Ho! Ho! Ho! The holidays are here. Unfortunately, so is the temptation to overindulge and under-exercise, which can have serious short- and long-term consequences for your body, health and heart. But while navigating the non-stop food frenzy that comes along with Navidad takes will power, it’s not impossible. In fact, a few minor modifications can have major effect, and allow you to feel more gleeful than guilty this holiday season.
Control Your Portions
When it comes to portions, ‘tis the season to downsize. Are you loading up every tortilla chip you eat with a Santa-sized scoop of salsa? We suggest skipping the tortilla chips altogether and instead spooning a small dollop of guac and other dips onto your plate the next time you’re at a party. This will help you monitor how much you’re eating (and stop eating when your dollop is done). If you’re the party’s host, freeze leftovers in single-serving Ziploc bags and plastic containers.
Find a Movement
Sure, you can eat a bon bon, but be sure to make time to shake your bon bon too! Even simple holiday activities can be turned into exercise: unload presents and potluck dishes from the car; retrieve gifts from under the tree and distribute to family members; fetch an extra tea for mami and bring abuelita her slippers. All of these will burn extra calories, and all can easily be worked in to your holiday routine.
Avoid Unconscious Consumption
Got a favorite holiday film or sports game the family watches every year? If the answer is yes, you most likely have a food ritual associated with it. This year, skip the endless snack bowls – which lead to mindless eating and untold numbers of extra calories – and eat before the gathering. In addition to keeping you on the right health track, it will allow you to better enjoy the family and friends with whom you’re celebrating by giving them – versus food – your full focus.
Sub it Out
Take a look at your most beloved family recipe and find ways to integrate healthier holiday habits. Sub the spoonfuls of sour cream for low-fat yogurt. Trade fried for baked tortilla chips. Give kids dates instead of cookies. Holiday memories and time with family are irreplaceable, but unhealthy ingredients can be switched without sacrifice.
Plan Your Snacks
Following each visit to the grocery store, take a few minutes to prep healthy snacks before putting everything in the fridge. Cut veggies and fruit and store them in containers so they are ready to serve. Place them on the most visible refrigerator shelves so they are easy to grab. Put the processed, pre-packaged, naughty stuff on a high shelf, out of sight.
Be Careful with Condiments
Save yourself hundreds of calories by being conservative with salsas, sauces and toppings. Keep in mind that condiments were created as companions to your dish, and focus on the naturally delicious flavors of the flautas, tamales or tacos themselves (versus the mound of salsa, guac and sour cream you might typically douse them with).
Don’t Drink Your Calories
Christmas cocktails are fun, but be careful not to overdo them. Traditional holiday refreshments tend to be more fat and calorie-laden than their non-holiday counterparts. If you must have coquito, make it a mini. Decide before each party how many cocktails you’re allowed, and drink a full glass of water between each.
Take a Veg Pledge
Work more veggies into your holiday food repertoire. It’s surprisingly easy and fun to be faithful to the holiday colors of green, red and white. When hosting, fill trays with cucumber, cherry tomatoes, red peppers and cauliflower. They not only taste great with low-fat dips and salsas, they make your snack table colorful and abundant.
Home is Where the Healthy Heart Is
It’s tempting to trade home-cooked meals for those with no cleanup required, especially during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. But while the mall’s food court is convenient, its offerings wreak havoc on both your heart and your waistline. Extra butter, cheap oils, mystery ingredients – you really have no way of knowing what is in your food unless you prepare it yourself. An added benefit of home-cooking? Kitchen time is bonding time, and is ideal for making lasting family memories.
Make Rules and Keep Them Simple
Not all rules are made to be broken. Establishing healthy rules and habits actually simplifies your daily routine, thus reducing stress and increasing the quality of and prolonging the length of your life. Forget New Years’ Resolutions. Make your own “Healthy Life Rules.” Decide you’ll eat red meat only once a week; alternate between oatmeal and a smoothie for breakfast; and swap whole milk for low-fat. Power up even further by adding omega-3 super-power chia seeds by Milagros de Mexico to your oatmeal, smoothies or snacks. Small changes like these can make a big difference to your health before, during and after the holidays.