We’re in the thick of the holiday season and stress levels can get to an all time high. It’s supposed to be a time of celebration and enjoyment with family and friends, yet every year, I find it to be the most stressful time of the year.
So, to help me and you try to keep our stress levels down and maintain our sanity this holiday season, I’ve put together 10 Healthy Living Tips for the Holidays.
1. START AND END YOUR DAY WITH GRATITUDE
This can be as simple as being thankful for things I take for granted too often – my health, my family, the roof over my head, hot water, and food to eat. I find setting things straight at the beginning of the day and at the end of the day helps keep me grounded.
2. EAT A LIGHT AND HEALTHY BREAKFAST
Most of us know we should eat a healthy breakfast, but it’s all too easy to run out the door with our holiday to-do list in hand without eating anything. Keep things simple – yogurt with granola and fresh or frozen berries, a smoothie, whole grain toast with nut butter, or oatmeal are all quick and easy options. Starting your day off with a healthy breakfast can help put you in a healthier frame of mind for the rest of the day and keep your energy levels high throughout the morning.
3. KEEP HEALTHY SNACKS WITH YOU
Keep a stash of healthy snacks in your purse, in the car, and in your office. During the holidays when you’re running around, it can be tempting to skip meals and grab food on the go. Having easy access to healthy snacks can make a huge difference in keeping your energy level going, especially this time of year. Eat snacks that are nutrient dense, include high quality carbs, healthy fats, protein, fiber and antioxidants. Fresh and dried fruit, vegetables, hummus, guacamole, nuts, seeds, nut butters, Greek yogurt, smoothies and popcorn are some great healthy choices to keep around. Just watch portion sizes as it’s easy to keep digging your hands into large bowls of snacks.
4. HAVE A LIGHT HEALTHY SNACK BEFORE GOING TO HOLIDAY PARTIES
I used to starve myself the day of a holiday party because I wanted to be able to enjoy myself at the party, but I found I’d eat everything in sight as soon as I walked in the door. So, the last couple of years, I’ve started eating a little something before I head out the door so I can make better choices at the party.
5. EXERCISE EVERY DAY, EVEN IF ITS JUST 15 MINUTES
During the holiday season, I make all sorts of excuses for not exercising…it’s too cold out, I’m too busy, I’m too tired…but I can do at least 15 minutes, no excuses. Exercise boosts health-promoting brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which may help reduce the effects of stress. Whether I park in the farthest spot from the store and return my shopping cart to the store, run up and down the stairs doing laundry and picking up the house, or do an exercise video, I try to squeeze in some exercise every day.
6. GET ENOUGH REST
I know, I know…there’s so much to do…holiday shopping, writing holiday cards, wrapping presents, baking cookies and more. it’s tempting to stay up late at night, but when you’re sleep deprived, your energy level will get zapped the next day and, I don’t know about you, but I’m a grump the next morning and I find I’m less productive the next day. Drinking a cup of herbal tea before I go to bed has helped me sleep through the night, and if you’re still short on sleep, take a 20 minute power nap before the kids get home from school. I have done that many times and it has gotten me through the day.
7. SMILE AND LAUGH OUT LOUD AT LEAST THREE TIMES A DAY (I stole that one from Joy ;))
Smiling and laughing will boost your mood and the mood of those around you, as well as relieve the stress that the holidays can bring. Try it next time you’re at the grocery store – crack a joke or smile, say “thank you, have a great day!” to the check-out person – you’ll be pleasantly surprised by their reaction.
8. SPEND QUALITY TIME WITH LOVED ONES
We all need a break once in a while and take a deep breath during the holidays. Whether it’s a brisk walk or catching up over a cup of coffee with a friend, having lunch with your spouse, or watching a TV show with your kids snuggled up on the couch under a big blanket, force yourself to slow down and take a break from all the holiday madness.
9. HELP SOMEONE IN NEED
Holidays can be especially hard for people who aren’t feeling well, physically or emotionally. Visit a sick friend, call someone you know is having a tough time, or cook for someone in your community. Don’t underestimate the impact you can have on someone else’s life, no matter how small. There are a lot of people who are hurting around us, and one small gesture or action on our part might just make a difference in their lives. Each time I have extended myself, I have never regretted it and am a better person for it.
