We work so hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle throughout the year (New Year's resolution, anyone?), and then it all seems to go downhill once December rolls around. This year, don't let the holidays be an excuse to get off track. There are plenty of ways to indulge in holiday splendors without sabotaging your efforts.
Contrary to what you might think, this isn't the time of year to start a diet or fitness regime. The key to success is actually consistency. "Keep your healthy habits going and those holiday indulgences will do a lot less damage," says Monica Reinagel, licensed nutritionist at ReViVer, a fast-fine (casual fine dining and fast casual dining) eclectic and healthy American-cuisine restaurant in New York City. That means making healthy food choices and getting regular exercise. Amidst the clever cocktails and tempting tartlets, and the office parties and timely travels, that's easier said than done.
Amy K. Mitchell, founder of ProYOGA Corporate Wellness, says to "stick to your routine" as much as possible. You might have to get a little cheeky with your time to make it work. "Keep making healthy choices convenient so you don't break good habits and start bad ones," says Mitchell, explaining it's harder to restart an exercise routine after the holidays than consistently doing your best to maintain your fitness during the busy holiday season.
Even if you can't fit a full workout into your schedule, keep moving. If you're at a party, invite a few guests to take a walk around the block with you. When running store to store to shop for presents, park at the opposite end of the parking lot, and take the stairs in the department stores to get some extra mileage.
As mentioned previously, oftentimes your health and fitness strategy for the rest of the year may need some adjustments in wintertime.
Personal trainer and running coach Meghan Kennihan advises being active four to five times a week. To log that time, she suggests, "Put your workouts in your planner and stick to them as if they are an important job meeting or doctor appointment." It's true our priorities might shift during this time of year, but you'll be glad you stuck to your commitment.
It's no secret that sugary sweets aren't the best fuel for our bodies, though they sure are delicious. There's no need to feel anxious with cookie trays, candy canes and cocktails all around this year. Here's the trick: Indulge in moderation. That's right. The old adage rings true during the holidays as every other time of year. Kennihan suggests bringing a healthy dish to a party. That way, you have a healthy option to fill up on. Perhaps your act will encourage others to be a bit more health-conscious, too.
Another great option is to eat a high-protein meal before going to a party. It's a well-known fact that we are more apt to make unhealthy choices when our tummies are a-grumbling. This way, the hope is that you can curb those splurges, leaving you to be more mindful of choices.
Whenever possible, make healthy swaps. For example, Reinagel recommends serving stuffed mushrooms instead of bacon-wrapped appetizers, explaining that "mushrooms make a nutritious and low calorie container for any type of savory filling."
For that sweet fix, nibble on gingerbread cookies instead of sugar cookies. The two are equally fun to decorate, but gingerbread cookies potentially have a lot more nutritious value, as they can be made with whole-wheat flour, molasses and dried fruits. Instead of candies, quell a sweet tooth with dark chocolate-covered pomegranate seeds. Dark chocolate is a "nutritional upgrade" compared to milk chocolate, Reinagel says, because it's lower in sugar and high in flavanols.
Lastly, forget noshing on a bowl of salted nuts. Serve nuts in the shell, as having to remove the shell slows down the eating process, leaving less likelihood for overindulgence.
*Do's and Don'ts
--Do set boundaries. "Limit yourself to one sweet indulgence a day," says Reinagel.
--Don't miss breakfast. "When an indulgent day is planned, there's a tendency to skip breakfast and 'save' calories for treats later in the day," says Edwina Clark, registered dietitian and head of Nutrition and Wellness at Yummly. "A substantial breakfast helps control hunger and appetite throughout the day, stave-off cravings and prevent overindulgence," she says.
--Do have healthful snacks. Keeping your metabolism steady throughout the day helps prevent crashes, and therefore temptation to binge. Try peanut butter and apple wedges, carrots and hummus, Greek yogurt with fruit, and string cheese and whole grain crackers.
--Don't use sauces, dressings or gravy. Save those extra calories for something else. If something looks like a must-have, Kennihan says, "spoon a small amount rather than pouring it."
--Do eat your veggies. Veggies are low in calories and high in nutrients. Clark says, "Fill half your plate with plants at every meal."
--Don't drink your calories. Seasonal drinks, such as eggnog, and alcoholic beverages are a surefire way to add a few hundred calories to any meal. If given the choice, avoid drinks with sugary syrups, and opt for ones with natural juices and tonic water.