Fall and winter holidays mean some of the best eating of the year, while the colder weather makes us want to curl up with a blanket in front of a fire. But you can still enjoy great food and quality time with your family without giving up on the progress you’ve been making in your fitness routine. And why not get a head start on your New Year’s resolutions by staying healthy during the holidays. It just takes a combination of positive food choices and active family fun.
Stay Fit as a Family
The kids get a lot of time off from school between Thanksgiving and winter break. It’s normal to want to veg out in front of the TV, but this is a great time to encourage family activities that promote health. Despite the colder weather, you have a lot of choices for fun things to do, both indoors and out.
- Play in the snow. Make a snowman, go sledding or build snow forts for an epic snowball battle. For a 150-pound person, just 15 minutes of sledding can burn about 100 calories, according to CalorieLab — that’s nearly 7 calories a minute!
- Plan a ski weekend. Ski, snowboard or tube. Treat the family to a short (or long) ski trip.
- Visit a local skating rink. Not a fan of the ice? Go roller-skating instead. Healthline notes that ice skating can torch a whopping 400 calories per hour, and it’s also great for improving your balance.
- Walk, walk, walk. After every big meal, go for a walk around your neighborhood or through a local park. According to the New York Times, a 15-minute walk after a meal will not just burn a few extra calories, it may also help improve your digestion and blood sugar levels.
- Take a bike tour. Have everyone bundle up and hop on their bikes to tour the town’s lights and decorations.
Teach the Kids to Love Cooking
When it comes to staying healthy during the holidays, nutrition is just as important as exercise. Take some time during their winter break to teach the kids how to prepare foods. Small kids may enjoy making characters and shapes from fruit. Try making a snowman using three slices of banana for the body, and decorate your creation with raisins for eyes, whole-grain pretzel sticks for arms, and a slice of apple or orange for a festive hat. Older kids can try baking healthy treats such as pumpkin muffins, like these from Super Healthy Kids. You could even turn some goodies into presents for teachers, family or neighbors.
Make Healthy Choices at Holiday Meals
You’re probably getting together with coworkers, neighbors and family for meals and parties at this time of year. Plan ahead to stay on track. When you don’t have control over the full menu, offer to bring a vegetable- or fruit-based side dish that works for your meal plan. Set expectations for yourself and your kids before leaving the house. For example, just take one spoonful of mac and cheese, or eat three vegetables before rewarding yourself with dessert.
When you’re doing the cooking, find ways to incorporate healthier options in a traditional menu, or branch out by trying something new. Map out your meals ahead of time and include plenty of fruits and vegetables. One way to get kids involved in the meal planning is to organize and design by color. Try to choose foods from every color of the rainbow across multiple food groups.
Limiting fatty sauces and gravies and making a few substitutions can also help keep your holiday meals healthy. Instead of making green bean casserole, saute green beans with olive oil and spices. Add flavor to sweet potato casserole with cinnamon rather than sugar. Serve whole-grain rolls instead of white rolls. Opt for desserts that feature fruit and nuts as the central ingredients. These simple swaps will help you reduce overall calories, as well as sugar, fat and sodium.
Whether you’re at home or eating out, being aware of portion sizes can help you manage how much you eat. Try eating from a smaller plate, such as a salad plate (instead of an oversized dinner plate), to avoid overeating.
This year, make staying healthy during the holidays a new tradition by embracing the season’s special opportunities to stay active, planning ahead and getting creative with your holiday menu. Not only will you enjoy a festive, fun and delicious holiday season, you’ll also be ready to kick off the new year on the right foot.