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12 Healthy Holiday Tips

There are the 12 days of Christmas and now 12 easy tips to getting the most out of the holidays the healthy way – while leaving room for dessert!

All together now: “Five golden RIIIIINGS …” Now that’s a jingle! But before we can get to all the singing, there’s the shopping, parties, baking and endless lists.

Somehow it seems “The Twelve Days of Christmas” have been stretched from Halloween to New Year’s, and though we try our best to plan ahead, our plates are more than full. Somewhere in the throes of the hustle and bustle, we realize the need for keeping energy levels up and our immune systems strong. Yet, even with the best intentions, we can get overwhelmed. No wonder many of us put our health and fitness goals on the back burner this time of year.

If you’re looking to step into the New Year minus those few extra pounds – or merely for that little extra boost of energy – the following 12 healthy holiday gems will help see you through:

1. Choose Breakfast – Start your day with a breakfast that satisfies. Include lean proteins like low-fat yogurt, milk or soymilk, eggs or a slice of low fat meat or cheese; healthy fats like peanut or almond butter and avocado; and fiber-rich choices like bananas, apples, oranges, oatmeal, whole grain breads and cereals. Try adding banana slices and chopped walnuts to oatmeal and serve with a glass of skim milk or light soymilk. Make oatmeal in advance and store in the refrigerator for those rushed mornings.

2. Put Veggies Front and Center – Wash and cut fresh, fiber-full vegetables and store in clear containers or plastic bags for grab-and-go convenience. Studies show that if we see them, we’re much more likely to eat them!

3. Snack Before the Party – Snacks keep us satiated and they’re a great choice before a holiday party when you don’t want to arrive hungry. Keep snacks at approximately 100 to 200 calories and try combining foods containing proteins and fibers. Try a sliced apple with almond butter or 1-ounce string cheese with a few dried figs, dates or cranberries.

4. Go Green – Studies show having a salad before meals helps us fill up and eat less. Fill a bowl with a variety of mixed greens and load it with lots of vegetables.  Top with flavored vinegar or a tablespoon of low-fat dressing.

5. Position Yourself for Success – Avoid standing right in front of the chips and dip bowls or appetizer table. Fill a small plate with your favorites and move to the opposite side of the room. Limit yourself to one pass at the buffet line.

6. Be Mindful of Portion Sizes – A portion of lean chicken, turkey or beef looks like a bar of soap, a portion of fish looks like a checkbook. A portion of hard cheese looks like a tube of lipstick and about six to eight whole-grain crackers is a portion from the grain group. Keep starchy side dishes like rice, pasta and potatoes at about one half-cup. Tune in to that gentle pause when you’re eating that may indicate you are satisfied.

7. Limit Sugar-Loaded Drinks – Sugar from beverages is one of the main sources of calories in the American diet. Sodas, sport beverages, sweet tea, eggnog, gourmet coffee drinks and hot chocolate can contribute excess calories to the day. On the occasions you do decide to have a sweet beverage, look for low-fat, low-sugar varieties and go for smaller 8- or 12-ounce sizes.

8. Stay Hydrated – It’s easy to confuse hunger for thirst and even mild dehydration can zap your energy. Most adults need approximately eight, 8-ounce glasses of water each day. If you’re exercising, an additional one-and-a-half to 2 1/2, 8-ounce glasses of water should help compensate for the water lost through sweat. Add lemon, lime or orange slices to water for a clean fresh flavor.

9. De-stress With a Pot of Something Warm – Simmer a pot of soup, chili or marinara sauce for healthy stay-at-home meals. Make extra and store in the freezer for those crazy-busy weeks. Choose healthy broth-based and bean soups and try lean ground turkey for chili and pasta sauces.

10. Stay Active – Thirty minutes of exercise most days of the week will keep you consciously connected to your body and less likely to go back for seconds. Gather family and friends for a brisk winter walk.

11. Indulge! – Yes, by allowing yourself to indulge mindfully in your favorite holiday treats, you’ll avoid the all-or-nothing trap (where you find yourself saying “no” to the foods you love for so long that you ultimately end up at a party stuffing yourself with foods you don’t even like). Just keep portions conservative.

12. Keep Expectations Reasonable – Embracing healthy habits is a lifelong process. Focus, for example, on maintaining weight and not losing it.

As we move through the holidays and the bright new days of January arrive, perhaps the best gift we can give ourselves is our commitment to living one healthy choice at a time. Trusting our ability to make healthy choices is in itself a very powerful tool.

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