Stressful times during the holiday season can oftentimes lead to poor lifestyle choices. That includes overeating and overdrinking, decreased physical activity and changes in sleep patterns.
Trish Greenwood, a dietitian and nutritionist at Presence Saint Joseph Hospital, offers up these four tips to help you stay on track this holiday season.
Choose Your Food Wisely
Create a plan ahead of time so you have some guaranteed healthy choices to turn to. Eating slowly and socializing away from the buffet table are also ways to prevent overeating. Another great tip is to bring a healthy dish to pass at gatherings. That way you will know that there will be a healthy option there. In most recipes, simple substitutions can be made to reduce calories without sacrificing taste. Try swapping out regular ingredients for low-fat versions. Sometimes eating dinner even before you go to a party can be a good decision. Be sure to choose indulgences wisely. When you choose to indulge, choose foods that are unique and special to the season in small portions. Don’t waste calories on store-bought cookies or food that you can have any time of year. As always, don’t forget to stay hydrated. Choose plenty of water or other calorie-free beverages. Remember being thirsty can sometimes give you the same signs as being hungry.
Don’t Overdo It
Increased alcohol consumption can not only provide you with unnecessary calories, but may also lead to poor food choices as well. To avoid increased alcohol consumption, limit to one glass a day for women and two glasses for men, and drink slowly. Also, be sure to make wise choices. Some servings of holiday cheer can really rack up the empty calories, especially when sugary mixers are involved.
Don’t forget to make time for physical activity. Walk as much as possible, dance with your children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews, or build a snowman! Whatever you choose to do, just try to move more. Exercise will increase your metabolism, give you energy and reduce stress. Bottom line – you will feel better physically and mentally!
Holiday stress can also lead to changes in sleep patterns. To minimize sleep problems, avoid alcohol, caffeine and exercise before bed. It can also help to avoid very heavy or spicy meals. You can even try Melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone that as released can induce sleep. Herbal preparations can also be helpful. Some examples include valerian root, passion flower, oat, chamomile and hops.
Whether we believe it or not, the holidays are upon us. To help you feel better and survive this joyful, busy time of year, keep these tips in mind: eat regular meals including a variety of foods, minimize high-fat foods and be mindful of portion sizes. Also, don’t forget to drink water and get plenty of rest and exercise. Wishing you and your families a very happy and healthy holiday season!
Trish Greenwood, RDN, LDN
Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center