The holidays are a popular time for eating socially. Unfortunately, with all the rich foods and sweet indulgences that surround families during holiday parties, gatherings and events combined with those lazy days spent indoors, the threat of weight gain is always lurking. Although tempting, it’s important not to let the holidays become a free-for-all. Consider these quick and easy tips for keeping you and your family in good health over the holiday season.
1. Snack Healthy and Snack Smart
Since on-the-go snacking is common during the holiday season it’s important to ensure that nutritious snacks are readily available. Some great options include vegetables and fruits (apple wedges, clementine, celery sticks, baby carrots and broccoli florets), nuts and seeds, and healthy whole grains (whole grain crackers and plain popcorn). For added protein and healthy fat, experiment with different dipping options like all-natural nut butters, Greek yogurts and hummus.
2. Get Out and Go Sledding
Having lived in cold climates my entire life, sledding with family and friends has become a winter ritual. A good old-fashioned sled ride is also a great way to get in a good bout of cardio exercise. In fact, an hour of sledding burns an average of 500 calories. But it doesn’t stop there! For parents, the simple act of pulling your child on a sled makes for a highly effective resistance training workout, which can boost your metabolic rate for up to 12 hours.
3. Organize Family Exercise Sessions
To maximize your family’s health during the holiday season, it’s important to regularly engage in some structured exercise. Now, in spite of popular belief, exercise doesn’t require expensive, monotonous equipment or even a substantial amount of time. Among the many exercises that encourage at-home family fun are rope jumping, hula hooping, and even simple calisthenics like jumping jacks, push-ups and squats. Using such exercises you can put together creative challenges to get your family off the couch!
4. Incorporate Spontaneous Physical Activity
Americans spend an average of 84 hours on holiday shopping and partying making this time a great time to engage in spontaneous physical activity with the kids. You can do this by simply using the stairs instead of the elevator (or escalator) during shopping or parking your car far away from your destination in order to encourage extra walking. Accumulating just 5 minutes of walking up stairs burns about 115 calories while walking for a total of 30 minutes burns about 145 calories.
5. Include Healthy Holiday Eats
Believe it or not, holiday eating doesn’t have to be unhealthy. When parties and social gatherings aren’t on the schedule, make an all-out effort to prepare nutritious and enjoyable family meals at home. This can be as simple as putting a healthy spin on winter favorites like chili, stews and soups by using leaner meats and lots of colorful vegetables. In addition, use all-natural sweeteners like seasonal fruits and spices to create healthier desserts like puddings, crisps, and ambrosia (fruit) salads. Get your kids to help you pick new foods and healthy recipes to try!
6. Lace Up the Skates and Hit the Ice
Ice skating is by far one of the most popular winter activities around. Since it requires a lot of physical exertion over an extended period of time, ice skating is also a wonderful, way to keep you and your family healthy during the holiday season. Whether performed outdoors or in an indoor arena, ice skating burns about 450 calories per hour and it doesn’t even feel like exercise!
7. Crank Up the In-House Chores
Holiday breaks are a great time to get your house in order. Now, many people underestimate the power of performing household chores for physical activity. Doing an hour of housework can easily burn 250 calories or more while an hour of cooking can burn up to 200 calories. If you’re anything like me, you may go on an 8-hour excursion performing these tasks meaning that at the end of the day, you’ll burn well over 1,200 calories without leaving your home. A calorie burned is a calorie burned no matter what you do. Spread the joy by getting your child involved!
8. Practice Portion Control with Desserts
With all the freshly baked cookies, cakes and pies that surround us during the holiday season it may be difficult to stop yourself and your family from indulging. Instead of a total deprivation from these delectable treats, enjoy small portions of 1-3 personal favorites. A small portion means 1-2 mini cookies, a thin slice of cake and/or a very small brownie. The most important thing is that you all don’t go overboard, as excessive consumption of such desserts can lead to unhealthy spikes in blood sugar levels.
9. Catch Up on Sleep
Holiday activities can lead to significant sleep deprivation. Insufficient sleep (less than 6 hours) is closely linked to reductions in metabolism, which greatly increases the likelihood of unnecessary weight gain. Sleep deprivation also elevates the release of a hormone called ghrelin that stimulates appetite and hunger, increasing the urge to eat. It also raises cortisol levels. Cortisol is a potent stress hormone that’s associated with increased visceral (belly) fat accumulation. To keep the family free from the negative effects of sleep deprivation use holiday breaks and vacation time to catch some Z’s.
10. Have a Daily Family Weight-In
It’s a well-known fact that both adults and children tend to gain weight throughout the fall and winter holidays. This isn’t a good thing, as research shows that such weight gain is generally not reversed during the spring or summer months. At the end of the day, continuous holiday weight gain year after year can easily contribute to unwanted increases in body weight over time. Using a simple scale for daily family weigh-ins may help reinforce the importance of healthy eating and physical activity for weight management during the holidays.
There are 3,500 calories in one pound of fat. This essentially means that accumulating 3,500 extra calories each week from excessive holiday eating and an utter lack of activity can cause weight gains in excess of 5 pounds by the New Year. Considering the average holiday meal contains 3,000-4,000 calories this is not hard to do. By following these simple tips you and your family can spend quality time together, enjoy your favorite foods, and still maintain good health over the holiday season.
To learn how to incorporate physical activity and sensible eating for overall good health, get your copy of Leaving Your Fat Behind today!
Disclaimer: The information provided is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact a physician for advice.
Before starting an exercise training program you should first make sure that exercise is safe for you. If you are under the age of 55 years and generally in good health, it is probably safe for you to exercise. However, if you are over 55 years of age and/or have any health problems, be sure to consult with your physician before starting an exercise training program.