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12 Ways to Stay Healthy Over the Holidays

By Emily Barr, MS,RD,CNSC

The month of December, right on cue, is flying by!  The parties have begun and will continue all month long, and of course,  into the New Year!  You may have the same old thought recirculating through your mind this holiday season, how are you going to enjoy the season without upsetting your bathroom scale?

There have been studies to show that weight gain during the holiday season may be as little as one pound for those who are of ideal body weight.  But, for those of us that may be above our desired weight (click to see a BMI chart), the risk for weight gain is increased during the festive season, adding up to 3-7 extra pounds. (1)

Your mission this holiday season is weight maintenance.  But how?  Of course, by watching what you eat.  But you can’t stop there; you must get your heart rate up to burn some extra calories.  Even though we usually have the best intentions to eat well and exercise, there is one more key factor that can interfere with your plans for a healthy holiday season. It is an unfortunate thing called stress, which is obviously increased at this busy and financially straining time of year.  The trifecta for weight maintenance must include all three important preparations – nutritional, physical, and psychological preparation!

Here are 12 recipes, 12 exercises, and 12 tips to help you enjoy your holiday season, starting and ending at the same weight!


12 Healthy Holiday Recipes


1.) Sleigh Driver Eating Well – Skinny Gene modification: substitute Splenda for sugar

This scrumptious nonalcoholic punch adds pear, cranberries and vanilla to the traditional hot cider.

{Please click on the picture to see the recipe}


2.) Asparagus Guacamole Taste of Home 

Indulge in some guilt-free dipping with this low-fat version of guacamole.

{Please click on the picture to see the recipe}




3.) Sausage Mushroom CapsSunset 

These sausage-stuffed mushrooms are the perfect 1-bite party food. (Tip: Lower the fat by using a reduced fat chicken or pork sausage)

{Please click on the picture to see the recipe}



4.) Brussels Sprouts Salad with Warm Bacon VinaigretteCooking Light 

Brussels sprouts are low in calories, while offering protein, vitamins and minerals to support a healthy body. Unfortunately, they are usually the least favorite vegetable at the table. Hopefully this recipe will convince your loved ones to give Brussel sprouts another try.

{Please click on the picture to see the recipe}


5.) Green & Yellow Beans with Wild Mushrooms Eating Well 

Simply prepared green and yellow beans with wild mushrooms are easy holiday fare.

{Please click on the picture to see the recipe}



6.) Butternut –Squash Couscous Delish from Food & Wine 

Butternut squash and chickpeas provide this aromatic dish substantial bite.

{Please click on the picture to see the recipe}



7.) Bulgur with Dried CranberriesMy Recipes from Cooking Light 

Serve this lemony bulgur—an American interpretation of Middle Eastern tabbouleh—instead of the more familiar and expected stuffing.

{Please click on the picture to see the recipe}



8.) Pot Roast with Fall VegetablesDelish from Good Housekeeping 

Looking for a hearty main dish? This high-fiber, filling  recipe should do the trick.

{Please click on the picture to see the recipe}



9.) Winter Jeweled Fruit SaladMy Recipes from Cooking Light 

Copas de frutas (fruit cups) are popular street food. They typically consist of fresh fruit sprinkled with lime juice and chili powder and are the inspiration for this jewel-colored fruit salad. It’s bright colors makes it perfect to serve for the holidays.

{Please click on the picture to see the recipe}


10.) Black and White Striped Cookies – My Recipes from Cooking Light 

Show off your baking talents with these vanilla and chocolate striped cookies.

{Please click on the picture to see the recipe}




11.) Coconut MacaroonsSelf 

Dress up this chewy classic for the holidays with a festive, to-die-for drizzle of chocolate. Oats replace part of the coconut to make this a low-fat yet still satisfying goody.

{Please click on the picture to see the recipe}



12.) Minty Mini-Doughnut cookies Self

If your looking for a real holiday treat, try these minty mini doughnut cookies. Despite their “sweet” appearance, each only contains 28 calories.

{Please click on the picture to see the recipe}


12 Minute Merry Workout


1 minute jumping jacks

1 minute lunges

1 minute jumping side- to-side

1 minute push ups

1 minute jog in place

1 minute squats

1 minute stair steps

1 minute wall sit

1 minute high knees

1 minute pushups or pike

1 minute sit-up/crunches

1 minute cool down stretch of arms and legs


12 Psychological Stress Relief


1.) Make exercise a top priority – goal of 30 minutes or more everyday throughout the holiday season.  Exercise is a great calorie burning stress reliever!

2.) Plan your party contribution wisely.  By bringing a healthy dish, you are guaranteed a healthy choice on the buffet line of risky choices.

3.) Position yourself away from snacks.  Use the mingling time to catch-up with relatives and friends.  Eat later when you are conscious of what and how much you are eating.

4.) Try rallying the troops for a morning or post meal walk around the neighborhood.  Depending on the time of day, it may be a great time to take in the beautiful holiday lights.

5.) Make of list of things that need to be done, prioritizing them to help keep the stress load low.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help!  Kids can be great present wrappers or help with preparing food!

6.) Get your day started with a healthy breakfast.  You want to be sure to get your metabolism going for the day and prevent overeating later in the day.

7.) Take caution when it comes to alcohol, which often may cause us to lose self control and eat more than planned.

8.) Get 8 hours of sleep every night!

9.) Fill your plate with healthy foods including vegetables, fruit and whole grain dishes.  Dish up small portions of other favorite high fat foods.  Be sure to savor each bite!

10.) Take 15 minutes to yourself – read a book, meditate, stretch, or whatever your heart desires, just try to unwind!

11.) Limit the leftovers!  The holiday meal is most often high in fat, calories, and sodium.  Enjoy these splurges on the day, but do not let the meal be repeated for too many extra servings.

12.) Enjoy the reason for the season and time with the family!  The meal should just be a small part of the festivities.

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