The holiday season is the best time of the year. Families gather together, colleagues celebrate a great year, and we all look excitedly towards the New Year.
Plenty of sequined dresses, festive cocktails and parties, and frosted cookies at the office.
My perspective on keeping it healthy during the holidays used to be this: whatever, it’s the holidays!
Now, let me tell you why my perspective changed, what it changed to, and what my tips are for keeping it (mostly) healthy during the busy, fun, joyful holiday season! And as an added bonus, Meaghan (our Director of Community & Brand) will be sharing her top tips!
Every year up until last, I was guaranteed to gain up to 10 pounds from November 25th through January 1. I just didn’t “care,” because, “oh, it’s just once a year!” I am a huge baked goods, cookies and cake person, so any festively frosted baked good, I was on it, and I chalked it up to “it’s the holidays!”
When I resolved to commit to my fit journey, I decided to take control of my health and gain control of even the craziest of times, like the holidays. I decided I’d start a lifestyle forever and just because it was a certain time of year, didn’t mean that I’d change my lifestyle because of it.
Instead of grabbing that extra cookie, I asked myself, “Will that really improve my time at this [insert festive gathering here]?” Ten times out of 10, the cookie wasn’t needed and I put it down. The next morning, when I wasn’t in a sugar coma, I felt proud of myself and happy because I still enjoyed myself that night – and isn’t that the best? Being happy?
Think of it this way: you should always celebrate being with your family and friends, just because there’s mistletoe hanging doesn’t give the excuse to let go over your personal health goals. I’ve rounded up my best tips for keeping it healthy during the holidays, while still enjoying yourself. It’s a fine line, for sure (and I’m not perfect!)
Plan ahead but don’t think too much
Sounds like an oxy-moron, but my first tip is this: if you plan ahead before attending the festive events of the season, you can reduce the chances of you making unhealthy choices. If you’re going to a holiday party at a friend’s home, you should be bringing a hostess gift anyway! What better gift to bring than a home-cooked salad, side dish, or healthy baked good? If it’s a cocktail party, bring a healthier appetizer (Prosciutto Wrapped Maple-Balsamic Sweet Potato Noodle Rolls) so that you know you’ll have something to pick on. Maybe call the hostess ahead of time and say, “How about I bring a crudite?” 100% that person will be so thankful for your help! Other great things to bring are big, shareable salads – like my Brussels Sprouts, Kale and Pear Noodle Salad.
Or, bring something stealthy: pack your purse with some mixed nuts (I love a 100 calorie pack of almonds!) or even a packet of almond butter (there’s bound to be something you can spread that almond butter on at the party!)
Then, you won’t be tempted to gorge on meats and cheeses, creamy dips, and other things that pack on the calories quickly. You’ll always have that fail safe and you’ll be in the good graces of the hostess! However, don’t think too much about it – if you don’t have time to make something healthy and are running late, then go with the flow. Remember the cardinal rule: everything in moderation. It takes self-control (which can be especially difficult after a few rounds of champagne), but have a bit of food to fill your stomach and take away that hunger and then move away from the table with the food for the night – go do what you came to do: spend time with your friends! Don’t beat yourself up for having a chocolate chip cookie if that’s all that’s there – one cookie won’t derail your health goals, but 3, 4, or 5 will!
Avoid the “I’ll just drink” trap
This is something I did the year after I graduated college and attended my first “adult”-ish holiday party. I was headed to a holiday party at a friend’s apartment, and instead of having dinner beforehand or having some cheese and crackers at the party, I said, “I’m just going to drink my dinner.” Oh, 22 year old Ali! Sure, you may save yourself a few hundred calories by not having something to eat, BUT what happens to your body the next day will be far worse than having something before heading to the cocktail party (even a granola bar! a piece of fruit! a piece of toast with almond butter! anything!).
We’ve all been there. You wake up and are severely hungover because all that’s sitting in your stomach is alcohol and you’re extremely dehydrated. You didn’t reap the benefits of nutrients by eating something healthy that night, so now you’re paying for it. And you know what happens next: all the fries. To cure your hangover and nurse yourself back to “health,” you’ll go for something greasy or head to the diner for a giant stack of pancakes with butter and maple syrup. It always happens!
So, avoid the “I’ll just drink” trap and eat something before you go to a party where you know you’ll be drinking – it can be anything, but preferably a carbohydrate (whole grain toast with avocado, almomd butter and a banana, a nut medley with some raisins, whatever!)
