8 Tips to Healthier Holidays

Christine Koh is the founder and editor of Boston Mamas, the designer behind Posh Peacock, and writes a personal blog at Pop Discourse. She
lives in the Boston area with her husband Jonathan and daughters Laurel (7 years) and Violet (8 months). She tweets about it all at @bostonmamas.

The holidays are, characteristically, a challenging time of year for many. Emotions often run high (e.g., due to missing loved ones or interfacing with family members with whom there is friction) and there are physical challenges as well — the abundance of sweet treats challenges even the most disciplined, and busy schedules and overwhelming to-do lists can shift self care to the back burner. In my opinion, it’s thus even more important to step back and reflect on your actions around this time of year. Here are eight things I recommend doing to enjoy a healthier holiday season – both mentally and physically.

1. Bring and/or serve alternative treats. One Christmas, my sister-in-law
brought healthier snacks as a hostess gift for my mother – items such as a prettily arranged dried fruit platter and yogurt covered pretzels instead of yet another tray of cookies or bowl of candy. And everyone gravitated towards these offerings because they provided a welcome respite to the super sweet treats! Consider healthy alternative treats as either a hostess gift or if you are looking to put out snacks at your own holiday gathering.

2. Bake with fruit. While the aforementioned alternative snacks work well for general munching, when it comes to desserts at the dinner table, one healthier option is to bake with fruit. Fruit pies and crisps are always a big hit, or if you want to make things a little fancy (with the same or even less effort), make a free form fruit crostata or serve baked pears.

3. Fill up on fruit. One strategy I have long found successful, particularly with kids, is to have my daughter eat fruit after or as part of her meal and before dessert. This helps her get some good nutrients while also leaving less room for the heavy duty desserts.

4. Stuff differently. Candy is an easy choice for stocking stuffers – it’s
perfectly sized and adored by kids. However, if my daughter’s still overflowing Halloween bucket is a testament, more sweets are not necessary! When it comes to stocking stuffers, my husband and I much prefer stuffing usable items – small craft supplies, little soaps, toys, etc. Our older daughter Laurel is always delighted by her stocking stuffers and never asks about candy.

5. Move in a group. Nothing motivates like having a buddy (or a dozen!).
In the past, members of my family have assembled for everything from turkey trots to family football games to group yoga practices.

6. Drink up. Make sure you stay hydrated throughout the day; sometimes
when you think you’re hungry (and become prone to junk food snacking) you’re actually thirsty. Water is my go-to beverage and when I am feeling in need of a little more restorative beverage I’ll fill my glass with ¾ water and ¼ coconut water. I find it rebalancing and refreshing.

7. Breathe. Whether you are struggling with emotional or physical issues
during the holidays, breathing will help you — it’s so simple yet so effective! Take a few quiet moments. Sit or stand and close your eyes. Relax and drop your shoulders. Inhale deeply through the nose then exhale. Breathe in and out for eight nice, long counts – be mindful about your body posture and envision the tightness in your neck, back, shoulders, and elsewhere unraveling like an untwisting rope as you breathe. Repeat for as many eight-count cycles as you have time to enjoy! I also like to do gentle stretches, holding each stretch for eight counts. This helps me get the energy flowing through my body and also release tension.

8. Be mindful. My husband and I both try to infuse mindfulness into our lives in many ways, and it has proven to be a lovely practice with food — and one that has proven helpful with our daughter around all the holiday junk food. For example, we think – and talk explicitly — about our choices (“Do I really want this junk food or is it just a craving that can be satisfied with a healthier alternative?”), the actual item in front of us (“Do I want to waste belly space with this candy? Perhaps I should wait for something homemade?”), and how full we are (“How does my belly feel? Will I feel sick if I eat more of this?”). This approach is one of the reasons Laurel rarely gets sick on sweets. We remind her to check in and listen to her body and
follow the signs.

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