The start of November marks the beginning of the holiday season. And, I’m sure you already know that holidays and social eating go hand in hand. Problem is, 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 unwanted weight gain is always lurking.
While I know it’s tempting to just give in, overindulge, and then make a New Year’s resolution to lose weight and get healthy, I encourage you not to let the holidays become a free-for-all. To help you to stay on top of your game, I’ve compiled a list of ten quick and easy tips that’ll help you and your loved ones remain in good health and great shape over the holiday season.
1. Snack Healthy and Snack Smart
Since on-the-go snacking is so common during the holidays, always try to have healthy snacks around. Some great options include apple wedges, clementines, celery sticks, baby carrots, broccoli florets or other bite-sized veggies and fruits, nuts and seeds, and whole grain foods like crackers and plain popcorn. For added protein and fat, you can use high-quality nut butters, Greek yogurt or hummus as dips or stand-alone snacks.
2. Get Out and Go Sledding
Growing up in a cold weather climate, sledding was somewhat of a ritual. And, believe it or not, a good old-fashioned sled ride is actually a great way to get in some cardio exercise. In fact, you can burn up to 500 calories an hour on a sled. But it doesn’t stop there! For parents, the simple act of pulling your child on a sled makes for an effective resistance workout, which can further boost the number of calories you burn.
3. Organize Family Fit Sessions
Ward off holiday weight gain and maximize you and your family’s health by putting together creative ‘fit’ challenges that encourage less couch and screen time. This doesn’t require a single piece of equipment and as little as 20-30 minutes a day goes a long way! 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.
4. Engage in Spontaneous Physical Activity
Americans spend an average of 84 hours on holiday shopping and partying making this the perfect season for lots of spontaneous physical activity. This can be done by simply using the stairs instead of elevators and escalators when shopping, or by parking your car far away from each of your destinations to encourage extra walking. By increasing your physical activity levels this way, you can easily burn up to 500 extra calories a day!
5. Don’t Forget the Healthy Holiday Eats
Holiday eating doesn’t always have to be unhealthy, especially when parties and social gatherings aren’t on the schedule. During these downtimes, try preparing nutritious family meals at home. This can be as simple as putting a healthy spin on winter favorites like chili, stews and soups, or using all-natural sweeteners like seasonal fruits and spices to create healthier desserts like puddings, crisps, and ambrosia (fruit) salads. Use the web for recipe ideas or head to the market as a family and pick new foods to try!
6. Lace Up the Skates and Hit the Ice
Ice skating is one of the most popular winter activities around, in both cold and warm weather climates alike. Since it requires a lot of exertion over an extended period of time, ice skating is also a wonderful, way to keep you and your family active and healthy over the holidays. Whether performed outdoors or in an indoor arena, the act of ice skating can burn as much as 450 calories an hour—And it doesn’t even feel like exercise!
7. Crank Up the In-House Chores
A lot of people underestimate the calorie-burning power of performing household chores, especially during holiday breaks. For instance, you can easily burn 180 calories with an hour of top to bottom cleaning while an additional hour of cooking can knock off another 150. If you’re anything like me, you might spend in excess of 6-10 hours performing these tasks on any given weekend. This equates to as much as 1,800 calories burned without even leaving the house!
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 or a small brownie. Most important 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
For weight control and overall good health, holiday breaks and vacation time should definitely be used to catch some Z’s. Getting less than six hours of sleep a night is linked to reductions in metabolism, which can lead to unnecessary weight gain. Over time, sleep deprivation tends to elevate release of a powerful hunger-stimulating hormone called ghrelin, leading to increased urges to eat. Lack of sleep may also boost circulating levels of cortisol, a potent stress hormone that’s associated with excess belly fat accumulation.
10. Have a Weekly 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 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 contributes to unhealthy increases in body weight over time. Performing weekly family weigh-ins during holiday months can help reinforce the importance of sensible eating and physical activity for healthy weight management.
Now, obviously, not all of these tips will apply to everyone. But, hopefully I’ve provided some valuable insights for staying healthy and in good shape over the holiday season. My goal is for you and your loved ones to spend much needed quality time together without missing out on all your favorite foods!