Happy Health-idays: 5 Tips to Stay On Track In This Busy Season

ornament‘Tis the season… to be busy, stressed, exhausted. It’s amazing how the happiest time of year can simultaneously be the most chaotic time of year. Between holiday shopping, family and work obligations, this and that event to go to, it’s a miracle we don’t all snap. Throw on some pointy shoes, candy cane striped stockings, a green jumpsuit and believe we’re Santa’s helpers year round. If I ever get to this point, throw me in a padded room with some Christmas movies and hot cocoa and I’ll be good.

Back to my point. You’re busy. And you’re tired. The last thing you want to think about is whipping up a home cooked meal. You go to the food court while you’re out shopping, grab fast food during your travels, and order delivery when you’re at home wrapping presents and decorating the tree. There is nothing wrong with any of these things. But there are ways to do it better.

It just requires a little knowledge and planning. Don’t worry, it’s not even close to the amount of planning you’re doing with your travel schedule and gift list.

Problem #1 – The Food Court at the Mall
Solution: Most food courts have popular restaurants with multiple chains. What that means is these places have nutrition information that is easily accessible. They’ll either carry a brochure on site or you can quickly access the company’s information on your phone. Stay away from the treats and sweets. Get a real meal. Look for something under 500 calories that has veggies and protein. This doesn’t take long and it will give you the energy you need to keep shopping!
Problem #2: Fast Food & Airport Restaurants
Solution: Just like with the food court at the mall, you can easily get information from fast food restaurants during your travels. Sometimes though, you’ll stop at a local restaurant when on a road trip or eat at an airport restaurant that isn’t a chain. That’s okay too. Scope out the menu and look for a nutritious option. Stay away from anything heavy because it will likely be 3 times as many calories as if you were to make it from home (bigger portions + an extra dose of fat, salt, and sugar). If this is your only option or you really want that pasta, burger, pizza or what have you, just split it with someone and get a small salad on the side.
Problem #3: At Home Delivery
Solution: I hate to repeat myself but again, many places have their nutrition information available. Simply request it! That said, a lot of takeout and delivery options are individual chains, particularly with things like pizza, Chinese and Mexican food. Want pizza? Order a thin crust, ask to go light on the cheese, and load it up with veggies. Chinese food? Stick with clear soups (vegetable, egg drop, wonton), steamed veggies and lean protein like chicken and shrimp, and go easy on the rice. Add flavor with soy sauce and make sure to serve yourself and eat your food on a plate… not out of the containers. Want Mexican? Order fajitas or soft tacos and fill them up with veggies and beans. Opt for cheese, sour cream and guac on the side. You only need a little to add a ton of flavor.
Problem #4: Quick Packaged Meals at Home
Solution: Sure, it’s easy to grab a jar of pasta sauce and some pasta or a frozen packaged meal and whip up dinner in just a few minutes. But, these aren’t always the healthiest options. They can be though. You can still do the pasta and sauce but use less pasta and throw in some veggies and lean protein. And frozen packaged meals are okay too, but read the label. Just like with pasta, you can add more veggies to these meals too. It makes it more filling because you’ll get a bigger portion but you’re adding veggies! And pick what ever kind you like or what you think will go best with the meal you’re preparing.

One very important thing to keep in mind is that whenever you have restaurant or processed foods (as with problems #1-4) you also get a generous helping of salt, even if the food doesn’t taste that salty. Be sure to keep hydrated with water and to limit these foods when possible. But they can still be included in a healthy diet.

Problem #5: Cookies, cookies, everywhere…
Solution: Every where you turn during the holidays there are cookies and cupcakes and holiday candy. You can’t get away from them. They’re at the office, your home, from your neighbors and at every event you attend. You don’t have to feel guilty or avoid sweets during the holiday season. In fact, I suggest you don’t avoid them. If you feel restricted, you’re more likely to overindulge at another time. But, you should also limit yourself. You don’t have to eat a treat every time you encounter one. That’s where that holiday weight gain comes in. Limit yourself to 1-2 small treats each day and make sure to watch what you eat the rest of the day. Stick with only those things you absolutely LOVE! Don’t just eat a sweet treat because it’s there in front of you. Why waste calories on a tasteless cookie or an old piece of candy? It just isn’t worth it.

And now you have one less thing to worry about this holiday season. So get out there and be healthy, be happy!

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