How to: stay healthy during the holiday season

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the Winter Solstice or nothing at all, the holiday season is usually the time of year for indulgence in all its forms. Chocolates, luxurious roasts and sauces, sweets and all other delicacies are a-plenty in shops and people's homes, and it can be difficult to entirely bypass the "Christmas spirit", especially if you don't want friends and family to call you The Grinch for the next 2 weeks.
However, there are a few ways for you to indulge without going over board or feeling guilty and without compromising all the good work you've done so far with your food and exercise.

1. I'd say that your most important key to survive the holiday season is "moderation". You like chocolate? Then go ahead, have a piece! But stop at one. In the end, what we like about treats is the taste, so once it's hit our taste buds for the first time, there really is no need to continue fishing in the packet for more. Enjoy that first taste, relish in it, savour it, and then just let it go (until the next time, which better not be 10 mins later!). By indulging with moderation, you are ensuring that you don't start hating the holiday season for all the delicious things you can't have and that you don't suddenly go chocolate crazy and have the entire box to make up for your abstinence.

2. Don't forget to exercise. I know it's probably cold and miserable outside (not here, it's still 14°C and sunny for some reason...), but that's no excuse to suddenly go back to being a couch potato. Everything I said about exercise here is still valid, now more than ever. If you continue with regular physical activity over the holiday season, not only will you not feel sluggish from all that over-eating and under-exercising, but you will also be a step ahead of all those people who wait for the New Year to take fitness resolutions. When they will be taking their first painful baby steps towards a better lifestyle, you'll already be fit and healthy and living your best life. Doesn't that sound like something you would want for yourself? That post I linked to also has a slew of ideas on how to exercise when the weather is being inclement, so no more excuses, get crackin'!

3. If you're not the one doing the cooking and you don't really have a say in what goes into your mouth at meal times, consider making green smoothies/juices. You can get your daily dose of greens, vitamins, minerals and even protein (depending on what you blend up) in just one serving and all you need are fresh fruits and vegetables and a blender (or a juicer if you're being fancy). Anything else you may want to add is according to taste so let your imagination and taste buds guide you. A few ingredients that are always good to put in one of these are: baby spinach, kale, fresh ginger, fresh or frozen berries, bananas (they give a great creamy consistency without the added fats, you can even make ice cream with them!), flax seeds, nuts (in moderation as they have high oil content, even if they are healthy oils) and any other "superfoods". So go get blendin'!

4. As well as being the season to indulge in food, the holiday season is also the time for indulging in yummy beverages. Be it alcohol, egg nog or hearty hot chocolate, these beverages all taste delicious (I'm not speaking for egg nog here, I've actually never had it) but they also contain quite a lot of unnecessary calories. Again, moderation is key: a glass of wine a day has been linked to health benefits. Dark chocolate, milk and eggs are also healthy foods on their own, but it's the addition of sugars and fats which make these treats exactly that: treats to be enjoyed from time to time, without excess.
So in order to not drink too many of your calories every day, remember to drink water regularly. In winter, we don't feel the need to drink as often as we do in summer, but that doesn't mean the body needs less water. We're 70% water, and by the time you feel thirsty, it means your body is already dehydrated: the feeling of thirst is the body's way of saying "hey, drink up, we're drying out here!". Also, often times when we feel "hungry" it's actually dehydration, so drinking a glass or two of water before you eat may ward of that sensation of hunger, thus making you eat less.
Ideally, an average adult should be drinking about 1,5L of water a day. If you don't like it straight up, try drinking teas or infusions instead. Green tea, white tea, herbal tea... they are all a great alternative to heavier beverages, keep you just as warm and, depending on your choice of blend, can taste just as decadent! Just beware if you tend to drink sugar in your tea as this has its incidence, obviously.

5. If you're the cook in your house, consider making super healthy meals to make up for all the less healthy ones you'll be having outside or on occasion. Oh She Glows is an amazing source of healthy (vegan, but can easily be made vegetarian or omni depending on what rocks your boat) meals which usually don't require much more that what should readily be available in your pantry. Cooking healthily doesn't have to be expensive or less tasty or even super time consuming, it simply requires a little organisation and advance planning so that you never need to resort to that pre-packaged meal that you keep in your freezer "just in case". If you've got a crock pot, cooking amazing meals that cost little, taste great and don't take a lot of time is even easier so just scour the web for some great recipes, and start chopping!

6. I know this may sound a little ironic to some, but try and get as much sunshine in winter as you possibly can. The sun's rays are our body's main source of Vitamin D, which helps fixate calcium on the bones, thus avoiding brittle bones. Also, sunshine minimises (and can even entirely get rid of) Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.), meaning you won't feel so dreary, depressed and tired. If you live in a place that only gets a couple of hours of sunshine a day in winter, then you may want to look into lights that mimic the sun's rays. They exist as alarm clocks for a gentle wake up call in the morning, but also in the form of light bulbs that you can fix into any of your existing light fixtures and get your daily dose of "sunshine".

7. If all else fails, make sure to integrate a high quality, high potency multi-vitamin in your daily routine, preferably in the morning. Winter foods tend to be rich stews, roasted meats and veggies, soups... All great things, but the lack of fresh fruit and veg may impair your vitamin and mineral intake which, in turn - with the cold dreary weather outside and the flu people are coughing up on you at work and on public transportation - may very well cause your immune system to suddenly fail on you. Nobody likes having a cold in winter, and having a multi-vitamin with your morning tea/coffee/juice is just another way of avoiding that cold, as long as possible.

Is there anything that you feel really helps you fight the winter blues? Please share in the comments, as I'm sure we would all like to avoid it if at all possible!

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