Healthful Holiday Traditions

Tips For Prioritizing Nutrition, Exercise And Rest

As people grow and change, holiday traditions can provide a sense of identity, predictability and connection. Because many holiday traditions involve food — your aunt’s apple pie or your brother’s cheesy potato gratin — it may be tempting to eat foods that are high in sugar, calories and fat.

Many Americans consume more calories and exercise less than usual during the holidays, and they often gain about one pound during the season. This can be a problem if you gain one pound each year, year after year, without ever losing weight.

During the holidays, when you are spending more time with your family, you have an opportunity to model healthful behavior. Chances are, many people will appreciate your effort to start new, more healthful traditions. Here are some ideas:

Introduce Alternatives

It might be hard to convince your family that you don’t absolutely need pie at the holiday dinner. But you can show them that a healthful alternative, such as cinnamon applesauce muffins, can be just as satisfying.

Focus on Activities Rather Than Eating

Exercise has many benefits, including improved energy and mood, lowered risk of certain diseases and health conditions, and stress relief. Go on a family hike. Cut down your own Christmas tree. Go ice skating. Organize a game of kickball or soccer.

Always Carry an Apple

Apples are easy to transport, delightfully crisp and full of health benefits, making them a great snack at any time of day. A medium-size apple contains 4 grams of fiber, which is known to reduce low-density lipoprotein, or “bad” cholesterol levels, and help control blood sugar levels.

Sign Up For a Fitness Event

Make it a new family tradition to sign up for fun runs or other group events around the holidays. Check local newspapers or event calendars to find running, walking, skiing or cycling races in your area. Signing up for an event will motivate you to train in the weeks leading up to it.

Start With Soup or Salad

Follow this advice and you’ll be less hungry when it’s time to eat the main course. If possible, opt for water-based soups such as vegetable, chicken or beef broth and tomato soups. Avoid toppings such as tortilla chips, cheese and sour cream.

Focus On a Family Project

Instead of a food-based activity such as decorating sugar cookies, spend time organizing family photos, make a family calendar to give away as gifts, plant an indoor herb garden or create a family trivia game.

Do a Service Project

Make cards for the residents of a local nursing home. Donate gifts and food to a family in need. Clean out your toy room, kitchen and closets and donate quality items to a local shelter. Spend a few mornings volunteering at a food bank or animal shelter.

Indulge Sometimes

Treating yourself to something special, such as eggnog or a small slice of pecan pie, is OK. Just be sure to limit your portion size.

5 Satisfying Snacks

Resist the urge to overindulge in salty or sugary snacks. Reach for these foods that are packed with protein and essential vitamins and minerals.

  • Oatmeal (¾ cup oats, 1½ cups 1% milk) – 22 grams protein
  • Whole-wheat pancakes (plus 1 tablespoon light syrup) – 9 grams protein
  • Peanut butter (2 tablespoons) – 8 grams protein
  • Hard-boiled egg (1 large egg) – 6 grams protein
  • Nonfat yogurt (8 ounces) – 11 grams protein

It’s recommended that adults get at least 10 to 35 percent of their daily calories from protein foods. That’s about 46 grams of protein for women and 56 grams of protein for men.