As we enter the holiday season, in a year like no other, our celebrations and gift-giving may look different than in years past. 2020 has been a difficult year for many of us, filled with isolation, stress, and hardship but it has also provided a great reminder of what is important in our lives and maybe directed us to make improvements in areas we neglected in the past such as focusing more on our family or taking our health more seriously.
No matter what 2020 threw at you, it’s important to remember that it’s not too late to make a healthy change and the holidays may be just the time to give yourself the gift of wellness and to start focusing on YOU! This may be the opposite of what you normally do during the holidays when you fill your shopping carts with items for other people and plan different activities for your family to celebrate. But with Christmas parties canceled and shopping trips moved to the couch, we might be left with the extra time needed to add in some you-time. We have organized 12 healthy habits, one for each day of the 12 days of Christmas, to help you have a healthy and happy holiday season!
On the 1st day of Christmas, Seattle Sutton’s said to me… Clean out your refrigerator.
Especially during the holidays, it seems our refrigerators fill up with all sorts of extra food and sweets. All of these tempting items can be difficult to avoid and make it hard to stay on the path of healthy eating. Cleaning out the fridge will not only help to reduce these temptations but can also free up room for healthier staples. Now’s the time to get rid of those high-fat and processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages, and high-sodium convenience items like frozen pizza and TV dinners. We also recommend pitching anything expired or past its prime. Once you’ve cleaned out and made some extra space, it’s time to restock with items like nonfat milk, low-sugar yogurt, fresh fruits and vegetables, and lean proteins. If you can’t quite get rid of those special treats we recommend moving them to a less visible place, such as the crisper drawers. Having fresh, healthy foods more visible than tempting junk food will make it easier for you to choose those good-for-you items.
On the 2nd day of Christmas, Seattle Sutton’s said to me… Start a walking routine.
Physical activity doesn’t need to be complicated, you need to look no further than your walking shoes. Depending on where you live, walking may be a good alternative to your gym routine which may be on hold because of gym closures due to COVID-19 restrictions. Research has linked regular walking to healthy weight maintenance, lowered risk for certain diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, stronger bones, improved mood, and better balance and coordination. Starting a 30-minute a day walking routine will do wonders for your health and as you develop more stamina you can add more time working up to closer to 60 minutes a day. As the weather gets colder, remember to dress in layers and wear your hat and gloves, and with the sun setting sooner, bright colors and reflective tape will make you more visible if you are walking in the late afternoon or evening.
On the 3rd day of Christmas, Seattle Sutton’s said to me… Set and stick to a regular bedtime.
With long to-do lists and holiday stress, sleep can take a back seat during the Christmas season. Setting and sticking to a regular bedtime routine can do wonders for your health, stress, and overall mental health. Sleep helps keep a healthy balance of the hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) and full (leptin). With inadequate sleep, ghrelin goes up and leptin goes down, so you may feel hungrier when you’ve had less sleep. This can impact how much you eat and may indirectly impact your weight. Inadequate sleep can also impact the body’s insulin response which can increase your body’s risk for diabetes. Also, a good night’s sleep can help strengthen immunity which is extra important during the colder months and while we wait for the COVID-19 vaccine. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep a night. The Mayo Clinic recommends the following for a good night sleep:
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day
- Don’t go to bed hungry or stuffed
- Limit screens before bedtime
- Limit daytime naps
- Get physical activity daily
- Avoid alcohol before bed
On the 4th day of Christmas, Seattle Sutton’s said to me… Catch up with friends and family.
If the 6-foot social distance feels like 100 miles, this holiday season may be a good time to reconnect with those friends and family you lost touch with during the last year. Being unable to hold large gatherings and meet a group of friends at a restaurant or sports event has made it difficult to keep in touch during the pandemic. But these social connections are very important to our health and the holidays are the perfect time to reconnect. Friends can improve our mental health, whether it is with a good belly laugh or a vent session, these connections can make us feel good and give us the support we need during this difficult time. If you are just starting with a healthy lifestyle change, having support from family and friends can make a big difference. According to research, having friends or family members who are supportive of your healthy eating and exercise goals is important for long-term success. So, pick up the phone or set up a video chat and spend time catching up, you (and your loved ones) will be grateful you did!
On the 5th day of Christmas, Seattle Sutton’s says to me… Dump sugary drinks for water.
