Sarah Di Grazia offers ten ways to stay healthy during the holidays and shares a must-try salad recipe.
The holidays are in full swing, which means food and parties are everywhere. While this is a period of fun and quality time with loved ones, it can also be quite stressful running from one event to another or even just one store to another! Additionally, you may find yourself without enough hours in the day for self-care, exercise, or even just sleep. All of this can lead to unwanted weight gain (an additional obstacle to your New Year’s resolution to get in shape). Here are ten ways to avoid gaining the dreaded “holiday 10.”
These are just some facts and ideas I have found helpful throughout the years. I would suggest picking and choosing the ones that sound like they would work for you. It is all about being aware of your body and the choices you make throughout the holiday season.
Added stress around the holidays can lead to weight gain. “Comfort food” is called this for a reason; when a person feels overwhelmed or stressed, they may turn to food to relax and “feed” that emotion. Avoid this by finding activities to help de-stress that do not include eating: writing in a journal, talking to a friend, going for a walk, or practicing yoga. Make a list of activities that would help you feel reentered and calmer, and choose an activity when you begin feeling overwhelmed. This can be your “go-to” plan instead of grabbing that donut.
HINT: If you only have two minutes to de-stress, try something as simple as deep breaths and a mantra. As Megan says, “Deep, conscious breathing will get you through anything.”
- Tasty treats are all around us during this time of year. Avoid going straight for the cookies by bringing something healthy that you would enjoy nibbling on throughout the evening. If it’s a potluck affair, bring a favorite healthy recipe and select other dishes at the buffet judiciously. I have included a fabulous recipe below for a holiday salad that is festive, healthy, and tasty.
- While at the party, focus on something other than food. Dance, play a game, talk with a friend, or get to know someone new.
- Never arrive hungry. The combination of an empty stomach and all the tempting desserts around you is a deadly one. Have a healthy snack before you arrive, and you can make a more rational decision about eating that slice of pie.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! People often mistake thirst for hunger, and drinking water can also help you feel fuller. When you start to feel hungry, try drinking a glass of water first and see if that satisfies your appetite before you commit to another scoop of buttery mashed potatoes.
- Host, and serve all your favorite healthy dishes. What better way to control the menu than by hosting yourself? If you want a potluck style gathering, delegate carefully. Suggest a fruit salad or vegetables to munch on rather than a broader suggestion such as “appetizer” or “dessert.” Offer a selection of interesting non-alcoholic fruit drinks or flavored sparkling water in addition to the usual wine/cocktails. Also, provide fun activities like games for the guests so that the whole night does not revolve solely around eating and drinking.
- Not only is alcohol full of empty calories, it is a dis-inhibitor. It is more difficult to turn down that extra slice of lasagna after you’ve had a couple drinks. Ask yourself the question: do I need that third glass of wine? And if so, why? Reach for sparkling water instead.
- Try to stay on your usual schedule, and get plenty of rest. Especially if you are traveling to a different city, it’s easy to fall into a vacation schedule that affects your routine of eating or exercising. Lack of sleep has been linked to an increase in appetite. Try to get the proper amount of sleep (around 6-8 hours) every night, and do your best to stick to what your body is used to.
- No time to exercise due to all the social gatherings? Try building physical activity into your plans. Instead of hosting a coffee klatch, suggest going for a hike as a way to catch up with your friends. Everything counts with exercise… Even shopping burns calories!
- Keep almonds in your pocket. Almonds and other nuts are a healthy, filling snack that is easy to take anywhere. When you need to curb your appetite, just munch on a few almonds.
Sarah’s Holiday Salad
- 1 bunch of organic greens of your choice (I mixed spinach and “spring mix”)
- 1 pomegranate
- ¼ cup blue cheese
- ½ red onion, sliced
- 2 star fruit, sliced (there were not any star fruit at my local store so I used a pomelo that I cut into star shape with a cookie cutter. Any type of citrus fruit would work well here)
- ½ cup pecans (candied or raw, I used candied that I made with my recipe I posted on my site here)
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- Place the lettuce down first on your serving tray.
- Add all the pomegranate seeds, onion, cheese, star fruit, and pecans.
- Right before serving drizzle the dressing on top.
Sarah Di Grazia is working towards a master’s degree in social work with an emphasis on healthy lifestyle coaching and motivation. She lives in Carmel-by-the-Sea with her husband and puppy.