It’s official—the holidays season is upon us! There’s certainly a lot to love about this time of year, from festive decorations and cozy sweaters to being thankful for our family, friends, and our health. And then there’s the food!
But the same things that make the holidays so enjoyable can also get in the way of our well-being, both mental and physical. So how can you stay healthy during the holiday season? Let’s take a look at some of our top tips:
Manage stress. Whether it’s butting heads with a family member or burning the holiday candle at both ends, stress can take a toll on your health. If you are feeling overwhelmed, take a step back, go to another room (or outside), and breathe deeply for five minutes. Let your body relax and calm down before returning to the festivities.
Prioritize your mental health. During the holiday season, many of us look forward to festivities with friends and family. But for others, this time of year can bring on or worsen anxiety and depression. Some people may experience an increase in anxiety over things like picking the perfect gift, baking holiday favorites, or decking the halls. One important tool that can help you cope with holiday anxiety is mindfulness. Mindfulness simply means paying attention to what’s happening in your daily life. It’s about turning down the volume in your mind and living in the moment. Mindfulness is so effective that studies show that it can actually help you feel less anxious.1 Best of all, there are simple ways to practice mindfulness. One way is to simply take note of your surroundings. It may sound simple enough, but it can be hard for some people to slow down and notice the little things around them like a child laughing or a bird singing. No matter how busy you are, try to take the time to experience your environment with all your senses—touch, sound, sight, smell, and taste. For example, when you eat one of your favorite foods, take a moment to smell, taste, and truly enjoy it.
Make time for exercise: It’s easy to neglect physical activity during the holiday season. After all, it’s cold outside, there are presents to wrap, and then there’s all that decorating to do. Still, daily exercise is important for good health. Grab a family member and head outside for a 30-minute walk or take part in a virtual dance party. Not only will you get your heart pumping, but you’ll likely have fun too.
Schedule some downtime: A jam-packed holiday schedule can make it feel like your life is stuck on fast forward. We encourage you to build some down-time into your schedule so that you can rest and recuperate before the next activity. You’ll be glad you did!
Make healthy food choices: It’s tempting to overload your plate with mounds of mashed potatoes, piles of prime rib or turkey, and plenty of those ooey-gooey marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes. But should you? Maybe this year, try choosing green beans instead of green bean casserole, roasted winter squash instead of the marshmallow-laden sweet potatoes. If the menu is short on healthy dishes, try adding a salad or veggie tray. And watch your portion sizes! Instead of starving all day in anticipation of the “big feast,” eat a healthy snack a couple of hours before your holiday meal. It could be as easy as grabbing a banana or some hummus and vegetables for dipping.
In the spirit of healthy holiday food choices, we thought we would end with a tasty (yet healthy) holiday side dish for you to share with your family. Try this Cauliflower Mash instead of traditional mashed potatoes for a nutritious boost to your holiday feast. Enjoy!
Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes
- 2 heads of cauliflower
- ½ cup cheddar cheese, grated
- ¼ cup sour cream
- 2 tbsp butter, softened
- ½ tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp black pepper
- 2 tbsp chopped chives
- Cut the cauliflower heads into florets, then steam for about 8-10 minutes, until fork tender. You can also cook the florets in an Instant Pot, by adding 1/2 cup of water to the bottom, and placing the cauliflower florets in the steamer insert. Using low pressure, steam for 8 minutes.
- Drain the cauliflower and allow it to cool slightly. Squeeze the cauliflower in a kitchen towel to remove any remaining water. If you’re in a hurry, use tongs or rubber gloves to handle the hot cauliflower—just don’t use your bare hands!
- For a chunkier mash, mix the cauliflower with the remaining ingredients by hand. For a smoother texture, puree the squeezed cauliflower in a food processor with everything but the chives for one minute or until smooth.
- Mix in the chives if desired or simply sprinkle on top to garnish.
- Hoge E, Bui E, Marques L, et al. Randomized controlled trail of mindfulness meditation for generalized anxiety disorder: effects on anxiety and stress reactivity. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2014; 74(8): 786-792.
This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.