5 Mindful Choices for a Healthier Holiday

The holidays are upon us; and, with the fun and festivities, comes lots (and lots) of food.

If you’re like a fair number of Americans, you’ll probably spend your holidays saying something like: “The diet and exercise will start tomorrow.” And, while you may be someone who can actually stick to such a resolution, the majority of us do not—and we wind up carrying the extra pounds far into the New Year.

Holiday Food, by Numbers

In truth, 75% of weight gain occurs during the holiday season. Yet, according to Popular Science, those pounds aren’t shed until June, with the lowest average weight of the year not reached until October. Right before the cycle starts again…

The following are the mind-blowing facts that create this cycle:

  • 1 turkey leg is 417 calories and requires 1 hour + 56 minutes of walking to burn off
  • ½ cup of stuffing / dressing is 439 calories and requires 2 hours + 2 minutes of walking to burn off
  • 1 cup of mashed potatoes is 237 calories and requires 1 hour + 6 minutes to burn off
  • 1 slice of pumpkin pie is 279 calories and requires 1 hour + 17 minutes of walking to burn off
  • 1 slice of pecan pie is 532 calories and requires 2 hours + 28 minutes to burn off

That’s just Thanksgiving! Think of the Christmas ham, bread pudding, dinner rolls, egg nog, and sugar cookies. Or all the New Year’s Eve and Day fare you’re likely to consume. You’re probably looking at an additional 15-20 hours of exercise needed to burn off all that deliciousness.

Healthy Holidays are Possible

Making healthier choices doesn’t mean forgoing all your favorite things. Big benefits can be found in some seemingly small decisions.

Here are some helpful tips to help facilitate wise decision-making this holiday season:

  • Party at home beforehand. Enjoying a small snack of nuts, string cheese and a few whole grain crackers will mean you’re arriving satisfied already, not starving. The holiday buffet has so many food and drink options that if you go in hungry, you’re doomed.
  • Practice saying “no.” Hosts are gracious and want you to enjoy; so, they often offer you plates of tasty treats time and time again. It’s hard to say no. Remind yourself that it’s okay to say no!
  • Drink all night…with a wine spritzer. Having too much alcohol is a surefire way to lose control on the dance floor and at the buffet table. Instead, mix two ounces of wine with club soda, a little cranberry juice and lime juice for a wine spritzer. You will be able to draw out your drinks throughout the night. Many holiday drinks are loaded with calories that add up quickly.
  • Food Swap. Reduce calories without sacrificing taste with these simple substitutes:
    • Use low-sodium chicken broth in your mashed potatoes to add flavor and cut back on added butter or margarine.
    • Substitute apple sauce for oil, margarine or butter in muffins and quick breads.
    • Sliced almonds make a delicious, crunchy topping in place of fried onion rings.
  • Don’t build food towers. Don’t be the guy with a tower of food on his plate. Use a salad or dessert plate and make it a rule not to stack foods on top of each other. This rule will help you control your portions. This combined with only one trip through the buffet line will cut calories considerably.

Mindful Eating All Year-Round

Healthy food choices begin by simply being mindful. And this doesn’t have to begin and end during the holiday season.

While the tips above are great during November and December, they offer even greater benefit when they are consistently applied the whole year through.




In partnership with EXOS, a world leader in human performance and the management company for CU Anschutz Health and Wellness Center.