When the holidays roll around, many of us find ourselves adding on a few pounds. High-calorie treats and a busy schedule make it all too easy to eat more and exercise less. Instead of waiting to set a healthy New Year's resolution, there are steps you can take to develop healthier eating habits before the holiday season.
The first step is to take stock of your eating habits now, before you are surrounded by the temptation of holiday treats. What is your eating style? Do you eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, or does your regular diet consist more of meat and potatoes? Do you eat three big meals or snack throughout the day? Do you know how many calories you eat on an average day?
Learning more about your regular diet will help you pinpoint any trouble areas and discover healthier ways to approach eating. You can track the food you eat with one of the many available smartphone apps or simply write each item in a notebook. Note the calories, the quantity and the type of foods you eat. You don't have to be exact, as long as you record a close estimate of the calories and which food group you are eating (fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy, etc.)
To learn more about healthy eating strategies, you can join a group like Weight Watchers or visit an online site like the USDA's ChooseMyPlate.gov. Joining an online discussion group, taking healthy cooking classes or simply partnering up with a healthy eating buddy can help you stay motivated as you discover the diet that works best for your health. Social groups can also provide online support during the holidays, when you are tempted to slip back into bad habits.
Of course, healthy eating doesn't have to mean the end of traditional holiday treats. There are many ways you can update your favorite recipes to reflect your healthier eating habits. Baked desserts can often be made healthier by substituting pureed fruits for part of the oil. Herbs and spices can take the place of salt, non-fat milk often works as well as whole milk, and you may be able to saute foods with juice or low-sodium chicken broth instead of butter or oil.
You may also want to try out some new recipes from healthy cookbooks which are designed to capture the flavor of more traditional fare. Or even discover some entirely new dishes that would add a fresh twist to your holiday meals. Whether modifying old favorites or discovering new ones, start now to have plenty of time to experiment.
In addition to making healthy eating changes, you may also want to take on a new fitness routine. Starting now may be easier, as fitness centers and exercise classes tend to be busiest in January and February. By getting into the habit of exercising now, you will be more likely to squeeze in time to workout during the holidays.
This year, instead of waiting to shed those extra holiday pounds, make a resolution to get in shape and stay fit year round.