Christmas time can be joyful, or it can be a massive stress. Between family members, presents and parties every other night, staying well can very easily slip down the list of priorities.
The good news is that you don't have to sacrifice all of your fun in order to be your healthiest self over the holiday period. In fact, fun is part of the essential prescription for an enjoyable festive season. To help you out, we've collaborated some of the easiest and most affordable tips for staying healthy over Christmas.
Choosing Healthy Food
Whenever someone thinks of Christmas, food is likely one of the first things to pop into mind. Creamy, sugary, rich and indulgent, it can be easy to consume a week's worth of calories in just one day. However, with a few little tweaks, you can relish good tasting food, without needing to buy a new wardrobe to fit your tummy.
Starting with vegetables is the easiest way to make sure you get your nutrition in and fill up on good stuff first. Load your plate up with a good serving of mixed vegetables, including greens.
Include More Vegetables - If you aim for every meal to have 50% vegetables, you'll feel fuller for longer and reduce junk food cravings. The more variety of vegetables on each plate, the better.
Don't Skip Fat – The old advice used to be to have low-fat everything. The problem is that low-fat actually makes you less satisfied and can increase your cravings for less healthy options. Instead of having lots of sugary desserts, serve up one piece of a rich, creamy dessert. You'll probably enjoy it more and end up consuming fewer calories.
Get Spicy– Instead of cooking dishes that are loaded with sweeteners, why not use recipes packed with spices instead? Christmas is the perfect time to incorporate sweetness and flavor with nutmeg, cinnamon and peppermint. The good news is that they give plenty of taste without needing excess amounts of sugar. You can use them on sweet or savory dishes; cinnamon goes beautifully with roasted vegetables.
Movement can certainly go out the window over the Christmas period, if we let it. Instead of giving up entirely, try incorporating these little tricks to keep you feeling healthy and happy.
Include the Family – Family is a big part of every Christmas. So why not include them in your movements and get active together? Chances are, they need to move just as much as you do.
Whether it's heading out to the playground with your little ones or playing sports with a big group, it's a great way to get moving in the spirit of the season.
Walk Post-Meal– After a big indulgent lunch, it can be tempting to nap the afternoon away. But before you curl up on the couch, think about getting out into the fresh air. A gentle walk after a meal can help to keep you awake and make you feel less stuffed. Take along the kids, or the dog, or both; they will all appreciate the activity.
It All Adds Up – Unless you're incredibly dedicated, chances are your exercise regime will not be at its peak over Christmas. But remember, every bit of movement counts. Whether it's lifting heavy presents, dancing at the work party or heading up the stairs to an event, it adds up. Try to find small ways to incorporate small movements into each day.
Christmas can be hard on mental well-being. When you're facing the fifth consecutive year of your aunt asking why you're still single, or your parents despairing over your choices, it can be hard to stay calm. Families are volatile, particularly around holidays.
This doesn't mean you are doomed to feel miserable over the holiday season. There are a few easy ways to keep calm and carry on.
Attitude of Gratitude – A lot of people forget that the major theme of the holiday season is being grateful for what, and who, we have. This makes Christmas a perfect time to start a gratitude practice.
You might write down daily what you are grateful for, share it with your loved ones, or even just mentally list it as you drift off to sleep. Whatever you do, remembering what you have can help foster a healthier, happier mind.
Take a Deep Breath – Take a moment to take a few deep breaths. If you can, close your eyes and remember all of the awesome things there are in your world. Then, smile and change the subject. This gives your nervous system a bit of a break, so it can switch from fight-or-flight into a calmer state.
Have a Break – If you're a sensitive soul, it can be overwhelming to be surrounded by so many loud and energetic people at once. Instead of letting it stress you out, plan to give yourself a short break halfway through the event.
Whether it's ducking out for some fresh air at the work party, or locking yourself in the bathroom for a few minutes at the family dinner, do what you need to do. Taking a few minutes helps you calm down and gather your thoughts.
Get Some Fresh Air – It can be easy to get down around Christmas time, as we are all bundled up inside. Take a step outside and get some fresh air. If it's daytime, try to get some skin exposed to the light; a boost of vitamin D can do wonders for the mood.
The most important part of having a healthy Christmas is to remember that it is a celebration of food, family, friends and life. So, don't skip dessert at every event or cancel plans so that you can hit the gym. It might seem healthy, but it's not.
Instead, find a balance between indulgence and well-being. Enjoy small amounts of indulgent foods alongside your greens. Enjoy a little bit of couch time, then jump up and head outdoors. And always, always walk into every holiday event with a grateful heart. I guarantee you will enjoy it more if you do.