They say the holidays are for family. But they usually forget to mention that the holidays are also for disrupted workout routines, anxiety triggers, and a few dozen “just this one cookie” cookies.
Then factor in migrating cold and flu viruses and a lack of personal R&R time, and all of a sudden staying healthy during the holidays becomes less of an intention and more of an insurmountable challenge.
But don’t just give up and grab the gravy spoon! It’s 100% possible (and a lot easier than you’d expect) to have a perfect holiday while staying healthy. Think of the following tips as your game plan for getting through the holidays without letting your wellness goals get away from you.
I’m here to share my personal evergreen approach to keeping body and mind in perfect equilibrium season after season. It includes my 7 favorite healthy holiday tips to preserve your wellness (and waistline), a few must-do’s for avoiding colds and the flu, and some encouragement to kickstart your New Year’s resolutions.
So without further adieu, let’s dive in…
1. Don’t “Pause” Your Workouts
True story: two weeks before Thanksgiving, I’m on the phone with my best friend and he tells me that, after a two-year hiatus, he’s going to start going back to the gym… after the holidays!
You could almost hear my eyes roll.
That’s because pausing or postponing your workout until the holidays are over is guaranteed to make losing weight even more difficult. Assuming you even start at all.
If exercising is part of your New Year’s resolution—begin early!
The key behind New Year’s resolutions is to transform your intention into a habit, because habits are formed by repetition. So if you can repeat healthy habits leading up to these few weeks of tasty temptations, you’ll stand a much better chance of crushing your New Year’s goals.
And if you already have a regular workout routine, this isn’t the time to push the brakes. Instead, why not use the holidays as inspiration to keep motivated?
Of course, if you have a crazy holiday schedule ahead of you, you may consider re-working your workouts. For instance, I’m used to one-hour gym sessions. But when I travel to see my family this season, I’ll break my routine up into two or three 20-30-minute, high-energy sessions that don’t require leaving the house (except for, say, a jog around the neighborhood). All I need are workout bands and a basement or guest bedroom, and I’m set!
Doing this, you can maximize family time and still burn off your Auntie’s famous pecan pie. 😉
2. Indulge (In Moderation)
Speaking of… If you’re after the most tried-and-true strategy for how to stay healthy during the holidays, you’ve found it in moderation.
Balance is the key to finding dietary success over the long term—and I don’t just mean during this time of year. Indulging in treats and sweets moderately can help you stay on track and enjoy the things you love most, like socializing with relatives, delicious food, and getting cozy.
This rule rings true for holiday libations, as well. Don’t be excessive with your alcohol intake.
Not only do boozy beverages add 100-400 calories or more per drink to your daily diet, but between the muscle atrophy and the morning-after feeling, they can throw you out of rhythm when it comes to everything from quality time to strength and energy to good conversation.
3. Fight Germs & Boost Immunity
With so much going on, your immune system is the last thing you think about during the holidays… until it’s compromised! Luckily, there are many ways you can keep illness at bay this time of year.
You know two major ones already: wash your hands regularly and get lots of sleep.
Another is to add a scoop or two per day of a nutrient-rich supplement powder can go a long way in helping your body attack any germs and diseases that do make it past your immune system.
But here’s the thing—not all supplements are made equal. When choosing supplementation options, look on the label for the following:
Antioxidants such as pomegranate, maca, goji berries, and other high-antioxidant fruit juices alleviate oxidative stress and act as a dietary defense force, fighting off free radicals and strengthening your body’s immune response.
Vitamin C, AKA ascorbic acid, has long been shown to reduce the severity and duration of the infamous common cold.
Adaptogens are derived from plants and have been used for centuries to naturally increase your body’s resistance and response to stress, disease, and cell damage. They’re vital ingredients to sustained vitality.
My go-to for daily goodness is SkinnyFit’s Beauty Juice superfood blend, which has 11 powerful antioxidants, 300 mg of Vitamin C, and 6 of the most powerful adaptogens out there (among dozens of other health-boosting ingredients).
Standout adaptogens in Beauty Juice include reishi mushroom, turmeric root, and Rhodiola root, which also inhibits cancer-cell growth and fights aging. Can you say superfood super-bonus!?
A little advice…
To give your body the best advantage for staying healthy during the holidays, try taking one scoop of Beauty Juice each morning, and another before flying or family gatherings.
4. Swap Out (For Healthy Ingredients)
Looking for healthy holiday tips that are also fun? Here’s one for those who love cooking and live by the philosophy that variety is the spice of life.
Swapping out everyday ingredients for more exciting replacements (what I call “ingredient swinging”) not only pulls out your culinary creativity, but can tick down the calorie count of most dishes.
Try these ideas:
- Instead of heaps of corn syrup and refined sugar in dishes like your Auntie’s famous pecan pie, go for the natural delectableness of raw honey. You won’t notice the honey flavor very much (and even if you do… 🤤) but your pants will certainly feel the caloric reduction.
