From December 2010:

The Holiday Season is a time when we are all tempted to indulge and feel a little justified for over-abundance. Especially when it comes to food. Food has become a central part of social gatherings and parties around the holidays, so it is important that we remember to make smart food choices – something that is almost always easier said than done when there are decadent food choices available, made with love, by friends and family.

In most cases, the majority of party goers aren’t concerned with eating for energy, and are, therefore, less inclined to bring healthier versions of their best recipes. It ultimately becomes our own responsibility for discipline in being mindful of what we eat when the party fare is tempting.
Happy Holidays: 15 Healthy Tips

The following 15 holiday tips are here to empower you. Post them up and download to your smart phone so you can refer to them often.

1. Stop Eating When You Feel Full. This is something most people struggle with when delicious food is on their plate. Especially for those who are in the ‘clean plate’ club and don’t like to leave left over food on their dish. Remind yourself that there is absolutely no shame in leaving an extra portion of food on your plate. Try to take less food to begin with and thoroughly chew eat bite of food and you will most likely eat less. Use smaller plates and avoid filling your plate with large portions.

2. Take A Few Extra or Longer Walks. Walking is a terrific form of exercise that can be done anywhere at anytime, and can be a great cardiovascular workout in colder temperatures. Especially when there is a layer of snow on the ground. Next time you let your dog out to do their ‘business’, why not slip on your coat and shoes, grab their leash and take them for a walk around the block, or even for a few walks? Fido will love you for it and you will feel healthy and energized as well. Or grab a walking buddy at work or at home and make it a daily appointment.

3. Don’t Count Calories Incessantly. This is unnecessary and will drive your loved ones crazy and yourself too. Let’s face it; there are enough stressors around the holidays to worry about. The best thing you can do is to watch what you eat, but also how much of it you are eating instead of trying to keep track of your caloric intake. Use Mindful Eating strategies and allow yourself a few well-planned treats, and enjoy each bite without distractions.

4. Use Healthier Ingredients in Your Recipes. In fact, if one didn’t have the knowledge that unhealthy ingredients had been replaced with a more healthful substitute, you would never hear a peep about the taste. When replacing sugar such as pure cane sugar with a natural sugar substitute such as brown rice syrup, raw blue agave nectar, stevia, pure maple syrup, xylitol, or the like, you will barely notice a taste difference. Here are some other replacement suggestions: replace white flour with whole wheat flour. Replace sour cream with greek yogurt. Replace fried vegetables with roasted vegetables.

5. Eat Healthy Meals to Avoid Continuous Snacking.

Be sure to have healthy meals planned, including starting the day with breakfast to reduce the temptation for snacking on all the tasty treats that will become so plentiful at home and the office. Remember to always eat in moderation and tune into your “full” feeling as a signal to stop eating. When you are beginning to feel full, stop eating! Eat the healthier options first, like veggies, salads and fruits and you will automatically eat less of the less nutrient-dense choices.

6. Know Your Eating Boundaries And Don’t Cross Them. This tip is especially important if you hope to avoid gaining weight over the holidays. You know better than Aunt Betty what you can eat. Even though her home-made pound cake might taste wonderful, you may want to not opt for seconds if you are watching what you eat. Many people believe it’s fine to splurge around the holiday season, but it’s all a matter of mind over matter. If you just can’t help yourself and must have some of Uncle Fred’s ambrosia salad, then take a smaller than normal portion of it and really focus and enjoy the flavors.

7. Go For The Healthy Food Choices. Almost every family has at least one ‘health nut’ within its midst. If there are healthy food choices available, then eat more of the plain fruits and vegetables instead of the pies cakes and cookies in the holiday ‘spread’. Remember that extra dips can derail healthy efforts. Don’t be afraid to ask what the dips are made of so you can make a more informed judgment on whether or not to enjoy them. Also, you can always bring healthier dip versions for fruits and veggies such as yogurt or reduced calorie veggie dips.

8. Eat In Moderation With Smaller Portions. You can still partake in all the wonderful treats without packing on extra pounds that go along with all those goodies. And remember to balance out the unhealthy foods with healthier options such as plain fruits and vegetables.

9. Drink In Moderation. Always follow a glass of alcohol with a glass of water. Many holiday drinks are packed with extra sugar, so watch how much of the special libations and festive egg nog you drink. This goes for both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Sparkling water is always a great choice, or non-sweetened tea or coffee.

10. Substitute Whole Grains. Try to steer clear of white breads, sugary cakes, cookies, creamy potato recipes, or anything else that you believe to be highly processed and high in calories. Go for the whole wheat, multi-grain, or naturally sweetened holiday food choices. Fiber filled choices will help you feel more full and help you to avoid the tempting treats.

11. Drink Water Before Eating. Drinking more H2O will fool your stomach into believing it is full. When you feel a craving for something sweet, drink a glass of water first, breathe, and think about what it is you are truly hungry for.

12. Eat Something Before You Go Grocery Shopping. But, the main reason for going grocery shopping on a full stomach is that you will be less inclined to purchase junk foods. If you aren’t hungry, you are much less likely to be tempted by those types of food choices. You will be able to stay on track and only purchase the things you NEED from the grocery store.

13. Plan an Out-Door Activity. Whether the weather is warmer or colder, plan on doing something outdoors during the holidays. This can be something you do by yourself, with family, or friends that doesn’t involve any eating. Things like cutting down your own Christmas Tree, shopping for gifts, walking through the park (you may want to do this with a friend or a group for safety reasons), going sledding, skiing, skating, playing some backyard football, collecting pine cones and creating some simple bird feeders with bird seed and peanut butter, and any other activities you can think up. Try to do one thing each week to keep things interesting and get everyone in the holiday spirit!

14. Keep a Gratitude Journal. This tip is so helpful, especially with the stress of families, parties, holiday obligations…write down 3 things that you’re grateful for each day or 3 things that made you happy today and try writing in it every day. Switching the focus to gratitude will help make you feel grounded, loved, and happy!

15. Don’t forget to breathe!!! When you wake up in the morning, take a few moments to focus on your breath. Throughout the day when you feel stress, take a moment to breathe in for four counts and breathe out for five and do five sets. Focus on breathing in positive energy and breathing out any negative thoughts. The beautiful thing about focusing on your breath is that you can do it any time and anywhere!!

Of course there are always additional healthy strategies you can incorporate to protect your health over the holidays. Try incorporating your own ideas as well during the holidays as well to keep yourself healthy, fit, and happy.

Take the ideas above and fit them in to your lifestyle by changing them up a bit. Remember, being healthy is a lifestyle and can be practiced year round.

Happy Holidays!