Healthy holidays

By Kathryn Mayer

It’s still Christmas week and already my holiday season has been very full (of pie, overspending, etc.)

And of course, it’s not over yet. We all still have a few more parties, more get-togethers with out-of-town friends and family, lots of Christmas cookies around, and of course, New Year’s coming up. Managing holiday stress still applies.

As my holidays have been spent eating way too much, exercising way too little (does helping assemble giant toys and games for small children count as physicial activity?), and stressing, I could use some holiday help just as much as anyone.

Here are some of the best tips I’ve found to stay healthy during the holidays. Plus, they’ll help give you a jump start on your New Year’s resolutions.

Control your portions

People tend to eat too much in part because food is everywhere during the holidays. But here are some tips to avoid it: Avoid the clean plate club by eating until you are satisfied, not stuffed. Take time to pause during the meal to check your level of fullness. When you feel satisfied, reinforce your decision to stop eating by leaving the table, washing your plate and going to watch football. Choosing smaller portions from a variety of foods, including plenty of fruits and vegetables, will allow you to still enjoy your favorite holiday treats while eating less. And, if you go to a restaurant, split a big meal with someone or take some home.

Get the flu shot

Getting vaccinated is your best protection for avoiding the flu and staying healthy during the holiday season. Keep in mind that the flu vaccine becomes effective about two weeks after it’s been administered, so the earlier you get it the better.

Be physically active

This one’s a no-brainer, but it’s still important to note. Besides hitting the gym, there are plenty of fun holiday activities that will give you a great workout: Don’t be shy about hitting the dance floor at holiday parties, or go ice skating, play flag football or build a snowman with the family. Go for a walk outside if it’s not too cold. Most adults need at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity, five days a week. The key is finding the exercise that works for your age, schedule and interests.

Don’t miss a meal

“A common misconception is that skipping meals will save room for large amounts of food later in the day,” says Hannah El-Amin, a dietitian at Northwestern Integrative Medicine. “Instead, this sets your hunger into overdrive and by the time you finally eat, excess hunger will make you more likely to choose food impulsively and overeat.”

Drink less

Drinking too much alcohol is bad for your health and dangerous if you will be driving. You can reduce your consumption of alcohol by setting personal limits, drinking nonalcoholic beverages, or resisting the temptation to drink altogether.

Manage stress

The holidays are often synonymous with stress, but there are things that can help you manage it better. First, set realistic goals. Don’t feel obligated to do everything that you are invited to. Second, stick to your budget as overspending is a major source of holiday stress. Reach out and seek help if feel lonely or isolated. And of course, don’t abandon healthy habits.

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