How to Have A Happy (And Healthy) Holiday Season

If you’re like a lot of people, you may tend to gain a few pounds during the holidays. Starting with Thanksgiving, the last six weeks of every year, through New Year’s Day, are filled with feasts and parties. And during this time, people love to show off their culinary favorites, so you’re likely to come face to face with all sorts of rich, delicious foods, including an enormous assortment of sweets.

That said, just because you can eat all these different treats doesn’t mean you have to. In fact, it’s not that difficult to truly enjoy your holidays – including a few tasty treats – without completely disregarding your health and your waistline. Here are just a few strategies you can follow to get through all the festivities.

It starts with having the right attitude.

Many people go into the holidays looking forward to gorging themselves. Meanwhile, many others just start eating absent-mindedly once the food is put out. Either way, you’re simply asking for trouble from a health perspective. Instead, it’s best to start the holiday season with the right attitude, planning to enjoy the food you like without overdoing it.

So, for example, when you’re looking at a spread of six or seven desserts, ask yourself which one or two you want to try the most. You don’t have to have one of everything. And take your time. Enjoy each bite to its fullest before you swallow it. If you gobble that slice of pumpkin pie up too quickly, you’ll just want to go back and devour another one.

Also, there are little mind tricks you can play on yourself to help you stay healthy. For example, use a small plate that holds less food, which will trick you into thinking you’re eating more than you are. And if you make sure you always use a plate to put your food on before you start eating, it will help you avoid grazing.

Remember, also, that the holiday season is about so much more than food. Keep your focus on the more meaningful aspects, like faith and family.

Practice self-control at holiday parties.

If you’re invited to a holiday party with friends or family, offer to bring a healthy dish. It should be something unique and flavorful, like a Tangy Tomato Dip or a delicious Pear-Almond Tart, so that people will want to try it. These make great appetizers, which means starting off with them will take some of the edge off your appetite. If there’s a veggie tray, that’s also a good place to start.

When it’s time for the main meal, put fruits and vegetables on the plate first, then add the less healthy foods in the remaining space. And it’s best to enjoy just one helping on a single plate, as opposed to going back for seconds or even thirds.

Before dinner, it’s best not to starve yourself or skip a meal so you’ll have more room for “the good stuff.” You probably won’t be able to keep your blood sugar under control, which will make you more likely to overeat. And be careful with alcohol. Try to drink in moderation and only while you’re eating.

Stay active.

Finally, the holidays are no time to take a break from your exercise routine. You’ll probably be consuming more calories than normal during this time of year, so it stands to reason you need to burn more calories, too. Plus, exercise can help reduce the stress that often comes during the holidays. That’s why you should take a 20- to 30-minute walk after that huge dinner.

And make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Lack of sleep can make it harder to keep your blood sugar in check, and the fatigue makes it more difficult to resist temptation. So, to avoid mindless grazing on high-fat, high-sugar foods, get seven to eight hours of sleep every night.

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