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Healthy, Happy Holidays

The Holidays Are Here! 

And with them comes family, friends, fun and food!  But, we all can have our cake and enjoy it too with these healthy and happy tricks for saving calories, eating smartly and moving frequently. 

What Makes The Holiday Season So Challenging?

The holidays can include traditions, customs and family rituals that have been in place for years making the holiday season a very special time for us and our loved ones.  They, too, often cause a break in our normal routines (due to vacations, changes in weather patterns, family visits and extended travel). 

When these things combine it becomes challenging to avoid overeating and being inactive. But, this doesn’t mean it isn’t possible! 

Tips to Save on Calories

Americans gain an average of about 1 pound during the holiday season (November-February).  This doesn’t seem like much, but most Americans do not lose that weight over the course of the year resulting in a continued increase of bodyweight each year of adulthood [1]. That means that from age 20 to 30, an American is likely to gain at least 10 pounds. 

To help save on calories this holiday season:

  • Eat smaller amounts - try one scoop of ice cream instead of two
  • Eat a lower-calorie option like a baked potato instead of potatoes au-gratin
  • Limit snacking before and after meals
  • Choose mindful buffet options and stop eating once you feel full
  • Create a Healthy Crock Pot Recipe 
  • Leave the Leftovers (or pack them up and send them home with guests)

Tips for Healthy Eating Out

It's estimated that spending related to eating out increases about 4% during the holiday season [2]. But, while you may be eating out more frequently, you don't have to compromise your healthy eating plan: 

  • Eat Smaller Amounts - order an appetizer as your meal; split your meal with another person at the table; or take half of your meal home
  • Plan Ahead - choose a healthy restaurant when possible; read the menu in advance to learn the healthier options; limit alcohol before eating
  • On the Side! - ask for sauces, gravies, dressings and cheeses on the side
  • Note the cooking method  - breaded, buttered, hollandaise, creamy, fried and gravy tend to have higher calorie content 
  • Drink water between beverages or whenever possible

Build Physical Activity into the Routine

Weather changes, daylight savings time and frequent family visits can challenge our usual routines. But, it doesn't mean we can't create new routines!

  • Make it Family Style! Take a family walk before or after dinner or go ice skating!
  • Park farther away and walk when running holiday errands or sightseeing; take the stairs
  • Create a new tradition - such as a family scavenger hunt, a soccer or football game, or play interactive board games
  • Dance! 
  • Stretch

Manage Stress

The demands of the holidays often challenge our usual coping skills. Plan ahead: 

  • Move! Try a class at the Y 
  • Time Out!  Take some personal time throughout the day; practice meditation; breathe
  • Sleep - get plenty of it
  • Smile Lots! 
  • Make a budget for gift buying and food purchases. Then stick to it! 
  • Delegate - share the work with others or offer to help your host(ess)
  • Volunteer in your community or at the Y
  • Read CDCs healthy holiday tips

Wishing you very happy and healthy holidays, from all of us at the YMCA of San Francisco!