10. LOWER OUR EXPECTATIONS for yourself and others
This is an area I have the hardest time with. I used to be a perfectionist and if I didn’t cross off everyone on my to-do list, I would get so stressed out. Things can easily get out of control during the holiday season. Did I buy enough presents? Who else do I need to buy a present for? What about decorating the house for the holidays? But the kids expect me to bake all their favorite cookies. Honestly, as I’m writing this, I realize how silly all of this is. If I just focus on the togetherness with my family that I am so looking forward to this holiday season, and lower my expectations of what I should be doing (as well as lowering the expectations of my kids of what they’re be getting for Christmas), I think my stress level will be the better for it. I also need to work on lowering my expectations of other people (including my spouse) – it’s harder to be disappointed when I do that.
And now, to help kickstart a healthy holiday, I’d like to share a healthy snack line that I was recently introduced to.
Nourish snacks are the brainchild of Joy Bauer, nutrition and health expert for NBC’s TODAY show, made with simple, wholesome ingredients. Each of the 35 innovative snack blends is designed to provide a balance of protein, fiber and antioxidants, and come in portions with no more than 200 calories each. Nourish snacks also have no GMOs, no harmful preservatives, no artificial colors or sweeteners, no more than 200 calories, and are naturally gluten-free, dairy-free and vegetarian.
The front of each package tells you the number of calories, protein and fiber, and the back clearly lists the ingredients. The individual sized portions are a great way to keep snacking in check – making mindful choices instead of digging into a big bowl of holiday candy/nuts or a bag of chips.
The timing of this this snack line couldn’t be better – not only are we smack in the middle of the holiday season where having healthy snacks readily available amidst all the holiday treats can mean the difference between eating a nutrient dense snack versus a sugary treat with empty calories, but it’s also college exam period when parents are sending care packages to their kids. Joy’s line of Nourish snacks follows her motto, “Life is hard, food should be easy.”
I love the idea of Nourish collections – named holiday, energize, crunch, college, kids, man, and sampler, which come in packs of 20, although you can also buy à la cart (5 snacks for $10). There are also family size, kids, sampler and holiday collections that come in packs of 50.
I really think Joy’s got something going here. She’s got crunchy snacks, sweet snacks, and spicy snacks in the mix to satisfy just about any craving. In addition, Nourish Snacks has partnered with FoodFight to help build a curriculum to teach kids in inner-city schools about healthy snacking, as well as donate snacks and employee volunteer time. They’ve got teacher wellness programs to give teachers the tools to transform their own health and serve as role models for students, an educational program called FoodFight in the classroom, and parent wellness programs to help parents make healthy eating and buying choices for their families.
My family and I tasted tested each of the Nourish snacks, and I even gave some to a friend of mine who’s a single dad of two daughters. He tries to give his girls healthy snacks after school so I knew they’d be game to try some new snacks. The girls took their job very seriously and even created a spreadsheet to keep track of their favorite snacks.
Drumroll… the results came in…
Almond to Cherries, Mr. Popular (half-popped corn kernels), Monkey Love (chocolate banana granola bites), Holy Habanero (habanero spiced roasted corn), Coconut Chew Phoria (a chewy coconut-almond bar that tastes like a Mounds bar) and Cocoa Loco (dark chocolate chia-oat clusters) were the clear favorites. The one variety that was controversial was King Korn, which I loved but the girls didn’t care for.
I hope this line of products makes its way into airports, vending machines in schools, colleges and office buildings. They’re a great healthy snack for staving off hunger, whether you’re at work, or on the go with the kids, and I think they’re a neat idea for college care packages. I’ve got three boys in college and I just ordered an assortment of Nourish Snacks for each of them because they have exams coming up in a few weeks. The boys are really looking forward to having some healthy snacks to munch on while they’re studying their tails off.
Disclosure: I received product samples and was compensated by Nourish Snacks for writing this post; the opinions expressed in this post are my own.