Don’t be ashamed to say no thank you
Something I’ve proudly mastered at my ripe old age of 29 is the art of saying “no thank you.” It’s tough to do, but if you are trying to stay healthy and suddenly birthday cake is put in front of you, don’t feel bad for saying “No thank you” when offered a slice. These situations pop up more frequently during the holidays, when colleagues go into a baking frenzy. Don’t feel “bad” saying, “No thank you.” The person offering you the treat wants you to be happy (that’s why they baked those delicious temptations!), and at the end of the day, you eating that sugary treat will leave you feeling more upset than happy – you’ll have all types of emotions like, “Ugh! I wish I didn’t eat that, I feel like crap.”
Don’t feel the need to make excuses either. Just kindly say, “This looks amazing, you’re such a talented baker! I’m going to pass, though, I’m good for right now, but I might grab one later. Thank you so much!” Just express gratitude. Be thankful for the offer, but kindly decline. SIMPLE AS THAT.
However, if you really, really, really want that delicious treat, take it – and try just eating half of it. Enjoy that half – savor every single bite and lick of it. And then offer the other half up. Or save it for later, perhaps for a friend or your roommate when you get home. These little tricks for moderation add up to big healthy gains!
Drink a lot of water
The solution to pollution is dilution! I’ll always add “drink water” to any healthy tip round up, because it’s the OG healthy rule. Our bodies need water to keep functioning. Especially if you’re drinking and consuming more sugar, drinking water is crucial.
After a night out, before you go to bed, drink a tall glass of water. While you’re out at a bar or a friend’s house, drink a glass of water in between every drink – you’ll still get buzzed and enjoy yourself, but you’ll also be combatting some of that dehydration. The end result: you’ll feel better in the morning and make that 9am workout!
Exercise a bit more
Speaking of exercise, an easy way to counteract the extra calories you’ll be consuming when out celebrating is to exercise a little extra. This time of year is the time to exercise more! Thanksgiving is the perfect day to exercise – wake up early with your family and go for an hour long walk or grab your most fit family member and go on a run or to the gym. Fit in at least an hour of exercise and then you don’t have to think AS much about having a slice of apple pie (you earned it!)
And this is the time to build in HIIT and strength training workouts – these types of workouts rev your metabolism and raise your resting metabolic rate, so even when you’re sitting at your desk the next day, you’re burning more calories than you normally would be, thanks to the muscle mass you’ve gained from strength training.
On the days you don’t have an event, keep it clean
This is something I incorporate into my weekly health journey – on the days that I don’t have plans to go out, I keep it extra healthy. I eat seriously clean, I exercise, I drink lots of water, and I get enough sleep. This helps balance out the other days spent out late or eating and drinking more than usual. It sounds obvious, but I wanted to keep it on this tip list, because it’s easy to forget! It’s important to properly nourish your body to keep it prepared to fight while you’re slingin’ back eggnog! 🙂
Meaghan’s sharing her personal tips for staying healthy during the holidays:
Get active with your family.
Even if it’s just playing with a family pet or helping out in the kitchen – turkey trots and football games aren’t you’re only option. Get up and start participating in whatever’s happening around the house. You’ll burn calories and create fun memories at the same time.
The Holidays are a great time to allow yourself to breathe.
If your grandma makes a special pie during the Holidays or your mom is famous for her dressing – allow yourself to have a scoop or piece…it will be fine! Trust us! Time with loved ones is priceless. Practice allowing yourself to enjoy these small moments – they’ll mean far more to you in the future than any number on a scale.
Introduce your family to your own special dish.
If you’ve been following a vegan diet, you’re new to spiralizing, or something similar – get the family involved. Showing off how passionate you are for the healthy lifestyle you’re pursuing may inspire others and you’ll be sure to have a healthier option on the table to enjoy!
Start the week off strong and get back on track immediately after.
You don’t need to eat junk all week to enjoy the Holidays. Allow yourself the freedom to eat what you’d like on the day of, but get right back on track the next day – even if it’s just for one meal that day. Having one green juice the next morning can make you feel worlds better!
Don’t forget to drink your water!
If you overindulge and feel a little sick, don’t freak out, just sip on some water. Alcohol or bubbly drinks can make you feel worse. Balance it out by keeping a glass of water nearby. Water will help keep your system clear and will keep the Holiday cheer going.