Mindful Merrymaking: Eat, drink and move healthy over the holidays

The holiday season is filled with traditions, fun memories and lots of food and drinks. Then right around the corner is the New Year, along with resolutions, which are often tied to eating healthier and losing weight. The good news is that there is no need to give up all of your holiday favorites. Rather than depriving yourself, use these tips to adjust your menu, stay mindful and get active throughout the holiday season.

Mix it up.

If you are planning a holiday get-together, mix up your menu. Start by ensuring that it includes a variety of foods. Say yes to your favorite holiday splurges, but also incorporate plenty of lighter and healthier items.

Go beyond the basic fruit-and-veggie platter, and offer some creative options. Try things like fresh fruit kebabs, colorful layered fruit salads or sliced apples with caramel dip. And how about a roasted vegetable platter, a leafy green, wreath-shaped Caprese salad or a tree-shaped vegetable platter with a yogurt-based dip? For appetizers, opt for vegetable-based dips like black bean and veggie dip, hummus
and whole wheat pita or spinach artichoke dip.

Include sources of healthier fats like salmon, tuna, olive oil, nuts and seeds. Put out dishes of mixed nuts, pistachios, almonds or cashews. Or try serving an appetizer that centers on salmon or tuna. In recipes choose olive or canola oil, and look for infused oils to flavor recipes.

Add whole grains to enhance your foods’ nutritional value. Consider substituting whole wheat pastry flour, quinoa, brown rice, whole grain bread crumbs, oats or whole wheat pasta for more processed flours and grains called for in recipes. Serve dips and spreads with whole grain crackers, multigrain pita chips or whole wheat pita bread.

A swap that works for quick breads and baked foods is using whole wheat pastry flour. This flour has a smooth texture and light wheat taste, with all the nutritional power of a whole grain flour. To substitute whole wheat pastry flour in a recipe, it is a one-to-one substitution.

Lighten up a cheese platter with foods that are lighter in calories. Great options include slices of roasted vegetables (such as roasted red peppers), a variety of olives, fresh sliced vegetables, grapes, berries or pickled vegetables.

Pay attention.

Think less about depriving yourself and more about being mindful about your food and beverage selections.

Avoid mindless eating at parties by moving away from the food spread and socializing with guests! If you are the hostess, check on the food periodically but otherwise spend your time talking, not eating.

Decide in advance how you want to spend your calories. For example, at a party, go light on the snacks and appetizers and save some room for a dessert. If you love savory dips and appetizers, enjoy the appetizers and then skimp on the desserts. Budget your calories the way you would budget your money on a shopping trip.

Pay special attention to what you are drinking, and focus on limiting the sugary drinks. You can help your guests cut down on sugar intake by serving a variety of naturally flavored seltzer waters, infused waters or unsweetened teas. Instead of sugary holiday punch, try a fresh fruit and seltzer punch with lime seltzer, slices of limes and sliced strawberries. Turn this into the base for an adult punch by adding vodka.

To help lessen some of the focus on food at gatherings, plan non-food activities for you and your guests: play games, assemble a puzzle, take a walk, have fun outside, build a snowman or make simple crafts.

Get and stay active.

Don’t forget to stay active, even during the frenzy of the holidays. You always have options, from swimming at community indoor pools to walking at the mall, exercising at home or heading to the gym. Of course, bundle up and enjoy outdoor activities as well: shoveling, snowshoeing, skiing, ice skating or cross-country skiing.

If you are traveling over the holidays, seek out ways to stay active wherever you are going, such as yoga classes, trails, roller skating, ice skating, skiing and more! Plus remember the holiday to-do list: shopping, wrapping, cooking, cleaning and baking all burn calories.

If you will be going to a party, plan to use these ideas to bring healthier choices with you to the gathering. The day of a party, rather than skipping meals, squeeze in a few extra minutes at the gym, on a walk, or exercising to offset the party food and drinks.

I wish you and your family a wonderful holiday season! 

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