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8 Steps to a Happy and Healthy Holiday Season

By Keira Lee, Health Promotion Specialist, Canadian Forces Support Unit (Ottawa) –

The Holiday season is upon us, and with it comes office parties, time off from work, gatherings with family and friends, big meals, shopping, drinks, and/or curling up indoors. Unfortunately, the holidays are also often a time that leads to weight gain, stress and anxiety, overindulging on alcohol, and accidents. Put your health and the health of your loved ones first this holiday season; enjoy the season and feel good while you do it (and improve your January mood too)!

Ottawa Health Promotion is here to support you with the Healthy Holidays Campaign (1-31 December, 2019), which provides practical and valuable resources for you and your loved ones to use over the holiday season. To help get you started, here are some easy tips and resources that you can use to maintain your current health, or perhaps even improve it, during the holidays:

1) Avoid overeating:

  • Portion control: use your hand as a guide – stick to a portion of meat the size of your palm, a portion of starch ½ the size of your fist, and lots of healthy veggies. Try eating off of a smaller plate, drinking out of a smaller glass, and taking small portions of the indulgent options.
  • Eat mindfully: chew your food more slowly in order to allow yourself enough time to actually enjoy the food and feel full. If you eat too fast your brain doesn’t have enough time to respond to signals from your gut that you are full – and you can overeat more easily.
  • Eat things you LOVE: don’t just eat something because it’s sitting there in front of you or someone else is eating it. Save your indulgence for something that is worth it!
  • Eat more veggies: try filling half your plate with vegetables to decrease the amount of unhealthier items, and increase fibre, vitamins and minerals!
  • Think about your drink: alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks can add extra calories, sodium, sugars or saturated fat to your meal. Try carbonated water with fruit to add flavour.
  • Maintain your exercise routine: schedule your workouts/active events each week, picking times that work for you so that you will stay committed. Don’t guilt yourself after indulging, simply enjoy and use the extra fuel for physical activity!

2) Use healthy substitutions when cooking and baking:
Whether you’re hosting guests, attending a gathering, or just cooking/baking at home, you want your dish to be satisfying and tasty. You can reduce the amount of refined sugars and bad fats in your dishes by substituting the less healthy ingredients with healthier ones, without compromising the flavour! Check out this Healthy Potluck Planner for great ideas to make your snacks, side dishes, salads and baking, healthier!

3) Stay physically active on a regular basis

  • PLAN AHEAD, mark it in your calendar, and commit to it like you would for an appointment.
  • Stay accountable and motivated with a friend, family member or colleague. Encourage each other, share ideas, and/or do physical activity together!
  • Take the stairs everywhere you go.
  • When shopping (at a mall, market, or grocery store), walk an extra lap or two around the perimeter of the building.
  • When planning get-togethers, ask guests to bring comfortable and warm foot- and outer-wear, and go for a walk after the meal.
  • Prioritize your physical activity and stick to a routine.

4) Drink responsibly:
When enjoying alcohol, know your limits and stick to them, for your own health and safety as well as those around you.

5) Serve mocktails (or enjoy them yourself):
Mocktails are a yummy, fun alternative to alcoholic beverages on special occasions! Check out this Seriously Tasty Mocktail Guide to use next time you are serving drinks!

6) Use reliable resources to get home safe:

7) Get 7-9 hours of sleep every night:

Good sleep is essential for your health because it is needed to: maintain a healthy weight, consolidate memories, repair tissue, develop muscle, produce hormones, strengthen the immune system, and enhance mental health. Poor sleep = poor quality of life.

8) Practice positive coping techniques:

Try some mindful breathing next time you begin feeling stressed. It is free, convenient, and easy to practice to calm your nerves and refocus.

30-Second Mindfulness Technique:

  1. Take a slow, deep breath, expanding your belly and chest. Focus on how the breath feels in your nostrils, chest, and belly.
  2. Holdthe breath for a moment.
  3. Exhale slowly. Focus on how your body feels as you let go of the breath.
  4. Reconnect with whatever you are doing.

If you need a little motivation to get back on track in the New Year, your Health Promotion Team has a workshop for you! Sign-up for one today as spaces are limited! Have a happy, healthy holiday season!

All photos provided by CFSU(O)

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