It’s that time of year, when pumpkin spice is in the air and the festivities of the holiday season begin. Time to pull out fall decorations while secretly listening to Christmas music. The season of endless hustle and bustle to keep the house clean, bake up a storm, and start Christmas shopping. We must stay healthy — especially us mamas!

This time of year can bring just as much stress as it does fun.

Think about it.

Part of the holiday stress is a loss of routine. We tend to sleep less and eat and drink (holiday cocktails!) way more than usual. This is a recipe for sickness. No one wants to be sick during some of the most fun months of the year.

So, that means we need a game plan going into this holiday season.

You might be wondering:

“What can I do this holiday season to stay healthy and as stress free as possible without adding more to my already busy schedule?”

So glad you asked!

Here are 5 ways to stay healthy during the holidays:

  1. Indulge only in your favorite treats.

Halloween candy, pumpkin pie, Christmas cookies, holiday parties… we can’t catch a break! We’re surrounded by deliciousness! We can try to eat perfectly clean and stick to our diet plan, but honestly, this is one of the worst times to be on a diet, especially a restrictive one because we are doomed to fail.

Does this sound familiar?

Typically, when we deny ourselves something, we are more likely to crave it and want more of it. If we keep in mind that the holidays should be focused on family and not food, then we will be off to a good start.

When we focus on quality time, like playing and talking and connecting, instead of filling our bellies, we’ll be satisfied with the celebration that surrounds us.

Now, I’m not saying to avoid all treats and sweets.

When Grandma brings her famous dessert she only makes once a year, don’t deny yourself the tradition and delight. Indulge yourself and enjoy! (Just don’t go crazy on the portion size and you’ll still feel great).

2. Savor. 

We must break the habit of gulping down our food. When we choose to enjoy our favorite treat or a delicious meal, we need to savor it. Slowly chew it over.

Here’s a bit of science behind the benefit of chewing and slowing down during meal time:

Digestion begins with the act of chewing; saliva contains enzymes that chemically break down food while our teeth break it down. The more we slow down and chew thoughtfully, the more efficiently our body will digest our food and absorb its nutrients.

Want to know the best part?

Slowing down and savoring helps us be more present. Here’s how:

Another way to appreciate and experience our food is to use our five senses while we dine. Next time you eat something delicious, think about the texture, the taste, the aroma, and the color of the food.

Pause for a moment and listen to the conversation and enjoy the laughter around you. Taking a few deep breaths will help you to stay in the moment and delight in the celebration around you.

3. Make healthy food easy to grab. 

Convenience leads to over consuming. When there is candy, cookies, chips, and soda in the pantry or on the table, it’s easy to skip the fruit and veggies and snack on junk food.

Have you ever found yourself reaching for a leftover brownie instead of stopping to eat a healthy meal or snack? Of course, we all have!

Here’s the deal:

We can make this as easy or as hard on ourselves as we choose. It comes down to keeping in your house what is good for you and making that easy to choose and grab on the go.

Here’s my number one tip (I do this for myself and my family too!):

Put a bowl of fruit on the table or somewhere visible in the fridge and cut up veggies and put them in bags or containers for easy grabbing.

We can fill our pantry with foods that are filled with goodness and rich in nutrients and that make us feel great! When our bodies get the nutrients they need, we are less likely to reach for something bad for us. 

Here are some of my favorite healthy snacks to have on hand:

  • Soda and Juice Alternatives: Sparkling Water, Coconut Water, Vitamin Water
  • Cookie Alternatives: Protein Bars, Homemade Paleo Cookies or Muffins
  • Chips & Salty Snack Alternatives: Nuts, Homemade Trail Mix, Veggie Chips

4. Party the healthy way. 

Everyone loves food, right?

Holiday parties are filled with endless platters of delicious food. It is tempting to keep eating when you are surrounded by food, especially since most conversations tend to take place in the kitchen or near the food table.

Try this at the next holiday party or get together:

When you are finished eating to satiety, chew some gum or eat a mint. Not only will it freshen your breath, but the mint can act as a mild appetite suppressant making you less likely to get more food when your mouth feels clean. 

I can’t write about partying without mentioning alcohol. I won’t say you shouldn’t drink it, but be cautious of what is in your favorite holiday cocktail. Mixed drinks tend to be dense in calories and high in sugar. While wine and beer tend to be lighter in calories, they can still leave you dehydrated and not feeling your best. Remember, most of our calories should be from the food we eat and not from the liquids we drink.

Now let’s get to it:

Have a holiday party strategy decided before you arrive at the party and commit to stick to it.

Here are some examples:

  • Have only 1 drink
  • Eat one plate of food and don’t go back for seconds
  • Eat a salad or a small healthy meal before the party so you don’t fill up on sweets and rich foods
  • Load up on the healthy foods available and go light on a few indulgences
  • Enjoy 1 sweet treat or split a dessert with your friend or date

Bottom line:

You know your weaknesses and what to watch out for. You also know your favorites and what will be worth it to enjoy a portion of.

5. Prioritize sleep and exercise. 

Time spent with friends and family is precious, and so is your sleep! Staying up too late and waking up early is a great way to get sick. Make sure you are getting 6-8 hours of sleep a night. That way you will have the energy and mental clarity to keep the festivities roaring throughout the day. 

The holidays are also a great time to go on adventures and rediscover your city with friends and family.

Create a holiday bucket list that gets your body moving: Ice skating, hiking, climbing, sledding, a winter walk, and biking. Stay on the move and if you can get your heart rate up, that’s even better! Encourage movement whether it’s in the gym or outside.

Want to know the best part?

Staying healthy is more than keeping the holiday weight off. It is being present, joyful, and energized. And now you can be prepared to move into this holiday season with less stress and more fun. 

So, crank that Christmas music and enjoy the holidays happy and healthy!