Navigating the Holidays


Many of us think that the holiday season starts during Thanksgiving and ends with Christmas. In reality, it starts during Halloween and ends during Valentine’s day. The holidays are the time for friends and family, and how do we celebrate with them? Through indulgence of food and lack of physical activity. The holidays are downright dangerous. Large dinner parties filled three servings of turkey, mashed potatoes, wine, cupcakes, pies, cakes, and candy. What’s a person to do?! Here are some tips of safely navigating the holidays without doing damage to your fitness/nutrition routine.


(1) Donate Your Candy. Going trick-or-treating with the kids (or as an adult) is fun! Eating the candy is great too, but it’s so easy to go overboard. If it’s in the house, then you’re going to eat it. You have a couple of options to get the candy out of the house, so you and/or your kids won’t overindulge in one sitting. Toss it in the trash or (preferably) donate it! Operation Gratitude collects donations (like candy) and makes care packages to send out to troops. How awesome is that?! You’ll get rid of your candy temptations and help bring a smile to a soldier. Also, don’t go to Target on November 1st. You will want to buy all the cheap Halloween candy.

Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year’s Eve–

(1) Small Bites/Share. If you’re at a potluck, you can totally have some of your favorite treats. But try taking smaller portions and sharing with a buddy. This way, you get all the fun with half the calories. You and your buddy can also keep each other accountable! But if you can’t have just one bite, then don’t even go there. Identify tempting foods that are traps for you and label them as “No” foods. For me, it’s almond M&Ms. I could eat a bucket if they were in front of me at a party. Find your “trigger” foods which you gorge on, and stay far away from them. Not standing next to the food table helps!

(2) Cook Something. When we’re at someone’s home for dinner, we have no control over what they make to eat. It can be a dangerous trap! But, remember what your mom taught you: bring something to dinner. You don’t always have to bring a giant sweet dessert. Why not bring a healthy dish to share? When we cook, we have control over what we can eat. Bring a hearty salad or roasted vegetable dish to share. Also, practice your MyPlate technique every time you eat out or at a family/friend’s home.

(3) Put Exercise In Your Schedule. If we can make time to go out to eat, we can make the time to go work out. So often we turn to mealtime to spend time with our friends and family. Instead, throw in a game of football, soccer, or ultimate Frisbee or go for a hike to get everyone involved in some physical activity. You’ll get to catch up and break a sweat while doing it.

(4) Eat Something Beforehand. If you know that there will be a big dinner party or potluck that night, eat a healthy and hearty snack/meal before you go. We make better food decisions when we are full. Listen to your body when it says it’s full.

(5) Say No. (Politely). This is the biggest one. When your friends/family offer you a second or third piece of pie, politely decline. A simple “Thank you so much, but I’m full” or “no thank you” will suffice, or simply clear your dish and leave the table to reduce temptation.

(6) Drink Your (Soda) Water. Parties and celebrations usually mean wine is freely flowing or the champagne bottles are popping. Because of this, excessive alcohol intake can be a huge source of our excessive calorie intake during the holiday season. I like to control my alcohol intake by practicing a couple of techniques. If I have a glass of wine, I baby that one glass all night. I’ll sip from it slowly throughout the night. I also drink soda water with lime. It looks like an adult beverage so not drinking will be a non-issue. I also have a rule: for every alcoholic beverage I have, I have to drink two large glasses of water. It helps me keep my alcohol intake lower than otherwise.

Valentine’s Day–

(1) Switch out the Chocolates. Candy seems to be the bookends of the holidays. I love a box of chocolates and will eat one by myself without sharing. They’re delicious and wonderfully romantic. However, try an alternative: get your crush an edible arrangement. They are fruit bouquets that are super cute! The best part? You can eat them! I prefer fresh fruit/produce over candy any day.

Overall, the holidays are to be enjoyed. The weather is cold, so we like to nest and hibernate indoors with friends and family. But, that doesn’t mean you have to reduce our physical exercise or fall prey to the easy food traps at family gatherings and parties. Try these tips out, and you’ll be able to get out of holidays happy and healthy.

I hope you have a great holiday season, friends.

Thomas Ngo
Dietetic Intern
NASM Certified Personal Trainer


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