November 27, 2022

How to prioritize your health this holiday season

The holiday season is fast approaching, and with that comes the craziness of a long to-do list, knocking health priorities right off that list.

Living a healthy lifestyle can be more challenging during the holidays with an influx of indulgent treats, less exercise and increased stress. Make your health a priority by managing these concerns so you can feel your best and face the holiday season.

How to prioritize nutrition:

  • Think simple. Make quick, healthy meals and snacks your go-to option. Prepare meals on the weekend for quick meals during the week. Make a big pot of brown rice, roast a bunch of veggies, or cook up a big batch of chili or soup to use for multiple meals. For snacks, stock your home and desk with energizing, long-lasting snacks such as nuts, fruits, vegetables, string cheese, yogurt, and popcorn.
  • Be a conscious eater. Look at all those holiday BLTs (bites, licks, tastes) that can turn into hundreds of extra calories. At parties, keep an arm’s length or more away from the food table and candy dishes. Load your plate with plenty of vegetables and fruits before you eat other foods to help fill your stomach. Keep tempting foods out of sight at home and at work. Eliminate cravings by waiting 10-15 minutes before eating. Drink water, take a short walk, chew sugarless gum and don’t think about food.
  • Limit alcoholic beverages. Alcohol can add hundreds of extra calories and also lowers our inhibitions, making it harder to resist tempting treats. Decide in advance how many drinks you will have. Aim for moderation, which is one to two drinks a day. Alternate drinks with water or choose low-calorie options such as sparkling wine, hard seltzer, light beer or club soda with diet soda or juice.

How to prioritize physical activity:

  • Get moving by sitting less and moving more. Even 5 to 10 minutes at a time helps the body in a number of ways. Try setting a timer on your phone or computer to get up and move after 30-60 minutes of sitting.
  • Combine exercise with other activities, such as watching a show or listening to music or a podcast.
  • Try fun winter activities to socialize with family and friends. Some options include sledding, tubing, ice skating, curling, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, and winter hiking. It is even more beneficial for your health to do these activities during the day. Getting sunlight during the day helps regulate our circadian rhythm and eases the winter blues.

How to prioritize stress management:

  • Be realistic about your time and how you would like to spend it. Decide on important traditions and let go of less important elements.
  • Breathe deeply for a minute or two when you feel stressed or overwhelmed. This immediately helps to dampen stress hormones.
  • Create a stress-busting toolbox of activities you enjoy. Some ideas include coloring, doing a puzzle, taking a relaxing bath, drinking tea or hot cocoa, meditating, taking a short walk, or listening to music.

It is important to note that the risk of heart attack increases during the winter and holiday season. This is due to stress and splurging on more unhealthy food and drink.

Want to know more about your risk of heart disease? Take a free online quiz to learn more.

Heather Klug is a registered dietitian with the Karen Yontz Women’s Heart Awareness Center at Aurora St. Medical Center. Luke in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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