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Staying Well During the Busy Holiday Season

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It’s that time of year again, when the pressure mounts to stockpile gifts, plan holiday meals and treats, and attend office and friends’ parties. If just reading that sentence makes you anxious, you’re not alone: this is the most stressful time of year, according to psychologists.

Add a plane or long car ride to the mix, and life can feel overwhelming and like it’s impossible to stick to the healthy habits that you have put in place throughout the year. But with a little planning and a few good strategies, you don’t have to throw all of your wellness goals in the fire.

  1. Embrace the Meal Prep. A little time spent on Sundays can make a big difference in your week. Chop vegetables to pair with hummus for a snack, make your chia pudding or overnight oats for ready-to-go breakfasts, and roast vegetables and pre-cook some lean proteins and whole grains so you can throw together a balanced meal in a pinch.
  2. Keep snacks handy. You never know when hunger might strike. Be prepared with a few healthy snacks like nuts with dried fruit, an apple or banana, or a whole foods–based energy bar to avoid the (unhealthy) options you might find in a vending machine or at the highway gas station on that holiday road trip.
  3. Eat regularly. One of the best ways to keep your energy (and blood sugar) stable is to eat throughout the day.. It can be easy to miss meals when you’re on the go, which brings us back to No. 2. Also, don’t skimp on a meal to save calories for a party later in the day. It always backfires because you show up ravenous (a.k.a. “hangry”!) and end up eating more than you otherwise would have.
  4. Make the best out of what you have.  It’s likely that at some point you’ll be stuck an airport or on a highway with less-than-ideal options. You’re better off eating something than skipping a meal and overeating later. So, do a little detective work. Can you find an option that has whole grains, protein, and a little produce? For example, if you’re in an airport, you might find a banana and yogurt or a whole-grain bagel with nut butter for breakfast. Or, maybe a turkey sandwich on rye bread and an apple for lunch or dinner. It may not be your usual grain bowl, but it will do the job. Sometimes even a mix of healthy snacks like fruit and nuts can make up a small meal to tide you over. If your only option is rest-stop pizza or a burger, try to pair it with a side salad or piece of fruit instead of the fries‚ and with all, consider portions and stop when you’re full, even if that’s halfway through it.
  5. Indulge when it’s worth it. That food-court muffin is probably not worth the indulgence, but your aunt’s famous gingerbread cookies that she only makes at the holidays? Now we’re talking! Whether it’s sipping hot cocoa after an afternoon of ice skating or going out for a special lunch amid holiday shopping, an occasional indulgence during the season is absolutely fine. Just don’t make it a daily habit to grab a peppermint mocha with whipped cream on your way into work.

Prioritizing wellness this holiday season will not only keep off any unwanted pounds, but it can improve your energy and boost your immune system so you don’t miss out on the festivities. Cheers to a happy and healthy season ahead!