From feasting and cheersing to curling up on the couch for Christmas flicks and hunkering down inside, the holidays are a time for comfort and joy—but the most festive time of the year can also be the most harmful on our general health and wellness. Couple an increased alcohol intake and added refined sugars with the fact flu and virus season is at its peak, and you have a recipe for a not-so-holly-jolly holiday season. Today, then, we’re offering up five high-impact healthy holiday tips to help you celebrate, without sabotaging your health and diet plans.
Grab a glass, get ready to revel, and read on—we break down our top tips for a health-conscious (but just as festive) holiday below!
Healthy Holiday Tip No. 1: Embrace the mocktail.
Holiday celebrations bring plenty of reasons to raise your glass (this year, over Zoom)—but all of that imbibing can weigh you down and make it harder for your immune system to function at its absolute best, ultimately making you more susceptible to flu and virus season. While we don’t expect you to skip the champagne and pass on the prosecco entirely (we’re not total grinches!), you can make the conscious decision to replace every one to two cocktails with a “mocktail” instead. Simply replace the bubbly or spirits your cocktail recipe calls for with club soda or, for the added benefits of probiotics, kombucha.
Healthy Holiday Tip No. 2: Make smart recipe swaps.
When it comes to healthy holiday tips, perhaps the most beneficial thing you can do is get a bit more conscious about all of those holiday classics you’re cooking up. Instead of skipping the pumpkin pie and mashed potatoes all together (we’d never ask you to do that), try making small swaps across the board that, together, make a major difference in your calorie and sugar intake. A few of our favorite healthy holiday swaps include:
- Replace eggs with flaxseed (one T of flaxseed + three T of water to replace one egg) for healthy fats, antioxidants, and added fiber
- Replace russet potatoes with sweet potatoes for fewer calories, fewer carbs, more vitamin B, and more vitamin A
- Replace refined white sugar with coconut sugar for a lower glycemic index and added iron, zinc, calcium, and potassium
- Replace butter with coconut oil for added essential fatty acids and no dietary cholesterol
- Replace corn syrup with raw honey for added antioxidants and a lower concentration of fructose
Healthy Holiday Tip No. 3: Help your digestive system along.
The holidays don’t just wreak havoc on our diets—all of those refined carbohydrates, alcohol, and saturated fats can also hamper our digestion. A healthy digestive system is key for getting optimal nourishment from the foods you eat and ensuring your immune system is working its best. Taking care to help your digestive system along through the holidays is one of the most important things you can do to feel less bloated and more comfortable overall. A few healthy holiday tips to keep that digestion going strong and steady?
- Keep the skins on your potatoes: Vegetables with skins give us the added fiber our bodies need for optimal digestion.
- Opt for a whole-grain roll instead of a white one: Whole-grain foods are rich in fiber, which aids in digestion (as opposed to white breads, which contain processed, refined grains and sugars which can hamper digestion).
- Get plenty of probiotics: From yogurt to kefir and kombucha, make it a point over this holiday season to up your probiotic intake to keep yourself regular and enhance your gut health.
- Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of water and clean electrolyte drinks will help you stay hydrated, which is a key part of a well-functioning digestive system. Women should aim for 8-11 cups of fluids each day; while men should aim for 10-15 cups. (Psst…we break down all of the benefits of staying hydrated in winter here!)
- Get your daily greens: Green leafy vegetables are one of the most beneficial foods you can eat for a healthy digestive system. Try using spinach or kale in a salad that typically calls for romaine—or turn potatoes au gratin into spinach au gratin for a treat that’s just as warm and comforting but twice as nice on your digestive system.
Healthy Holiday Tip No. 4: Decrease your exercise goals—and aim for short bursts of movement.
Say what? Hear us out on this one. The holidays are a time for curling up by the fireplace with a cup of hot cocoa and a desire to do absolutely nothing. If we don’t change our workout plan to accommodate the hope for hibernation we all feel during the holidays, we’ll only fail to meet our movement goals entirely. Rather than having the goal of running five miles a day like you might in summer, adjust your movement goals to be more manageable and much more realistic—so they’re less overwhelming and more likely to get you off the coach to achieve them.
Research shows that just 30 minutes of cumulative exercise each day in short bursts can be just as beneficial as long, extended efforts. Maybe you set a goal of doing ten push-ups a day and taking a short one-mile walk around the neighborhood. Maybe you do 15 squats while you’re waiting for that pie crust to turn golden-brown in the oven, and then take the laundry up the stairs in two separate loads (rather than all at once) to reap the benefits of tackling that staircase twice. The possibilities are endless—but the goal is simple: to create a winter workout plan that you’re actually able to stick to, rather than holding onto unrealistic summer exercise goals that no longer suit the season.
Healthy Holiday Tip No. 5: Give yourself the gift of strategic splurges.
No-one likes a grinch—staying healthy throughout the holidays doesn’t mean depriving yourself altogether. Instead, it’s all about getting strategic about when, where, and how you choose to splurge. Here are some of our favorite healthy holiday tips for strategic splurges:
- Splurge on sugary foods earlier in the day, so you have more time to burn off the calories: Rather than apple pie and ice-cream after a late dinner, allow yourself a cinnamon roll early in the day for breakfast. The earlier in the day you get your empty calories out of the way, the more time you have to burn them off.
- Designate a “splurge” area on your plate. If there’s a holiday dish you absolutely can’t live without, don’t deprive yourself of it. Instead, dedicate about 1/5th of your dinner plate to your “splurges”. Whatever fits in that area is free game. Then, fill the rest of your plate up with veggies, salads, and more meaningful calories.
- Make strategic deposits into your “splurge” account. Think about splurging as you would spending—if there’s no money in your account, you can’t pull from it. If you have a big holiday dinner coming up Friday evening, try exercising a little longer and eating healthier on Wednesday and Thursday.
Overall, a healthy holiday is all about being intentional, conscious, and realistic with your choices—rather than depriving yourself completely. Make strategic decisions, allow yourself some wiggle room when warranted, and be forgiving when you can (it’s the holidays, after all!). Follow the above tips, and you’ll find yourself feeling light, nourished, and ready to tackle 2021 without missing a beat!
Ready for more goodness? Browse the rest of the CF Nutrition blog for empowering health, wellness, and lifestyle tips. And don’t forget to give your body the best chance at a healthy holiday season by hydrating with the clean, clinical replenishment of CF(Rehyrdate)® and nourishing with the powerful plant-based protein in CF(protein)®, our fan-favorite immunonutrition drink.