon juice and olive oil.

#2 Move Your Body
It has been proven that physical activity reduces stress levels and increases serotonin (the brain chemical that makes us happy). You might be thinking “when do I have time to exercise with so much stuff to do?”.  The truth is that moving your body more doesn’t require fitting a trip to the gym into your schedule.  Use these simple and easy ideas to move more and stress less:

  • Instead of sitting in front of the boob-tube after dinner in a turkey coma, go for a walk to help aid digestion, get some fresh air, and enjoy the beautiful light displays in your neighborhood.
  • Or better yet, plan a morning or afternoon family hike before your evening celebration.  It’s not only grounding to connect with nature; it will help keep stress hormones at a minimum and your metabolism up.
  • Play some lively music and clean the house…you need to do it anyways.  Add in some dancing, counter push ups, and squats along the way for added benefit.
  • Plan your shopping trips geographically so you can park the car in one spot fairly close to each location and walk instead. Have to carry lots of parcels and bags?  All the better!  Consider that your strength training for the day.
  • Stuck standing in a long line up? Do some on-the-spot balance training and hip strengthening. Keeping both knees straight, shift your weight onto one leg so the opposite foots hovers off the ground slightly and hold for 30 seconds. Then switch legs. Be sure to stand strong and keep your pelvis in line over the thigh and ankle of your standing leg. Don’t be shy – no one will notice what you’re doing.

#3 Slow Down and Unplug
Too many of us are rushed, stressed, and on the go every minute of the day, not to mention constantly connected to technology via mobile phone, computer or television.  Ask yourself this question: Would the world come to an end if you did not get one thing on your to-do list done today or you unplugged the technology for just an hour? The answer is likely no, the world will not end; but it can be challenging to slow down.  ​Here are some ideas to get you started on the right track:

  • Turn off the t.v. and go outside to play with your kids or the dog. Don’t have kids or a dog? Then go for a walk with a friend or offer to walk the neighbour’s pooch.
  • Unplug every phone, computer and t.v. in the house for at least four hours and do something you don’t do often enough like reading, trying out a new recipe, or invite a friend over that you haven’t seen in a while.
  • Instead of being in a rush, go shopping with the intention of taking your time. Stop for a coffee that you actually sit down to drink in the cafe (no to-go cups allowed!). And every so often look around at the people rushing by you in a crazed frenzy and be proud that that is not you today!
  • Just Breathe.  When our body is exposed to stress, either mental or physical, it changes the way we breathe without us even realizing it. Many of us don’t have a healthy breath pattern on a good day; add in some stress and breathing well goes out the window.
  • The moment you start to feel a little frazzled, stop what you are doing, close your eyes if you can do so safely (i.e. not behind the wheel!), breathe in through your nose slow and deep, then exhale out through your nose or mouth nice and easy.​  Do this for a minute and allow the stress to just melt away.
  • Practice Gratitude.  Sometimes in the hubbub and stress of the holidays we can forget that they are a time of celebration – for family and friends to come together to share fun times, enjoy a nice meal, or exchange gifts.  We can often take for granted all of the wonderful people in our lives and all of the amazing things we have accomplished.​
  • Not sure how to start?  Take one minute every day to pause what you are doing and live in the moment.  Select one thing you are grateful for today and focus on how that makes you feel. It could be something as simple as being blessed with good health, having thanks that your 2 year old didn’t have a tantrum in the middle of the grocery store this morning, or even for your nosy Aunt Edna who drives you absolutely crazy but has just shared her famous cookie recipe with you.  The more you stop to recognize the good things in life, however small they may seem, and truly appreciate them, the more fulfilled, inspired, and energized you will be.

Wishing you all the best for a happy and healthy Christmas and New Year’s!