“Therefore whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all things to the glory of God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31
As we enter the holiday season, we start planning our Thanksgiving menu, guest list and holiday decorations. Then we flow right into Christmas — setting up our tree, cookie baking with our kids, going to church, family and work events, buying special gifts and planning the next big feast for Christmas dinner. If you’re anything like me, all of these activities bring great joy and excitement as this special time rolls around like clockwork every year. However, if not balanced properly, indulging too much while trying to do it all can leave you overstuffed, overwhelmed and exhausted. Here are some tips on how to stay healthy and rested this holiday season, so you can enjoy it to the fullest and focus on the true meaning of this time with your family and friends: Giving thanks for all our blessings, each other and especially for the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Nutrition: Eating Healthy
It’s so easy to overindulge with all of the extra holiday parties, treats you bake at home and special dinners planned for Thanksgiving and Christmas. By following a few simple tips, you can still enjoy the unique holiday food perks this time of year has to offer while also staying fit and well:
Good hydration is key to preserving health and wellness for a number of reasons. It helps you digest food and burn fat by making sure the kidneys and liver are functioning optimally. Sometimes dehydration can even feel like hunger, which is why it’s so important to stay properly hydrated. It helps keep you from overindulging on sweets and treats.
Healthy Foods First
If you find yourself at a family member’s decadent buffet table this Thanksgiving or Christmas, focus on eating the healthy items first. This way you’ll fill up on nutrients and you’ll be less likely to overdo the less healthy options later. For example, when dessert time comes around, you’ll be more modest and take one chocolate chip cookie instead of three. Emphasize the kinds of plant-based foods Daniel and his friends chose in lieu of the king’s rich foods, like vegetables, fruits, grains and legumes (Daniel 1:8-21). Be sure to drink plenty of water, too.
It is a special, festive time of year, after all, so don’t be afraid to treat yourself. If you’re too restrictive, you might find yourself binging in the middle of the night on that leftover pumpkin pie that you passed up at the dinner table reluctantly as everyone else commented on how good it was. Feel free to have a piece of your favorite treat. Just practice self-control and focus on the healthy foods first.
Being so busy planning and getting to the next event makes it easy to accidentally skip meals. Doing so sets us up to overeat at the next meal. Stay intentional about eating smaller meals throughout the day so that you don’t wind up so hungry that you take an extra piece of yule log at the company Christmas party, and then some.
Use Lighter Alternatives
When doing your own cooking and baking, there are many alternatives you can use to make healthier, but just as delicious, savory foods and baked goods. Examples include swapping out oils and butter with applesauce, heavy cow’s milk with a nut milk and skipping the cream-based toppings, fatty sauces and rich gravies for lighter options like whipped coconut, vinaigrettes and lemon juice. They taste just as good, if not better, and won’t leave you feeling swollen after your meal.
If you do find yourself indulging, exercise can keep your blood sugar levels in check and help you stay fit if you’re temporarily eating more calories and heavier foods than usual. You can go for a brisk walk, clean up around the house, park further away at stores for extra steps, stretch or even participate in a holiday run for a good cause. These are all great forms of exercise and will keep you moving. No matter what time of year it is, it’s important to stay physically active on a regular basis for optimal health.
Rest: Give Thanks
In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Paul instructs us, “In all things, give thanks.” The Thanksgiving holiday is a time to express gratitude, something we should really do on a regular basis, in the form of prayer to thank God for all His blessings, and thanking others for what they add to our lives. Rather than eating mindlessly and seeing how much food we can fit, be mindful of each blessing of a bite and savor it. Thank the Lord for providing the meal, the ingredients to cook it, the means to buy them and the ability to eat it. Doing so will cause you to slow down, eat less and enjoy what you eat even more.
Rest is Best
While it’s key to maintain good nutrition in order to stay healthy during the holidays, proper rest is just as important. Running from event to event, holiday shopping, cooking big meals and the stress of staying on schedule for months on end can easily wear us down. Follow these tips to stay rested and relaxed during the holiday season:
It’s difficult to bring joy to others when you’re stressed out. While you’re caring for your family and friends this holiday season, be sure to make time for you, too. Make sure you’re eating well, take a walk, read a book and do your favorite holiday activity. If you’re tense, try progressive muscle relaxation and feel yourself letting go of the stress. Taking care of yourself puts you in a better position to take care of others.
Bake Your Favorite Holiday Treat
This may seem contradictory to the above tips on nutrition, but baking is a positive, relaxing activity. Treating yourself to something you love, in moderation, is a great way to de-stress, relax and find restful moments. The act of baking slows you down and gets you to focus on the here and now. Then, you get to enjoy savoring your creation! You can also swap out unhealthy ingredients for healthier ones. It will still taste great.
Get Fresh Air
Getting outside and breathing the fresh air is vital to your well-being. Starting your day by going outside in the morning, walking a bit and remembering to breathe deeply is a great way to set you up for a more relaxed, refreshed day ahead. Doing this each day will help keep any unwanted seasonal anxiety away.
Disconnect from Devices
The holidays are a time of connection, but try to keep those connections meaningful without overdoing screen time. Too much screen and phone time is connected to poor sleep and reduced mental health. The blue light emitted from your screen interferes with the production of the sleep hormone, melatonin. Using your devices before bedtime makes it more difficult to fall asleep. Cutting out unnecessary screen time and refraining from using your devices around bedtime are good solutions for better sleep. Keeping your smartphone out of your bedroom, designating the dining table as a screen-free zone and seeking other activities to relax are a few ideas to try reducing time spent on devices.
Listen to Music that Lifts and Calms
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” after all, but music is a healing, relaxing activity year round. You can put a holiday twist on your playlist by choosing Christmas music that either energizes or calms, depending on what you need. There are apps and digital music streaming services that allow you to access thousands of playlists that work for you. You’ll be in the holiday spirit and more relaxed in no time.
Taking time every day to connect with God is the best way to find peace. Scientists have found that prayer evokes a relaxation response that suppresses stress, quiets the mind and body and promotes healing. Other studies show that those who pray tend to live healthier lives, get sick less often and experience less depression. Make time for just you and God at times you appoint each day, such as in the morning when you wake up, at a quiet moment during your lunch break and before bed. Staying close to God will help you feel peaceful and remind you what this season is all about.
Happy, Healthy Holidays from CREATION Life
We wish you a happy and healthy Thanksgiving and Christmas with your family and friends! Be sure to apply the CREATION Life principles, Nutrition and Rest, to your holiday celebrations, recognizing that healthy food and rejuvenating rest fuels and rejuvenates you from the inside out. Above all, be thankful and focus on the reason for the season — the love of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Written by Jaclyn King