Potlucks. Parties. Holidays. OH MY!

Healthy Schools logoHow do we keep our family healthy, active and able to fight off those holiday pounds and bouts of laziness?

Keely Ihry
Keely Ihry

by Keely Ihry, SEEC Healthy Schools Program Coordinator

Work potlucks. Family get-togethers. Holiday parties. Church programs. Cookies. Classroom or daycare celebrations. Band concerts. Community events. Food. More food. The holiday season is a favorite time of the year for many, but it can also be a busy and sometimes stressful time.

When the average American gains 1-5 pounds over the holiday season, how do you find time to make healthy choices so this doesn’t happen? We aren’t going to make a goal BEFORE the holidays… “I think I will start my new diet the Monday before Thanksgiving.” This goal would not be wise or practical and we all know that the likelihood of it having a successful outcome is slim to none. Diets and lifestyle changes usually get pushed off and become a New Year’s resolution. So this year let’s change our mindset to be ‘maintain and don’t gain’ this holiday season.

Stick to routines.

One thing that I try and keep consistent during the holiday season is sticking to menu planning, meal prepping and keeping my freezer stocked with options to grab when I get too busy to cook. Continuing in my usual routine of eating a healthy breakfast and packing a lunch from home to bring to work each day is something that helps me to control portion sizes and calories each day. When my week looks to be crazy busy my crockpot becomes my best friend.

Don’t let holiday parties get you down.

IT’S ALL ABOUT MODERATION! When attending holiday parties and get togethers, whether they are for work or with friends and family, don’t let yourself go wild, but also don’t make yourself feel guilty for a small splurge. I like to find recipes that look delicious, but also have a healthy spin. I also try and find ways to tweak a recipe to make it a little healthier. This could be reducing the amount of added sugar or using whole wheat flour instead of regular flour. Also looking for ways to increase the number of fruits and vegetables.  Remember, there are others who are looking for healthy options, so bringing a healthier dish will not make you a weirdo! When it’s time to grab that plate and dish up in the potluck line keep these quick tips in mind: 1) Grab the smaller plate; 2) Fill the majority of your plate with healthier options and take just a ‘sample size’ of the not so healthy, but uber delicious items; and 3) This one is tough, but abstain from going back for seconds and you’ll be saving a ton of calories.

Work off all that stress.

Taking time out of your busy day and week to fit in some exercise will help you keep a positive mood and increase your energy. I know that every day is not going to allow me to fit in a 30-minute run, so I break those 30 minutes up during the day into 10-minute activity breaks. Taking a walk during work breaks, parking farther away while out shopping will not only get you into the store faster, but can also save on the stress of trying to find a parking spot.

You don’t have to wait until New Year’s to set a resolution or a goal. Find support with a friend, coworker or your spouse and set a goal to ‘maintain and don’t gain’ this holiday season. Write down your goals and make yourself accountable. Sharing your goals with your support system will also keep you accountable.

What about kids? They don’t need to worry about staying healthy over the holidays right?

Focusing on keeping our kids healthy is just as important as worrying about our own health during the holidays. Making our holiday festivities healthy does not mean you are taking the fun away. Kids are busy with activities during the holiday season, and for some reason activities have come with needing to have treats attached. At our house we try and opt for bringing non-food treats to holiday activities, things like dollar store activity books, book marks, pencils, stickers, etc. can bring just as much excitement as candy and other sugar filled treats.

I also like to include my kids in cooking and baking throughout the year, so when it comes to preparing holiday treats it is no different. A lot of times my kids see things they want to make, and I will look for a way to make them healthier and being involved in the process makes the food item all that more enjoyable to eat. There are so many different fun ways of incorporating fruits and vegetables into holiday celebrations, that just showing pictures off of sites like Pinterest makes kids excited to bring them to daycare, school or extracurricular parties.

Kids need to stay active as well. Bring them outside with you to play when you may need to shovel the driveway or break out a fun dance party to favorite holiday music are both quick and easy ways to keep them active. Remember to also keep kids’ routines consistent as possible.

One of the biggest things you can do to help keep your kids healthy this holiday season is to be a healthy role model, and encourage those healthy habits year round.

Here are a few links to help keep your holidays healthy:

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