December 11, 2023

These weeks can make it harder to keep a healthy lifestyle. Try these five tips to help the family make healthy holiday choices.

When I think back to the holiday seasons when my now-grown kids were young, I remember a much more hectic schedule, decadent temptations and the increased stress to do so much. I found that by choosing a few simple behaviors to focus on maintaining throughout the holiday season, we were able to stay on track with our commitment to a healthy lifestyle much more effectively.

1. Snack before dinner.

Try having some healthy snacks before mealtime and encourage your kids to do so, too. You’ll be less likely to pile the sweet potato casserole on your plate if you’re not starving. Good pre-meal snack choices include low-fat cheese and whole-grain crackers, apple slices with a bit of peanut butter or carrots with hummus.

2. Move it.

Aim for you and the kids to get some physical activity each day. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that adults aim for 30 minutes of activity each day; kids need an hour. Many activities can be done right at home. If the weather is nice, a family walk to look at Christmas lights after dinner is a fun option. If the weather is not cooperative, try mall walking, jumping rope in the basement or cranking up the holiday music and dancing.

3. Veg out.

Whether you are cooking in or eating out, focus mealtime choices on plant-based foods. Also, instead of drenching veggies in buttery sauces, try something simpler. For example, toss veggies like broccoli or carrots in olive oil and sprinkle with salt or squeeze with lemon juice. Roast them on a cookie sheet and enjoy.

4. Plan ahead.

If your family adventures take you on the road, plan ahead so that the healthy choice is the easy choice. Pack weather appropriate clothing such as a hat and boots for outdoor activities, if you are heading somewhere cold. That way you can get outside no matter what. Take along healthy non-perishable snacks such as fruit, almonds, dry whole-grain cereal and 100 percent juice in anticipation of delayed flights, traffic jams and those ever-hungry kiddos. This will keep you out of the fast-food restaurant, saving both money and your waistlines.

5. Make it yourself.

Cooking meals at home is almost always going to be a healthier option than eating out or getting take-out. Keep fresh foods, with as little processing as possible, on hand. Making a dish that your family can enjoy for more than one meal — think a hearty soup — can make eating right easier. Cook a few items ahead of time such as hard-boiled eggs, grilled chicken strips or baked sweet potatoes; these can be lifesavers when the days get hectic.

Remember that whatever holidays your family celebrates, taking time during that special season, and every day, to appreciate and promote health for ourselves and our families is a choice worth making.

Stacey Kendrick is a health educator with more than 20 years of experience in wellness and population health. She is a mother to two adult daughters. In her free time, she teaches healthy cooking classes, runs, gardens and enjoys backyard bonfires.