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  • Writer's pictureDr. Hockstra

6 Tips - Hang On To Your Health Over The Holidays


It's that time of year! Fun family activities, work functions, and get-togethers are likely starting to fill up your time. However, holiday foods and a busy schedule often make it difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Today, I will be sharing six tips to help you stay healthy over the holiday season.


1. Reduce Processed Sugar

One of the biggest temptations over the holidays is to load up on delicious treats. Most of these sweets, however, contain large amounts of processed or white sugar. Try to minimize or avoid tasty sweets and desserts at home and at parties. Overtime, processed sugar tends to increase inflammation and reduce the power of your immune system. If you are not sure whether a food contains processed sugar, check the label for ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, and cane sugar.


The best way to avoid eating too much processed sugar is to fill up on healthy foods before going to holiday parties. This limits unnecessary eating that leads to an increase in weight and a reduction in overall health.


2. Eat Healthy Foods

To promote a healthy diet over the holidays, it is important for you to have some go-to alternatives to traditional processed foods. I recommend anything vegetable or salad based. Soups with clear broth are another great option because they will make you feel full without having to consume lots of calories. You can also try incorporating seasonal foods like gourds or sweet potatoes into your meals and holiday dishes.


Whenever you eat something sweet, try to couple it with a protein. For example, with a Christmas cookie, have a scoop of almond or peanut butter, a bite of chicken, string cheese, or some avocado. Coupling a protein with a sugar will reduce the sugar spike in your bloodstream.


3. Exercise

For many, it can be a challenge to keep up with an exercise routine during the holidays. It is important to understand that some exercise is better than none. Just because you cannot make it to the gym for a full workout does not mean that you cannot exercise. You can always go for a short walk, or perform calisthenics at home such as air squats or pushups. Try performing these exercises whenever you have a few minutes during the day. In addition, getting outside and moving, even if the weather is poor, will help to reduce stress and promote relaxation.


4. Get Consistent Sleep

Over the holidays, it is typically more difficult to foster healthy sleep habits because your schedule is busier and more likely to change. To counter this, I recommend trying to get to bed just 10 minutes earlier than your typical bedtime. This small difference will go a long way in giving your body more time to recover at night. While you are asleep, your brain rests and prepares for the next day, which is especially important during the busy holiday season.


5. Plan Ahead

Although easier said than done, planning ahead can go a long way in easing stress and promoting healthy habits during the holiday season. When possible, take time to specifically schedule parties and get-togethers beforehand. Prepare healthy food and snacks the day before when you know that you will have a busy next few days. You can keep these healthy snacks in a small ice chest to bring with you. You can also leave healthy snacks out on the counter to reach for instead of cookies and deserts.


6. Set Goals

To set yourself up for success and remain healthy over the holidays, it is important to set goals for yourself. For example, you could commit to getting at least 7 hours of sleep every night. You could decide not to eat past a certain hour, or to limit yourself to one sugary treat per day. Before committing to a holiday health goal, make sure to form a plan that will help you succeed. It is also important to remember that health goals will differ from person to person. I advise picking an achievable but challenging goal and finding someone you trust to help keep you accountable.


Humility

To conclude, I would like to encourage you to spend time serving others during this holiday season. Keep in mind those you know who may be isolated or alone. C. S. Lewis once said that "True humility is not thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself less." In other words, shifting our focus away from ourselves and our problems toward the needs of others is what truly humbles us.


Make it a goal to spend time helping someone you know who is in need. This always stirs a heart of gratitude. Have a blessed holiday season!

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