Nine Common Sense Tips For A Healthy Holiday

Nine Common Sense Tips For A Healthy Holiday

Thanksgiving is upon us in the US, the holiday that marks the beginning of the fall/winter holiday season (if you don’t count Halloween). We often spend more time with family and friends. It can also lead to lack of exercise and indulgent eating. Some people who are trying to live an active and healthy lifestyle fear the holidays because of all the “temptations” that present themselves. It just takes a little self control and there is no need to fear this fun time of year!


Here are some common sense tips so that you enjoy the holiday season and help mitigate the desire to eat too many of the holiday treats.


  • Plan your exercise. Put it on your calendar and make sure it gets done, even if it’s just going for a walk. Better yet, encourage someone who might need some more movement in their life join you. Planning a family hike to spend time with your family instead of sitting around watching TV will help you and your family stay active and enjoy the outdoors.

  • Make your own decisions. You are in ultimate control of what you eat and the exercise you get. Just because Aunt Sally gives you that guilty look and demands that you have another slice of pie, you truly can turn it down. And just because no one else in your family runs doesn’t mean you can’t go for that 30 minute run you were planning before lunch.

  • Eat before a party. Make sure to eat a decent snack that is relatively high in protein and/or fat to keep your blood sugar stable before you head out the door. Arriving at a party famished will just increase the likelihood of overeating. When eating at the party, go for the fruits and vegetables, and don’t stand around the buffet too long. If you have to keep walking back to the food table to get your snacks, you probably won’t eat as much.

  • Enjoy the treats. It’s OK to go for treats, but be sure to savor them. There are tradition and special foods that come out over the holidays and you don’t have to pass them up. The old adage is true, everything in moderation. If you know of a specific event that will have sweet treats you enjoy, use your willpower on the days prior to eat clean.

  • Keep the “junk” out of your house. When my in-laws come to visit over the holidays (and every time they visit), they go shopping and my pantry ends up with several big bags of chips, a few packages of processed cookies, and a few other items of which I question the nutritional value. If they don’t eat it all before they leave, I will make them take it with them. These are things that I don’t keep in my house because I don’t need to eat them. (I do eat this stuff occasionally, but I keep it rare.) Sometimes it’s a lot easier to reach for the packaged stuff instead of something healthy, so limit the quantities in your house. If it’s not there, how can you eat it?


Real photo of my “newly filled” pantry. Several bags of chips and packages of cookies suddenly appeared when my in-laws came to visit.

  • Pre-make healthy snacks. To make it easier to reach for something healthy, especially if you know that some non-ideal options will be available in your house, spend a little time preparing some healthy snacks and meals. If the healthy (and delicious) food is easy to get to, then you’ll have a higher probability of reaching for that instead of the chips and candy that your in-laws bought.


Photo of the quinoa and kale salad I made (with lots of veggies) as an easy go-to meal or snack. The in-laws did eat this and enjoyed it…with the leftover pizza. 😉

  • Keep portions reasonable and eat slowly. Don’t pile your plate with more than your typical portion sizes. And if you eat slowly – focusing on company and conversation between bites – the physiological mechanisms indicating that you are satiated will work properly and you’ll get the full feeling when you are indeed full. Eat too fast and you will likely end up eating too much. Take small portions and appreciate each bite. Chances are this will help you better enjoy the piece of pie you will have later. This will also help prevent your body from doing a huge insulin dump after a large meal, and then once it’s cleared, you might feel like you need to eat again even though you really have eaten more than enough calories.

  • Get your sleep. Often when family and friends are around, we stay up later than normal and might not get the sleep we need. Sleep affects appetite, mood, and energy levels. Do your best to stick to your normal sleep schedule. If your normal sleep schedule is a bit on the low side, try to get a couple extra hours during the holidays.

  • Take an extra walk. OK, so maybe this afternoon you did indulge a little too much in Uncle Larry’s turkey stuffing and Aunt Sally’s pie. No worries, just go for a walk instead of sleeping it off on the couch. And bring Uncle Larry and Aunt Sally with you.

Keeping these things in mind, the holiday season doesn’t have to be an excuse to put on a few pounds, and you can still maintain a normal training or exercise schedule. Enjoy the festivities and the treats of the holidays without it disrupting the routine and healthy living you love.



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Nicole Odell


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