We've all heard the same old advice for staying healthy during the holidays: stay away from the sweets, exercise, don't arrive at a party hungry. The reason these bits of advice are clichÃ© is because, as with most clichÃ©s, they're true — but they don't always work. Some of us aren't the greatest at self-restraint! So here are three holiday ideas that are more proactive than reactive (what you can do instead of what you shouldn't do) with help from Hope Warshaw, CDE and author of a number of food books published by the American Diabetes Association, including Diabetes Meal Planning Made Easy, 4th ed.
There's no reason to follow a recipe to the letter. Opting for fresh or frozen vegetables instead of canned veggies can cut down on salt and preservatives. For the holiday favorite, green bean casserole, use low sodium cream of mushroom soup and toss in frozen green beans instead of the canned variety. Use half-fat versions of things like sour cream and mayonnaise, or low-calorie spray oils. For your stuffing, mix in vegetables like mushrooms, onions, and celery to help even out the ratio between carbs and veggies.
"Start a new family tradition with a new healthier recipe," Hope recommends. "Maybe there's a need for more healthy vegetables, whole grains or legumes. Fill that gap with a new healthy and delicious recipe. Don't tell them it's healthy."
Exercise during holidays doesn't have to involve the gym.
Many family gatherings and holiday parties are all about the food, but your holiday traditions don't need to involve gorging on cookies and egg nog. Invite your family and friends to do something fun, while also staying active. Take a hike, for example.
"Up your exercise in some way or another," Hope advises, "Get an extra walk in and start a new family ritual that includes burning a few calories."
Take a trip to your local ice skating rink, tour your neighborhood or the downtown area of town to admire the Christmas decorations, play a round of football at the park, or visit your local holiday fair to peruse the crafts and support small business (at least you'll be on your feet and moving around). Then warm up at home with a simple cup of low-carb hot chocolate and a healthy snack.
Turn to something other than food for your holiday traditions.
Using an Advent calendar to countdown to Christmas? Try a DIY Advent calendar instead of one full of candy. These keep the anticipation while also being fun and pretty.
Swap decorating Christmas cookies for decorating Christmas ornaments instead. (You won't eat the ornaments.) The same is true if you're celebrating Hanukkah; you can opt for family crafts instead of decorating cookies. Also, look for the dark-chocolate gelt rather than the traditional kind, as the dark variety is just 7grams of carb per bag and contains those beneficial flavonoids.
Keep people busy at your holiday parties with something other than eating. Pass out lyrics to classic holiday songs for caroling (inside or outside), watch a holiday movie or introduce some other DIY craft project — either Christmassy or Hanukkah-related — that people can use in their home or give as gifts.
Meanwhile, the biggest food holiday of the year is coming up tomorrow — yikes! Hopefully it's not too late to apply these ideas. Paper plate turkey project, anyone?
Also, if you've got any other simple, proactive ideas for living healthy during the winter months: Please share!