We’ve all heard the advice to drink 8 glasses of water a day, but many of us struggle to do it. We’ve all also heard how sugar-sweetened beverages are bad for our health but many Americans still drink them. Some research suggests that when you drink calories, you aren’t as satisfied as when you eat the same amount of calories in food. According to the American Heart Association, most Americans consume nearly 20 teaspoons of added sugar each day which is more than triple the recommend daily limit for women and double for men! Sugary drinks are the #1 source of added sugars in our diets. It’s time to dump the soda, sweetened teas, energy drinks, fruit drinks, and lemonades! Invest in a few refillable water bottles to keep handy at your desk or in the car to make water an easy choice throughout the day. Adding items like citrus fruits, berries, cucumbers, or herbs can give your water a burst of flavor. Try seltzer or sparkling water if you prefer the fizz from carbonation drinks. By increasing the amount of water you drink daily you will see clearer skin, better weight control, improved digestion, and higher energy levels.
On the 6th day of Christmas, Seattle Sutton’s said to me… Start a gratitude journal.
If your traditions include watching White Christmas for the holidays, you are reminded every year to count your blessings. This year it may be more important than ever to count our blessings. It is so important to remember how much we have to be grateful for instead of fretting about our short-term problems. A gratitude journal is exactly what it sounds like, a notebook where you write something you are grateful for each day. The practice of keeping a gratitude journal has been linked to better sleep, lower stress, improvements in mental health, and even improved relationships. When we focus on the positive rather than the negative, it puts us in a better frame of mind and gives us a different outlook on our life. If daily journaling is too much for you, aim for once or twice a week. Journal about people, things, or situations you are grateful for. And for an added bonus, share your gratitude with another person to make it more meaningful.
On the 7th day of Christmas, Seattle Sutton’s said to me… Go for a Christmas light adventure walk.
With more time on our hands this year and feeling the need for some extra holiday cheer, it seems that many people are taking their Christmas decorations up a level. For some family fun, we recommend bundling up the family and going for a Christmas light adventure. Walking around a well-decorated area of town or neighborhood not only helps get in some extra steps, but also will create some wonderful Christmas memories. If you have a drive-thru light displays in your area you can always ask if you can walk it instead. If a Christmas light adventure does not seem like a good fit for you, get creative in finding other ways to get active. Exercising can help with managing the stress of the holiday season, improve your mood and sleep, and balance out those extra indulgences that we all find ourselves enjoying during this time of year.
On the 8th day of Christmas, Seattle Sutton’s said to me… Prepare healthy gifts.
Want to give the gift of good health and inspire those on your gift list to live healthier and happier into the New Year? A healthy magazine subscription or healthy cookbook may help inspire your loved ones to try some new healthy recipes. A fitness and sleep tracker can help monitor heart rate, calories burned, activity time, and sleeping patterns. Gifting an herb garden kit makes it easy for someone to grow their own herbs and they can enjoy the convenience of having fresh herbs at their fingertips. Gifting a loose leaf tea gift set is a cozy way to introduce someone to this healthy beverage option. A gift certificate for a personal trainer, massage, or for Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating may help set someone on the path for healthy living. Choosing a healthy gift for loved ones this year shows you care and can have a lasting impact for many years to come!
On the 9th day of Christmas, Seattle Sutton’s said to me… Eat mindfully.
Eating mindfully is a practice that can help you enjoy your food more, eat less, and even lose weight. Eating on the run has become a normal part of many American’s lives. We eat at our desks, while in the car, while on our phones, or watching television. When we eat while we are distracted, we tend to eat more because we are not tuned into our fullness cues or paying attention to the portion of food we have consumed. Eating distracted can lead to faster eating too. Since it can take around 20 minutes for our brains to receive the signal that we are full, we can be setting ourselves up for overeating. Eating mindfully is about eating without distraction, focusing and enjoying your food, and paying attention to your body's signals. It can help you determine if you are hungry for food or eating for other reasons such as procrastination, boredom, anxiety, etc. It can help with controlling weight and blood sugars by helping to curb overeating or eating in the absence of hunger. Research focused on mindful eating has shown significant weight loss, improved glycemic control, increased fiber intake, lower trans-fat and sugar intake, lower cortisol levels, and decreased anxiety. Some easy steps you can take to help you on the path of mindful eating include: eating at a table without your phone, computer, or television; removing any clutter around your eating area; slowing down your eating pace and paying attention to hunger or fullness cues; and noticing the taste, textures, and smells of what you are eating.
