Find a Routine During the Holidays

It’s hard not to use the holidays as inspiration for my columns during the fall and winter months.  This time of year there seem to be countless nutrition-related things to write about, from healthier holiday recipes, ways to avoid the dessert table, and even foods to help with seasonal mood swings. 

However, isn’t what we all need—adults and kids alike—a little NORMALCY?

It seems like nothing this time of year is normal.   Holiday parties and kids’ concerts fill our schedules, gift-wrapping is added to the to-do list, and even the weather throws us for a loop—whether it’s a snowstorm, a quick thaw, or dealing with wet basements and broken tree branches. 

We’re healthiest—mind and body—when we have a routine.  Our bodies like to get about the same amount of sleep each night, eat at about the same time each day and get regular exercise.  Kids thrive on routine and stability, and I think adults do, too.  Unfortunately, this time of year adds so much to our plates—literally and figuratively—that we get so far off our routines; we can’t find our way back until January.

With the two busiest weeks of the year upon us, I challenge you to find ways, even small ones, to maintain your family’s routine.  Here are four ways to keep some sense of normalcy amid the utter chaos (and JOY!) of the holiday season:

-Eat at your normal time.  Our bodies like to keep our blood sugar even, so eating balanced meals and snacks every few hours helps us feel our best.  This means being prepared with a substantial snack (something with carbs, fat and protein) when holiday shopping takes longer than you think.  Don’t leave home without a snack! In October, I wrote about using bento boxes for kids’ lunches.  Consider packing one for yourself when you know you’ll be busy around mealtimes. Some easy snack ideas include beef jerky, cheese sticks, sliced apples with nut butter or veggies and hummus.  

-Eat similar foods.  While trying new foods is great, the holidays are already full of extra treats, extra outings and extra family.  Consider simplifying your breakfast and lunch to save you time and brainpower.  By having balanced, familiar meals already prepared, it’s easier to say yes to that unexpected work dinner or snag a second dessert at a party.  For example, make a batch of egg muffins with veggies for quick breakfasts all week, which gets you out the door faster and without having to think about what you’ll eat, and it’s full of protein so you won’t be hungry in an hour. 

-Limit sweets.  Easier said than done, I know.  This time of year we are all bombarded with Christmas cookies, fancy desserts and dipped pretzels.  For some people, a rigid ‘one sweet a day’ rule works well.  For others, every item is a judgment call.   You do you.  I prefer homemade treats and unique things I can’t get other times of the year, so I try to limit sweets to the foods that are ‘worth it’ to me.

-Move your body.  Exercise is good for our minds and our bodies, and is an excellent way to burn off all the extra stress during the holiday season.  However, I highly recommend decreasing the duration and frequency of your workouts, just for these few weeks.  You’ve likely added a few hours worth—if not more—of holiday shopping, baking or hosting to your weekly schedule, so something’s gotta give.  Instead of ditching your workout routine entirely (which is what I tend to do, unfortunately), opt for a 30-minute class instead of 60.  Take a day off here and there when you’re extra tired or just cannot fit it in.  Pick it back up the next day, even if it’s just for 15 minutes of yoga.  Your body and mind will thank you.

Believe me when I say that I’ll be trying to take my own advice; despite being a dietitian who LIKES healthy foods and who LOVES to exercise, both of those things fall off my radar when I get busy.  After a few weeks of extra stress and extra sweets, it all catches up with me.  When I finally jump back on the bike or go for a run, I wonder why in the world I wasn’t doing those things all along.   

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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