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I have two rules for the holidays. 1. No dieting. 2. No reckless abandonment of healthy habits.
I’m right there with those of you who are wary of holidays without whipped cream on pumpkin pie, holiday parties without cheese balls and sugar cookies, or Christmas breakfast without French toast. At the same time, I don’t want to blow my daily wellness goals. There’s a pretty simple way to navigate the holiday season, and it’s all about strategy.
Don’t leave your wellness regimen out of your holiday plans. Once the New Year arrives, you’ll feel good about how you spent the prior two months.
My gift to you is this set of tips and recipes to help you be healthy—mind and body—throughout the holiday season.
As we get older and have more to juggle, stressors like money, work, and family can temper the joy of the holidays. Psychologist Ellen Braaten, associate director of Massachusetts General Hospital’s Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds, emphasizes a cognitive exercise known as shifting set, which helps us realign our thoughts to correspond to changing circumstances.1
To help that process along this year, get organized in advance. Use your smartphone to help you; try using your simple calendar and list functions or branch out with higher-level apps. Decide when you’ll indulge and when you’ll eat clean, which parties you want to attend, and how to manage time with friends and family. It might seem like a pain, but visually mapping out your plans can make a bigger difference than you think.
Keep your nutrition on point throughout the holidays with a quick, healthy breakfast that keeps you full for hours. This is especially helpful on days when you have events and you know you’ll be indulging a little.
My favorite new breakfast fits that bill. It came about by accident; I’d run out of granola and didn’t want just yogurt and fruit. When I saw a container of leftover brown rice from dinner the night before, a new recipe was born. I layered in yogurt, fresh fruit and a bit of shaved chocolate. I also top with crushed walnuts, which are now believed to positively affect gut health, according to a recent study.2
Pro tip: Organic brown rice now comes in single-serve microwavable containers. Perfect for fast fuel.
Between school plays, office parties, shopping, baking, decorating, and wrapping gifts, the holidays don’t leave much time for working out. Luckily, the internet provides innumerable options to fit in heart healthy, muscle-building exercises that don’t require much of your time.
For those of you who don’t have a current fitness regimen, the holidays are actually a fine time to get one because you can start small. This will help you start a habit you can build on after the holidays have passed. Check out YouTube for some of the hottest fitness stars that are perfect for short or longer holiday workouts!
Here’s to staying fit, full, and fabulous this holiday season!
1. “Holiday Stress and the Brain.” Harvard Medical School. http://neuro.hms.harvard.edu/harvard-mahoney-neuroscience-institute/brain-newsletter/and-brain-series/holiday-stress-and-brain
2. "A Walnut-Enriched Diet Affects Gut Microbiome in Healthy Caucasian Subjects: A Randomized, Controlled Trial". National Center for Biotechnology Information. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5852820/