The end of the year is packed with high profile holidays centered around tradition, religion, family and delicious yet somewhat unhealthy foods. Because the Holiday Season encompasses such a big chunk of the year, it's important to make smart food and exercises choices in order to keep healthy habits alive.
Healthier Food Choices
Cooking healthy food is one way to make the holidays compatible with a healthy lifestyle. There's no rule saying healthy food has to taste bad. Improving the nutrition of holiday meals involves using better ingredients, offering healthier side dishes and controlling portion sizes. Here are a few ways to make holiday food healthier:
- use 100% whole wheat flour instead of white flour
- use vegetable "butter" spreads instead of real butter or margarine
- add flax seeds and wheat germ to increase omega 3 and fiber content
- bake instead of fry
- don't trust recipes: use 1/2 to 3/4 of the required sugar - you probably won't notice the difference
- offer salads/fruit alongside traditional side dishes/desserts
- use smaller plates and pay attention to portion sizes
Exercise routines become dormant in the later months of the year. Numerous high calorie meals lead to unwanted weight gain. Exercise counteracts a higher calorie intake and helps you avoid weight gain during the Holiday Season.
Don't ignore exercise. Even minimal amounts of physical activity (15-30 minutes per day) keeps an exercise routine on track. Building exercise into family traditions makes the holidays a much healthier time of year. Here are a few ways to increase physical activity:
- attend a holiday themed 5k race before big meals
- plan competitive family sporting events
- include walks for family members who can't participate in rigorous exercise
Year Round Behavior
Solid year round habits blunt the impact of the unhealthy Holiday Season. If you build a lifestyle on top of a solid diet and exercise foundation, you don't need to worry much about the holidays. The year round concept allows you to have a cheat meal and skip a gym day. A few bumps along the road won't cause long lasting issues.
The major problem is getting through the Holiday Season when you don't have a strong foundation. A few missed gym days turn into weeks and months of not exercising. A few holiday cheat meals turns into eating junk too often. The long term consequences of eating too much and exercising too little is a return to a sedentary, obesity filled lifestyle.
The Bottom Line
The Holiday Season is in part, about family, friends and delicious food. There's no need to deprive yourself of some of the best holiday treats. This guide leads you through the process of cooking healthier holiday foods, staying in shape and getting back on course once it's all over. Happy Holidays!
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