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Healthy Holiday Survival Guide

Table full of holiday food

The holidays can make this the most exciting time of the year. But all of the entertaining, shopping, eating out and stress that often comes along with the season can also derail healthy habits.

Thankfully, you don’t have to pass up your holiday favorites or skip out on the festivities. These simple tips can help you survive the season while still feeling great.

Avoid Skipping Meals

Fewer meals = fewer calories, right? While this may be true, there’s still no good reason why you should be skipping meals.

When you skip meals your body’s glucose levels drop, which can cause brain fog, fatigue and irritability, making it more difficult for you to get into the “holiday spirit.” It can also slow down your metabolism, which makes it more difficult for your body to burn off the calories you do consume.

Instead of skipping meals, eat several smaller ones throughout the day to keep you feeling full and to help your metabolism to work more efficiently.

Choose Your Drinks Wisely

You don’t have to give up all alcoholic drinks this season if you make smart choices.

Sipping on the season’s signature spiked eggnog may set you back more than 250 calories, and a single shot of rum, vodka or gin mixed with club soda total around 100 calories per drink. That number can easily triple when you add in sugary mixes, juices or regular soda.

Instead, opt for a glass of champagne at your next party. At around 80 calories per serving, it’s a festive, less calorie-dense way to toast the season. And if you prefer beer over liquor, try swapping out heavy stouts with lighter lagers and pilsners to cut calories.

Be Smart About Appetizers

You can enjoy all your favorite appetizers at holiday parties as long as you keep your portions under control.

First fill your plate with healthier choices, like raw fruits and veggies, nuts, cocktail shrimp, and olives. If the high-calorie dips, chips and desserts are still calling to you after that, stick to one small portion.

Give Away Leftovers and Treats

If you’re hosting holiday parties and meals, you’ll probably wind up with enough leftovers to last you for weeks. However, that doesn’t mean you have to eat everything. Make up plates to send home with your guests or to take to loved ones who can’t get out during the holiday season.

And if you enjoy baking special cookies and other treats this time of year, you don’t have to skip your annual tradition. But instead of keeping all of the sweets to yourself, give them out as gifts or party favors.

Dedicate Time for Your Daily Workout

You may feel like you don’t have time to manage your normal workout routine in between shopping, family visits and parties. But if you put your workout in your calendar, you make it as important as any other activity that’s on your to-do list. Plus, you’ll be less likely to schedule something else in its place.

Even if your scheduled workout plans get derailed, you can still get creative and find ways to be active. Try walking extra laps at the mall while doing your holiday shopping, park farther away from your destination or use a rake to clean up leaves in your yard instead of the leaf blower.

Create New Traditions

The annual cookie exchange party may be fun, but it can also wreak havoc on your diet. This holiday season, don’t feel the need to keep up with past traditions. Doing so may leave you feeling pressured, stressed and burnt out.

Instead, see if you and your loved ones can come up with new and healthier holiday traditions. Award a prize to the most creative or even the healthiest new holiday tradition to make it more fun!

Do Your Holiday Shopping Online

The great thing about modern technology is that it makes online holiday shopping easier, quicker and more efficient than ever before.

Chances are that during the holidays, the local mall will be jammed packed with people purchasing the holiday gifts. These large crowds, coupled with loud music and bright lights, can easily make you feel stressed, anxious and overwhelmed. This year, skip the crowds and opt to shop online in the comfort of your own home.

Don’t Be Afraid to Say No

The holidays are a busy time of year when schedules seem to fill up from November through New Year’s. You don’t need to say yes to every invitation or request that comes your way this season.

When you are more selective about what winds up on your calendar, you have more free time to do the things that matter to you the most.

Take Care of Your Mental Health

While some people may be full of holiday cheer, others struggle with their mental health around the holidays.

Depression, anxiety and stress levels can soar during this season, thanks to extra demands, unrealistic expectations or even sentimental memories. Seasonal factors, like less sunlight and changes in your diet and routine, can also play a factor in your mental health.

This year, don’t worry about completing every single task on your ever-growing to-do list. Take time for yourself to rest and relax. Try practicing mindfulness activities like yoga or taking a long, hot bath with your favorite bath bombs. A little bit of self-care can go a long way.

Happy holidays from everyone at Penn Medicine. We wish you a happy, healthy and safe holiday season.

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