Ah, the holidays.

We missed you. The holiday season is upon us and social calendars are filling up quickly. Family travel plans are being made and presents are being wrapped. Many of us will be attending gatherings, parties and dinners on a regular basis and perhaps doing some seasonal cooking of our own. All the amazing food that’s on offer makes it incredibly difficult to stay healthy during this time of year. So here are a few tips to help you get through it.

1. Don’t skip meals to “allow for extra calories later”

While the logic behind this might make sense, in practice it doesn’t. Skipping meals will only leave you ravenous and more likely to overindulge later -particularly on unhealthy foods. Instead you may want to plan for lighter, healthier meals that day to allow for a little extra indulgence. Light dishes might be something with salmon, grilled chicken, soups or sandwiches.

2. Stop panicking about diets

If you’re currently on a diet, then the holiday season can be a minefield to navigate. If you were planning to go on a diet, then the holiday season is certainly not the time to start. Trust us. But whatever your diet-status may be, during the holiday season, just stick to the basic principles of healthy eating.

3. Healthy eating and snacking

  • Go with grains like brown rice, bulgur, oats or whole-wheat breads. They are great sources of fiber, which promotes good digestion and also makes you feel fuller.
  • Stick to the “good” fats. These are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. They’re found in nut and vegetable oils and oily fish, such as salmon, trout, and herring.
  • Eat, don’t drink, your calories. Beverages don’t fill you up in the same way that foods do, and most beverages don’t contribute many nutrients. So, limit the amount of fizzy drinks and soda that you consume. Where possible, stick to drinking water
  • Watch those portions. Even as you try to eat foods that are loaded with nutrients, pay attention to the overall amount you consume.

4. Alcoholic beverages

Alcohol is one of those items that many people overindulge in this time of year. One drink with lunch, another with dinner, a couple drinks on Christmas day and a few on New Year’s Eve all adds up. Suddenly two weeks have gone by and you’ve consumed a whole lot of alcohol. Alcohol depletes Vitamin B1 in the body, it adds excess stress to the liver and dehydrates you very quickly. Drink in moderation.

5. If you’re entertaining, make it easy and healthy

If you’re planning a party, make it a potluck. Guests are always happy to bring a dish to an event. The immediate benefit of this is a lot less stress for you. To make things interesting, you can ask your guests to bring dishes with a healthier slant. For example, you can ask them to stick to home-made items like breads, salads, casseroles or sweet potatoes. On average, home-made foods are a lot healthier than their processed counterparts.

6. Eat mini-meals

Try eating several small meals or snacks (healthy ones) throughout the day instead of a few big ones. Breaking up meals will give you a steady and stable blood sugar level which results in less snacking.

7. Zero in on stress points and fix them

Stress-eating is a thing. The holidays often generate a vicious cycle: Stress causes people to eat more and richer foods, which causes them to gain weight, which makes them feel even more stressed. Many things are going to cause you stress this holiday season. That’s unavoidable. But what you can do is figure out exactly what is causing you the most stress and limit it. Is it the party planning? the cooking? getting the kids ready for a trip to the in-laws? Pinpoint your triggers and proactively look for ways to lessen or minimize them.

This holiday season, eat well (but healthy), keep up your normal exercise routine and don’t forget to take time for yourself. Use some of the tips above to make that happen. Start January on a positive note by making sure you’re feeling your best. Happy holiday!

Physicians and Midwives, an Advantia Health Practice

Physicians and Midwives is a unique collaborative practice you won’t find anywhere else. We have 5 offices for your convenience all across Northern Virginia, including Alexandria, North Arlington, Mt. Vernon, Kingstowne, and Woodbridge. If you would like to be listened to, as well as cared for, then look no further.