Healthy for the Holidays

This year, I noticed that Pumpkin Spice Everything started in September, which means that the “eating season” started early this year.  Each fall we are inundated with a rise in sugar everywhere we turn.  From the fancy espresso drinks, special holiday baked goods to Halloween candy, the amount of sugar we consume during the fall season is out of control.  After the Halloween sugar crash, we slide right into the Thanksgiving holiday.  We now have extra holiday occasions with “Friends-giving” and other added events.  Next up, all the December holidays.  No matter what you celebrate in the month of December, most of these special occasions are centered around high calorie, high fat and sugary food.  

A Note about Culture & Tradition

Food equals tradition for most of us.  I fondly remember my mom’s sweet potato casserole at Thanksgiving, and to this day, it doesn’t feel the same if we are missing her sweet potatoes with loads of mini marshmallows on top.  For thousands of years, cultures have used special cuisine to celebrate births, religious events, and to honor the deceased.  Food has meaning, and some say food provides comfort.  I 100% agree that we should use special meals and treats to hold traditions and express our cultural and religious practices.  Unfortunately, in our modern culture, we are faced with unhealthy food choices 365 days a year.  

In the midst of those special occasion goodies and indulgences, there are still ways to create structure and support around health habits.  There are still ways we can have healthy holidays and enjoy celebrating them!

Healthier Holiday

Here are a few practical tips to create a healthier holiday season:

  • On most days, stick to a regular healthy food plan including vegetables, lean or plant based protein, legumes, whole grains, etc.
  • Plan to have healthy options at all special occasions (think veggies!)
  • Create lower calorie/fat/sugar days leading up to and following an indulgent occasion
  • Increase your water intake
  • Get quality sleep (see my last blog)
  • Begin or increase your stress management practice  (yoga, exercise, prayer, laughter)
  • Talk to your loved ones about creating new traditions that involve activity, games or non-food fun (a family hike or walk)
  • Ask for help – find a friend/partner or coach to help keep you accountable to your healthy habits during the holidays

A Note About Habits

Our health habits do not magically show up on January 1st, nor should they disappear for birthdays, anniversaries, vacations or holidays.  These healthy habits are cultivated each day of our year with the practice of mindfulness about how you are nourishing your body.  Pay attention to how your choices make you feel physically, mentally and emotionally.  Seek to understand how shifting these choices can improve your overall well being, not just at the holidays, but all year long.  

One of the best ways to practice mindfulness with our food choices is to allow for space and time to pass before indulging in a craving.  For instance, imagine you are in the kitchen feeling a little stressed preparing for a special holiday.  You suddenly feel the urge or craving to grab a sugary treat.  Take a deep breath, let 5-10 seconds go by and challenge your urge.  Ask yourself, “is this choice a stress response?  How could I better manage this stress? Does this choice nourish my body or create inflammation and more problems?”  This practice does not work every time, but allows you to make a conscious choice rather than giving in to mindless urges. 

Stick To Those Healthy Habits

Make the most of the holiday season without taking a break from healthy habits.  This could be the year that the New Year’s Resolution is obsolete!

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Sara is a native of Arizona, but after 20 years of living in Southern California she and her family proudly call Ventura County home. Living in the pines of Northern Arizona for many years, Sara developed a passion for fitness and the outdoors. She shares this love with her husband of 20 years, Jarod. With a Masters Degree in Exercise Physiology, Sara is also passionate about creating a healthy lifestyle including a healthy mind, body and spirit. What started 14 years ago as a whole family health transformation due to her son's food allergies, has blossomed into a career of helping others. As a Health Coach, she has worn many hats to help others achieve their goals, from leading running groups, teaching fitness classes and working one-on-one with individuals. She and Jarod now have three children, ages 16, 14 (the boys) and 11 (her girl). They are all very outdoorsy, and can be found camping, hiking, biking, snowboarding, surfing and spending time in their backyard. Her best day consists of hiking or biking in the Santa Monica Mountains, spending time with her family, including her little fluffy dog, Roxy. A fun fact about Sara: her sport growing up was Synchronized Swimming!

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