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Healthy Living Blog

Information and inspiration to help you make a habit out of living healthy.


Nurture Your Family’s Healthy Habits During the Holidays

Monday, December 17, 2018

By , YMCA Registered Dietitian and Mom of Three

The holidays bring glad tidings and good cheer, but they can come with stress, too. Studies show that Americans gain an average of 1-2 pounds every holiday season. We tend to keep these pounds, and the accumulation of this added weight over the years can become a serious health concern.

Americans also spend big money on the season—we shelled out over $700 billion as a nation in 2017. Researchers project the average American adult will spend about $885 on gifts this year.

With all this spending and eating piled on to our already busy lives, it’s no wonder the season can feel overwhelming! If your anxiety level increases just thinking about it, read on for six ideas to keep your family on a healthy track through the New Year.

  1. Give quality over quantity. It is easy to get swept up in the magic and wonder of the season. As a parent, I am guilty of losing perspective when trying to make the holidays memorable and find the perfect gifts. Let's all relax! Don’t go into debt for the holidays. Instead, balance the number of gifts you buy with the amount of time you spend with your family. In my household, we do a four gift-giving strategy: Something you want, something you need. Something you wear, something you read.  Everyone gets gifts that are both functional and fun without the breaking the family budget. Pick your own strategy, set your limits, and stick to them.

  2. Moderate the munchies. The holidays offer a plethora of rich and sweet foods at our fingertips. Sometimes we can feel like we are missing out if we don't overdo it. But a moderate amount is just as good (or better) than too much of something. Avoiding treats and temptations for the entire season is not realistic, so sample your favorites, but stop eating before you're full. As you continue to digest, you will feel satiated and avoid being “stuffed.” Yes, enjoy in the foods of the season, but try to resist perpetual snacking and overeating. You won’t regret it!

  3. Create active experiences. It's fun to celebrate with food, but try thinking outside the box! This season, encourage your family to spend time together doing something other than eating. Try to organize a neighborhood walk to look at holiday decorations. Participate in a charity run. Go ice skating. (This year after Christmas, my family is having a bowling tournament!) Get creative and give each other the gift of spending time together doing something active.

  4. Make mealtimes happen. We can get so busy during this time of year that mealtimes pass by unnoticed. Whether we’re rushing to finish a holiday task and snacking along the way, or we’re waiting to eat dinner at a party, skipping or delaying meals until we are ravenous can wreak havoc on our metabolism and our food choices. We tend to overeat and make unwise food selections when we are “starving.” If lunch or dinner will be later than your body is used to, eat a small, healthful snack so you (and the family) are energized to keep on cheerfully celebrating.

  5. Still aim for a balanced plate. During parties or holiday meals, fruits and veggies tend to be hidden in desserts and casseroles. Even so, you can still aim for balance on your plate! Following the MyPlate.gov guidelines, try to make half your plate fruits and veggies while splitting the other half evenly between proteins and carbohydrates. For potlucks, contribute a healthy dish like a vegetable tray or fruit plate to the menu if you're concerned there won’t be nutritious options. Handle “food pushers” with grace, but be firm. Say "no" to more food if you are full!

  6. Keep moving. All the extras that come with the season can be both wonderful and exhausting, but don’t use the extra list of to-do's as an excuse to ditch your regular fitness routine. Continuing to exercise will help you stay energized and motivated to enjoy the holidays, while combating weight gain and holiday-induced anxiety. Staying committed to your fitness throughout the holidays is much easier than having to start over with your New Year’s resolutions. 

Things to remember

The weight gain we experience during the holidays is not a result of one holiday meal or sweet treat. It's the cumulation of celebrations from Halloween through the New Year. That’s two months of indulgence! The same goes for excessive spending on gifts, which lead to hefty credit card bills in January.

This year, approach the holidays with a sense of moderation and balance instead of stress and anxiety. Focus on time spent and love shared with family and friends rather than the material aspects of the season. Happy holidays to you and yours!

Establish healthy habits with the Y

Learn 7 steps for raising nutrition-savvy kids, and check out these simple relaxation techniques for the holiday season. A stronger you makes a stronger family! Get more information on nutrition counseling and wellness support services offered at your center.

YMCA of Middle Tennessee

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1000 Church St.
Nashville, TN 37203
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