Healthy Holiday

With the holidays quickly approaching, it’s up to us to continue to make healthy choices to better both our physical and mental health. The holidays are often centered around three things: family, friends, and food. The typical holiday foods, while very tasty, are oftentimes not the best for our overall health. However, there are many things that we can do to have a healthier holiday season while still enjoying ourselves!

• Try to incorporate at least one healthy food item into each day! (For example- start your day out with a healthy breakfast of Greek yogurt and berries if you know it will be difficult to make healthy choices at lunch and dinner.) 

• The Holidays can be a stressful time for some- try incorporating some form of physical activity into each day in order to help decrease stress. This can be something as simple as a walk outside with your family, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator when you are out doing your holiday shopping!

• Avoid alcohol at holiday parties. Cocktails are a common drink served during the holiday season and can contain a lot of excess calories and sugar. Remember that alcohol impacts the receptors in the blood vessels near the heart and can result in an increase in blood pressure. Alcohol can also increase stress hormones and lead to a higher heart rate. Try substituting alcohol for flavored sparkling water with a lime wedge, or fun mocktail.

• When cooking desserts using things such as whipped cream or milk products, swap them out for low-fat options! You will be surprised how similar low-fat options taste when they are mixed in a yummy dessert. For example, Fat-free and protein-rich PLAIN Greek yogurt is a great substitute for full-fat sour cream. See if your family notices!

Some other substitutions: 

• Whole-wheat flour for white flour. For every cup of white flour, substitute 7⁄8 cup whole-wheat flour.

• Unsweetened applesauce for butter. If your recipe calls for one cup of butter, substitute 1/2 cup of unsweetened applesauce and 1/2 cup of a nontropical oil. You can even swap in applesauce for some of the sugar in cookies, muffins, or pancakes!

•Pay attention to your portion sizes. For example, instead of having three pieces of pumpkin pie for dessert- have one and a small side of fruit. You can also aim to fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables. 

• Boost your immune system! The holidays are packed full with family and friend get-togethers- unfortunately, this is a prime time for catching the seasonal flu or other sicknesses. Try incorporating lots of fruits and vegetables into your diet to increase your antioxidants and vitamin intake, as these will help fight off sicknesses. Stay hydrated during the day and ensure you get plenty of sleep at night, as a lack of both of these things can lead to a decreased immune system. 

• Practice food safety while cooking for your holiday parties. Remember to keep food out of the “Danger Zone.” Bacteria grow rapidly between 40°F and 140°F. If you are planning on preparing your food early- make sure to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Refrigerate or freeze perishable food within 2 hours to avoid preventable illness. If you do not believe you will be able to meet these requirements- opt for bringing a non-perishable treat such as trail mix!

Most of all, remember to enjoy yourself. The holidays only come around once a year, so make sure to soak up all the time with your loved ones. Have a safe, happy, and healthy holiday season!

Submitted by Madison Sperry RD, LDN, and Liz Lombardi MS, RD, LDN