Tips for a healthy, happy holiday season | SteamboatToday.com

Tips for a healthy, happy holiday season

From the rich food of holiday parties to the stress of buying gifts, this time of year can be tough when it comes to your health.

But it doesn't have to be. To make health a priority this holiday season, try out the tips below.

Get enough sleep: Avoid late nights shopping online or binge-watching shows, and make sleep a priority. A good night's sleep allows your body to rejuvenate from the day, reduces stress and is a major factor in overall health.

Make realistic plans: Keep your schedule manageable by prioritizing the events you really want to attend. And simplify your own holiday parties: limit the number of dishes you prepare, cut back on your guest list and don't worry about making your house look perfect.

Follow healthy habits: Keep your water bottle handy, as staying hydrated helps reduce cravings and allows you to keep up with a busy holiday schedule. Make time for regular exercise, which releases mood-lifting endorphins and increases energy. And wash your hands often to help avoid germs.

Don't let travel plans sidetrack your goals for health: Throw a jump-rope in your suitcase to help stay active and pack nutritious snacks and meals for long car and plane rides.

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Hit the buffet like a pro: From cheese platters to chocolate cakes, it can be challenging to avoid overeating at a buffet. Try choosing reasonable portions of your favorite foods, and leaving foods you don't love behind. That might mean your plate includes the mashed potatoes and stuffing, but really, you didn't want those extra calories from the green bean casserole or Jell-O mold anyway.

Always use a plate, even if you're just eating hors d'oeuvres. That way, you'll be aware of how much you're eating. Focus on the conversations, not just the food.

If possible, bring a healthy dish to share that you know you'll enjoy. And go easy on the alcohol: drinking too much can make it harder to stick to your health goals.

Lighten up: There's a good chance that sometime this holiday season, you'll chow down on too much pie or choose to watch a movie instead of making it to an exercise class. Remind yourself that that's OK. One late night or a few too many sugar cookies doesn't mean you've ruined your health goals and have to wait for New Year's to re-focus. Take it one day, or even one meal, at a time and remind yourself that a healthy lifestyle is fostered over the long-term.

Aim for imperfection: If you're trying to have a perfect holiday, you might want to aim a little lower. Expect the unexpected and know that you can adjust, whether your flight gets delayed or your child ends up sick at home. Put your sense of humor to use: not only is it good for you (studies have shown that laughing improves mental and physical health), but it can also lighten the mood and keep your holiday season fun.

And remind yourself that failures can make for funny memories. From the Christmas turkey that never cooked to the family hike in the snow that ended in tears, you can create memories for years to come even when things go wrong.

Above all, remember the true meaning of the holidays. Spoiler alert: It's not all about the presents or the fancy meals. Keeping your focus on what really matters can help you navigate the holiday hustle and bustle, all the while enjoying yourself along the way.

Susan Cunningham writes for UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at cunninghamsbc@gmail.com.