By Sheridan Wimmer on December 13, 2017

12 holiday health tips

On the first day of Christmas, your true love (that’s us, right?) gave to you: 12 holiday health tips and suggestions. To stay your best self throughout the holidays, read what Karen Hanson, dietitian for the Johnson County Department of Health
and Environment, says you should and shouldn’t do.

1. Holidays are just that — days.

Think of the end-of-the-year holidays as special one-day occasions instead of a two-month free-for-all season. “If you can control how many days you eat that rich stuffing or those candy canes, chances are you’ll be able to kick off the new year healthier and happier,” Hanson says.

2. Eat in moderation.

On holidays, enjoy the family favorites; there’s no need to beat yourself up.

“Maybe just refrain from going back for seconds,” Hanson suggests. “It’s hard to do when you only get these special family recipes once a year, but try to eat until you feel full instead of stuffed like the Thanksgiving turkey.”

3. Don’t skip breakfast.

You know what they say — breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Even on days you’re planning to celebrate with family or friends, breakfast will start you off right.

“Make sure you combine a good source of protein with carbohydrates to carry you through those holiday events and the sweets won’t be quite so tempting,” Hanson says. “Studies show that people who skip breakfast actually end up eating more calories later in the day.”

4. Water is the spice of life.

That’s not how the saying goes, but it should be. Hydrating throughout the day will decrease hunger.

“Not only will hydrating make you feel full, it will keep you energized — which is something we all need during the busy holiday season,” Hanson says.

5. Plan your snacks.

“Plan and carry a snack that is a blend of complex carbohydrates and proteins,” Hanson suggests. “Eat your planned snack ahead of events where you will be tempted to overeat on sugary holiday treats.”

6. Provide a healthy option.

Manage the buffets and parties by taking your favorite lower-sugar/lowerfat dish to share.

“Look over the buffet before you travel down the line and pick out those items you want to taste; a bite or two will do,” Hanson says.

7. Less is more.

Portion control is a major factor in staying on track with your eating-right goals. Hanson also suggests slowing down while you eat to give your brain the 20 minutes it needs to get the signal you’re full. Take sensible-sized portions and use smaller plates to trick your mind into thinking you are getting more food.

8. Out of sight, out of mind.

“Keep your kitchen clean and organized and keep tempting foods out of sight,” Hanson says. “Keep your refrigerator and pantry stocked with healthy options.”

9. Get creative in the kitchen.

Try new recipes that are flavorful, but lower in sugars and fats. “Use fresh herbs and salt-free seasonings in savory dishes, or natural sweeteners in place of refined sugars in desserts,” Hanson offers.

10. Be physically active.

Enlist the help of a friend, or a pet, to walk with you. According to Hanson, research has proven the buddy system increases the amount of physical activity we do because we are more committed to showing up. We don’t want to disappoint a friend or our pets. Go for a walk as a family after your holiday meal.

11. Get your beauty sleep, for real.

“Without adequate rest, your immune system is compromised,” Hanson warns. “Getting sick during the holidays is no fun and just one night of too-little sleep can be a metabolic disruptor that leads to increased appetite, food cravings and reduced willpower. Try to get seven to eight hours of sleep every night.”

12. Make time to plan.

Take time to sit down and write out a daily schedule or weekly plan. “Feeling organized will help your stress levels,” Hanson says.

“Plan your meals, activities, shopping trips, physical activity and even your sleep hours and you’ll have a smooth holiday season.”