On the 10th day of Christmas, Seattle Sutton’s said to me… Don’t overdo the Christmas Cheer.
Having a holiday cocktail or two isn’t normally a problem for most people but drinking too much alcohol can have serious effects on your health and add some unnecessary calories which could lead to weight gain. While this year’s holiday gatherings may be on a smaller scale or cancelled, many of us will still want to enjoy an alcoholic beverage. According to the American Heart Association, moderate alcohol consumption means an average of one to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. In general, a drink is one 12-ounce regular beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits, such as bourbon, vodka, or gin. Drinking too much alcohol can increase your risk for high blood pressure, obesity, high triglycerides, stroke, breast cancer, liver disease, depression, and accidents. A few tips to help you sip smarter during the holidays include:
- Have a glass of water between alcoholic drinks
- Don’t drink on an empty stomach, especially if you have diabetes
- Use low-calorie mixers, such as tonic water or citrus wedges, low-fat milk in eggnog
- Watch your pace by sipping drinks
- Enjoy a non-alcoholic drink instead
On the 11th day of Christmas, Seattle Sutton’s said to me… Volunteer or help someone in need.
During the holidays we all seem to be in a more giving spirit. Volunteering is a wonderful activity to do during the holiday season to help those less fortunate and spread the Christmas spirit. Volunteering benefits the recipients with services or items that they need and helps them feel cared for. It also helps you! Volunteering has been shown to benefit both your mental and physical health. You can start with close neighbors, friends, and family by checking in on them and seeing if there is anything they need. Maybe you have an elderly neighbor, a friend with anxiety, or a family member that is dealing with a loss. You could offer to run an errand for them or bring them a warm meal. To maintain social distance, you could leave things at the door for them with a nice note. If you have some extra funds, you could donate to healthcare centers, homeless shelters, or to organizations that help feed the hungry. Another idea to help local businesses hurting by the pandemic such as restaurants, book stores, and movie theaters, is to purchase gift cards for future use or as holiday gifts.
On the 12th day of Christmas, Seattle Sutton’s said to me… Nourish yourself with healthy, delicious meals.
Eating right is the cornerstone to good health. Enjoying healthy foods with lots of colors and including a good variety of different foods can help provide your body with the nutrition it needs and a good dose of antioxidants. Including treats in moderation can help keep you from feeling deprived and help you not get bored. Eating three balanced meals per day and keeping your body hydrated can help you feel and look your best and help keep you out of the Christmas cookies and avoid unwanted holiday weight gain! Just because the holidays are here doesn’t mean you have to forgo your healthy eating goals. Here are some healthy eating tips to help you stay on track during the holidays:
- Fill your plate with fiber. Fiber from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and nuts help us feel full. Plus, they are filled with nutrition. Easy ways to boost your fiber include adding veggies to soups and casseroles, nuts to salads, and opting for whole grains.
- Manage stress WITHOUT food. The holidays can be stressful and there has been some research that the stress of the holidays can be more dangerous to our waistline than the temptations of a holiday treat. This stress can lead to skimping on exercise and meal prep or it can lead us to feel overwhelmed and seeking comfort. Take time for yourself, do some at-home yoga, sip your favorite herbal tea while watching a holiday classic instead of grabbing junk food.
- If you attend a holiday party, don’t visit in the kitchen and scope out the buffet. The holidays are all about visiting with family and friends. That visiting doesn’t have to be while you mindlessly snack. Take your visiting into another room where you can focus on the company rather than reaching for another snack you aren’t even hungry for. If there is a buffet for your holiday gathering, make sure you walk up and down the entire buffet line before you fill up your plate. When you enter the buffet line blindly you may place items on your plate without realizing that there are things you like better at the end of the line. This leads to a plate filled to the max, which let’s face it, will most likely all get eaten! Enter the line with a plan of what you really want, focusing on as many whole foods as you can and small portions of those holiday favorites.
If you don’t want to worry about holiday weight gain, let Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating help you with prepared, healthy, portion-controlled meals.
From all of us at Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating, we wish you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!