6 ways to have a healthy holiday season

The holiday season only comes around once a year. While it can be an easy time to slip into unhealthy eating habits, you can fit holiday celebrations into an overall healthy lifestyle with a little bit of positive thinking — and planning. Here are our top six tips for maintaining healthy habits throughout the holidays.

1. Get Moving

Make exercise part of the holiday season and burn more calories than you consume. Kick up your steps and exercise during the days right before a celebration or family gathering. On the actual holiday, take a walk early in the day and then again after a meal. Taking a walk together is a great way for family members of all ages to enjoy time together away from the table. Even when it starts to get dark outside, you can bundle up and tour the holiday lights in and around your neighborhood. Just be sure to wear reflective clothing, bring flashlights and be cautious of any traffic.

2. Fuel for the Day

Remember to eat prior to the big feast. You don’t want to save up calories and find you are so hungry during dinnertime that you have difficulty controlling your appetite. If you include protein and fiber (think fruits and vegetables) early in the day as part of your breakfast or lunch, you won’t be as hungry and will have the will power to make better decisions about your food and drink choices.

3. Watch your Portions

Don’t think you have to swear off dessert or your favorite holiday snacks to stay healthy. It’s truly all about portion size. Most people already know the foods that will be served at their holiday gatherings, and many of these foods are family favorites. Don’t spend your calories on items you can have any other time of year. Instead, choose your holiday favorites and stick to moderate portions. If you’re a guest at a family member or friend’s house, offer to bring a healthy dish you know you will enjoy and can substitute for a less healthy option. Remember, fruits and vegetables are your best options.

4. Think Water

Alcohol and sugary drinks come packed with extra calories. Don’t drink your calories; save them for the delicious food. Sip a large glass of water or flavored sparkling water to stay hydrated and ward off cravings for calorie-laden drinks. If you do decide to have an alcoholic beverage, wine spritzers are a better choice than most cocktails.

5. Be Realistic

Maintaining your standard weight through the holidays is a reasonable goal. However, this isn’t the easiest time to focus on weight loss. Most people are juggling busy schedules, food temptations and entertaining guests, so a realistic goal during this season is to avoid weight gain.

6. Shift the Food Focus

The holiday season is the perfect time to focus on friends and family. Rather than making food the main focus, consider building traditions around socializing, time together and games. Remind yourself of what you’re thankful for and celebrate your relationships. This not only helps your physical health but your mental health as well.

Do you know how many calories are hiding in classic holiday treats?

Calories aren’t everything, but it’s helpful to stay conscious of how many calories you’re eating and drinking. While you don’t have to avoid all holiday treats, many of them are loaded with calories so it’s best to keep portions small. Here are some calorie counts for common holiday desserts and drinks.

1/8th of nine-inch wide pecan pie = 190 calories

1 cup of Irish coffee (no sugar added) = 263 calories

1/8th of nine-inch wide pumpkin pie = 171 calories

4-ounce glass of egg nog = 110 calories

Three iced sugar cookies = 540 calories

1 cup of hot chocolate = 120 calories

1/16th of red velvet cake = 320 calories

16-ounce white chocolate peppermint drink = 460 calories

1/9th of eight-inch slice of gingerbread = 370 calories

5-ounce glass of wine = 120 calories

 Request an appointment with one of our registered dietitians for a variety of nutrition services. They can create a food plan tailored to your personal health needs, identify what nutrients you may be lacking and help you achieve your health goals.
Caldwell Shackelford Photo3

By Ann Caldwell and Maureen Shackelford, nutritionists and registered dietitians at Anne Arundel Medical Center. To reach them call 443-481-5555.

Originally published Dec. 6, 2016. Last updated Dec. 9, 2019.

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