We’re just a few short days away from Christmas, and the magic of the season is all around us. Presents are multiplying under the tree, the drinks are flowing at holiday parties and calories don’t count.
Except that they do, and all our poor food choices during the holiday season catch up to us sooner or later. It’s all fun and games until someone gets fat. January is the saddest of months around these parts; the holiday sparkle has worn off, the snow is dirty and our pants are a little bit tighter.
Instead of spending the long winter hibernating until April, let’s instead get excited about a fresh start in the New Year. Here are some tips for maintaining healthy habits when our energy is low:
- Get Enough Sleep. We all know sleep is important, but it’s all too easy to get caught up bingeing the latest must-see show on Netflix too. I’m not a sleep researcher, but I have read a book by one and trust me when I say sleep is vital. When the sun goes to bed early, you should too.
- Move Your Body. (Preferably early and outside.) Exposure to sunlight first-thing in the morning helps you fall asleep at night, and exercise increases energy levels. So, despite the cold, getting your heart rate up out-of-doors is a win-win. Bundle up and take a walk. Strap on Yak Trax and go out for run. (The East Aurora Runners pound the pavement—sometimes snow-covered—all year round. Find us at 42North every Thursday at 6 pm.) Hit the gym if you really can’t brave the cold. Just break a sweat at least three times a week.
- Think Before You Eat. Seriously, do it. If ‘mindless eating’ had a season, it would be winter. We’re cooped up inside in our hoodies with nothing else to do but channel surf. Instead, use an hour or so a week to prepare a menu, focusing on healthy meals that are both comforting and nutritious. In just a few hours in the kitchen, you can have most (or all!) of the week’s meals ready to go. Just picture it: a veggie lasagna baking in the oven, chili simmering on the stove, smoothies whirring in the blender and a pot roast going in the crockpot…all while you sip your beverage of choice. Just make sure the kids do the dishes!
- Cook Smarter, Not Harder. If you haven’t hopped on the Instant Pot bandwagon, what are you waiting for? Now, what used to take all day to cook takes only an hour. The Instant Pot has literally saved the procrastinator’s bacon. Winter screams for hot, hearty meals cooked low and slow, but who has that kind of time during the week? Between the crockpot and the instant pot, cooking has never been easier. Now, you can either load up your crockpot at 7 am or toss it all in the instant pot at 4 pm and still have dinner on the table at 6. Pick your poison.
- Embrace Winter Vegetables. Now is not the time for tomatoes and strawberries. Winter squash (all varieties) are in abundance, they keep for practically forever and pair well with slow-cooked meats. Most varieties are high in Vitamins A and C, potassium and fiber. My personal favorites are butternut and spaghetti squash.
- Don’t Buy Junk Food. If you have it in the house, you will eat it. True story. Sure, less-healthy options like Oreos and Doritos are OK every once in awhile, but it’s best to keep their appearances to a minimum.
I’ll be following my own advice; I have a five-month-old baby at home and I’ve fallen victim to relying on convenience foods, skipping workouts and giving into my sweet tooth, especially as the holidays have gotten closer. I’m definitely looking forward to a fresh start in January!