Do you find yourself eating too much and exercising too little during the holiday season? You’re not alone. The holidays can get us off track with our health and fitness goals – but it is avoidable!

The best way to have a healthy holiday is to make some healthy traditions with your family and friends. Here are some fun and easy ways to be active and eat healthy, while still enjoying the holiday festivities.

Get Active Together

One easy way to have healthy holidays is to get active with your family and friends. There are many ways to spend quality time together while also getting in some exercise. Make memories having fun and being active together by starting some healthy holiday traditions like:

• Family flag football game at the park.

• Walk your dogs together.

• Neighborhood soccer match or kickball tournament.

• Family walks around the neighborhood to look at the holiday lights.

Register for a fun run in town to run or walk with your family and friends. Here are some local races you can register for:

• Bakersfield Santa 5K, Dec. 1

• Mr. Toad’s Wild Run, Dec. 7

• Hanukkah 8K, Dec. 8

• Jingle Bell Run for Toys for Tots, Dec. 15

Healthy Food Swaps

Cooking at home together is another way to be healthy during the holiday season. You can spend quality time with your family by cooking healthy versions of your family’s favorite holiday dishes.

Making recipes from scratch is often healthier than buying dishes from a store. As a general rule, you can eat healthier by eating more colorfully. Add fruits and veggies to your meals. Also, avoid adding sugar and salt to the dishes you are cooking. Here are some healthy ideas for holiday dishes.

• Roasted sweet potatoes with cinnamon and nutmeg.

• Sauteed green beans with ginger and slivered almonds.

• Mashed cauliflower (a low-carb alternative to mashed potatoes).

• Roasted butternut squash with pumpkin pie spice and candied pecans.

• Kale, apple, pecan and dried cranberry salad.

Avoid Overindulging

With all of the yummy foods and holiday festivities, it can be easy to overeat. Though tempting, overindulging is avoidable. Here are some strategies that can help you eat healthier portion sizes.

Breakfast matters. By eating a healthy breakfast, you are kick-starting your metabolism in the morning. That way, your body is better prepared to digest a big holiday meal and you will have more energy to spend with your family.

Order matters. By eating salad or veggies first, you will get full quicker, feel full longer and be able to digest the rest of your food better because you are getting your fiber and nutrients up front.

Portion size matters. If your eyes tend to be bigger than your stomach, then try using smaller serving utensils to monitor your portion sizes and avoid adding too much food to your plate. Instead of using your biggest serving spoons for all of the yummy holiday side dishes, try using smaller serving utensils. By getting smaller scoops, it is easier to get smaller portions of all of the foods that you want to try.

Use smaller plates. Research has shown that we feel more full after eating from a small plate, relative to eating the same amount of food from a big plate.

Limit second helpings. Commit to trying small amounts of every dish that you want, but only return for a second helping of your favorite. You’ll often realize that you’re already pretty satisfied from what you’ve already eaten.

Hydration matters. Drink a big glass of water before eating a big meal – it helps you digest the food better and can help your body recognize that you’re full quicker. This can help you avoid the sluggishness and stomachaches that come with overeating.

Mindfulness matters. Take your time to enjoy what you’re eating. Research shows that eating slower and appreciating the taste of your food leads to feeling fuller and more satisfied with your meal. 

Katie Cornford works in Kern County Public Health’s Waste Hunger Not Food programs.

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