- You can swap sugar for unsweetened applesauce 1-for-1. Just note that you’ll need to reduce 1/4 cup of liquid for every cup of applesauce. This trick works like magic in oatmeal raisin cookies.
- Trade cocoa powder for Super Youth Chocolate Cake Collagen. It’s got all of the taste with hardly any calories or sugar, PLUS the anti-aging superpower of 5 different types of collagen peptides
- Did you know that mashed cauliflower makes a mean substitute for mashed potatoes? Sound like holiday blasphemy? Well, consider that cauliflower is a great source of choline, which is lacking in most diets but which is essential for neurotransmission and brain signalling functions. Essentially, it makes brains work better. Something you’ll thank me for at least once per family dinner conversation!
5. Stay hydrated
Okay, if “ingredient swinging” was the fun tip, this is the boring (but arguably more important) one.
A lot of us (yours truly more than others) tend to always get the wine glass with a hole in it 😉. For the most part, that’s fine—but only if you also commit to staying sufficiently hydrated to counter the dehydration (and the hangover).
Hydration also helps reduce excessive eating, since you’ll feel more full throughout the day.
To calculate how much you need to drink, divide your body weight by two. That number is how many ounces you want to aim for.
For me, at 180 pounds, I aim for 90 ounces of H20 each day. This is just a rule of thumb; the amount you consume needs to increase if you dehydrate yourself from lots of exercises. Or eggnog.
Another great thing about Beauty Juice is that its delicious acai flavor actually helps encourage water consumption. Bea-u-tiful.
6. Prioritize Your Personal Time
Most of us love the holidays, but we can all still agree they can be… stressful.
All the gift lists, chaotic travel itineraries, credit debt, and dietary temptations aside, spending so much time with so many family members is often overwhelming—even if you’re not on the Clark Griswold spectrum of family dysfunction.
Nonetheless, with so much going on, it’s important to carve out some quality you time. Not doing so can lead to unneeded stress and unhealthy habits, like overeating, arguing, or self-medicating with a few too many eggnogs.
These are my favorite healthy holiday tips to help you prioritize your mental health, and they’ll help you secure some quiet me-time during the holiday craze too:
- Offer to run errands: There’s always one or two ingredients someone forgot to bring for the family dinner. Why not volunteer to make a grocery run to pick them up? While you’re out, focus on calming thoughts or positive memories instead of the chaos waiting for you back home.
- Last-minute gifts are the perfect getaway: Instead of buying all your gifts beforehand, schedule some solo shopping time. This gets you out of the house and around town. While you’re at it, hit a local coffee shop for a warming pick-me-up.
- Walk it off: Seriously—but blame it on that darned pecan pie! Excuse yourself for a pre- or post-meal stroll to reset. You’ll also burn a few calories while you’re at it.
- Say it like it is: Everyone feels some stress around the holidays. You might be surprised how open your family may be if you simply say, “I just need a couple minutes of personal time.”
7. If You Go Back For More, Go Green.
So what happens if you simply don’t want to cut back on all the grub? I mean, isn’t overeating the flagship holiday meal tradition?
Well, in that case, I say go for it! But only on veggies.
Err away from high-sugar and high-calorie dishes. Limit ham, buttery potatoes, turkey, pies, cookies, etc. to one serving per day, and save your seconds or thirds for sides like steamed broccoli, baked Brussels sprouts, salads, and mayo-free coleslaw.
Leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables, especially, are overflowing with brain- and body-loving nutrients, and their low-caloric properties mean you’ll have less to burn off in the new year.
So dig in!
And, no. Pasta salad is not salad.
Final Thoughts On Staying Healthy During The Holidays
Everybody—and every body—is different. And in the end, you have to listen to you.
Though the urge to eat excessively can seemingly make us forget how to stay healthy during the holidays (and afterward), check-in with yourself and what your body is really telling you.
For instance, try to tune in and identify when you’re feeling full before you feel totally overstuffed. You can do this by eating slowly and waiting 15 minutes before rushing to get seconds so you give your stomach the chance to signal to your brain that you are indeed full. Be okay with being content, and don’t push yourself to eat more.
And if you’re feeling hungry, consider the possible reasons. Maybe you’re overwhelmed, stressed out, or dehydrated. In which case, a walk or a big glass of water can do you better than raiding the cookie jar or gulping down a beer.
Being mindful of these urges will help you make conscious choices to correct them.
But if you do break your holiday diet intentions, don’t get down on yourself. Instead, enjoy the moment, embrace the delicious food you were fortunate enough to eat, and set a stronger intention to stick to your goals tomorrow onward!
After all, staying healthy during the holidays includes mind and body, both.
You’ve got this! Happy holidays!
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