Tips for a Healthy Holiday Season
Around this time of year, it is so easy to go from one event to the next and get caught up in the craziness that can overtake us. As you’re reading this you may be counting down the days until Christmas or you may be in the middle of Hanukkah. Regardless, there are so many reasons to slow down and focus on yourself and your family, as doing so will keep you healthy, sane, and thankful for what you have.
I’ve compiled a list of a few health tips for this season. These aren’t things like “save your cheat meal for your work party” or anything so restrictive. If that works for you, by all means, stick with what works, but these tips focus more on general health and wellness.
1. Make a list of what needs to get done by when. I know, you’re probably thinking “Lists stress me out!”. The point is, by organizing what needs to be done, you can break things down into manageable pieces. I usually use a monthly wall calendar for the big events and I actually just have a word document I created back in college that I still print out once a week for those daily events. Relax and don’t stress the small stuff.
2. Practice moderation. With all the parties and events, no one is going to feel great after stuffing their face for three weeks with heavy foods, lots of sweets, and even more alcohol. Enjoy your favorite items, but not ALL the items. In other words, your friend’s amazing homemade pumpkin cake might be totally worth it for you, while those store bought frosted sugar cookies (you know the ones I’m talking about) that can be purchased any time you want are not. Don’t eat it just because it is there. One or two glasses of wine (or other alcohol) will also make you more likely to eat everything in sight, so pace yourself.
3. Get moving every day. You may have seen (or even participated in) the 7 Day “Get Moving” Challenge on the website and social media this week. Well, the reason I like to start that this time of the year is it helps lay the foundation for daily physical activity. Involve your friends and family in the activity to make it even more fun!
4. Be careful of the blood sugar roller coaster. When you haven’t eaten since lunch and you have a few cookies and a cup of punch on an empty stomach, you’re going to have a blood sugar spike. Most of us have felt this (and the inevitable crash that comes later). Try to have dessert after a healthy meal rather than by itself. If this is unavoidable, even having a few pieces of sandwich meat, a handful of nuts, or a boiled egg before you enjoy the sweets can help reduce the spikes and crashes. You’ll feel better and be less cranky when your blood sugar is regulated (the physical activity mentioned in #3 also helps with this). A similar tip is not to arrive at a party famished. Keep a little bag of nuts and no sugar added dried fruit in your bag to have a little snack before you arrive.
5. Get some rest! I know, you probably laughed out loud at this one if you have small children or a demanding job, but most of us can easily get more sleep than we’re currently getting. Turn off electronics at night and read a real book, magazine, newspaper, or a non-backlit e-reader. Have a cup of something warm such as herbal tea or lemon water. Take a warm shower or soak in a bath. Avoid caffeine for at least 5 hours before bed. Getting plenty of rest will help you stay strong mentally, physically, and emotionally this season.
6. Schedule some “Me Time” during the craziest times. I know, those of you with kids probably also laughed at this one, but there are ways to make it work. Trade off time with the kids so you can go have some time with your girlfriends while your husband watches the kids. Trade off a few days later so your husband can go to guys night. If you’ll be visiting family around the holidays there are probably lots of people willing to watch your kids so you (or you and your spouse) can have a few minutes to yourselves. Relax and recharge. Even a kid-free bubble bath can be restorative (provided you don’t have anyone banging on the door). Other options are to get a massage, read a book in private, do some yoga, or go for a solo run/walk. As a side note, if you know a single parent or someone in need of a few hours of alone time, offer to babysit for them as your gift this season.
7. Drink plenty of water. You know that saying that often people aren’t hungry, just dehydrated? That is especially true around the holidays. Often we’re so busy traveling, going to events for the kids, going to work events, etc. that we don’t realize how little water we’re drinking. Stay well hydrated, especially when flying, working out, or drinking alcohol. I don’t care if you don’t like plain water. Add cucumbers, frozen berries, fresh ginger, fresh mint leaves, or try sparkling water and lemon or lime, but just drink it!
8. Don’t neglect your immune system. Although all the above points will help keep your immune system functioning properly, it can still be bombarded this time of year. We’re spending more time indoors, getting less fresh air and sunlight, traveling in enclosed spaces with strangers, and eating more sugar. Getting quality sleep, fresh air, healthy eating, physical activity, hydration, and stress reduction will help, but sometimes it is not enough. Although everyone has their own immune boosting routines, some of my favorites are listed below:
- Increase probiotics like yogurt (I usually prefer unsweetened coconut milk yogurt), raw fermented sauerkraut, or kimchi (if you want to supplement, I occasionally use this one).
- Vitamin C (papayas, bell peppers, broccoli, brussels sprouts, strawberries, pineapple, oranges, and kiwis are all great sources). Again, food sources are better, but if you want to supplement you can try this one.
- Elderberry syrup. Elderberries have a high antioxidant content and we sometimes take this if we’re starting to get sick. It isn’t a magical cure or anything, but it will boost your system to help it work better. My favorites are the 365 brand Elderberry Syrup from Whole Foods or the Sprouts store brand Elderberry Syrup. You don’t really need one with added sweeteners. This one seems to be most common, but it does have honey and it is much more expensive than the others. It is safe for kids, but be sure to ask your child’s doctor.
- Magnesium: Okay, this one isn’t specifically for the immune system, but I include it for two reasons. It can be great if you get muscle cramps while traveling and it is also beneficial if you suffer from constipation while traveling. I take this one while traveling for the muscle cramps, but this is a nice choice if you want to prepare it as a hot beverage. It is sweetened with stevia unless you buy the unflavored kind. I have only tasted the raspberry lemon flavor, but it was nice. Although the large containers are more economical, they also sell packets for on-the-go. Take it before bed, as it is quite relaxing.
- Fresh ginger or peppermint. These are great if you have a sensitive stomach or a bit of nausea. You can suck on them directly (a little hardcore) or put them in hot water to make a tea.
- Keep your hands clean! Wash your hands well if you’re out and about or traveling often. I’m certainly not afraid of germs, but I am definitely carefully about this one when traveling. You can also use hand sanitizer. This one is my favorite. You can also buy it in bulk as a stocking stuffer!
9. Practice Gratitude. You can read the post about this from Thanksgiving, but don’t forget to practice gratitude this season. Think of everything you’re thankful for and spend some time this season doing something for those less fortunate than you.
10. Laugh. Not many things will go as you planned this season. Be flexible and just try to laugh when things go wrong. Read funny books and spend time with funny people to lift your spirits.
If you plan on traveling this season, be sure to check back next Tuesday for my Healthy Travel Tips post!