Reduce Holiday Stress Through Nutritional Choices
Arm yourself with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and water this holiday season to reduce stress.
It is that wonderful time of year again! It is time for family, friends, and good cheer, while juggling work, family vacations, in-laws, financial concerns, and traveling. Other stressors can include transportation or access barriers for persons with mobility limitations, such as a party in a family member's home with an inaccessible washroom, or which is on the second floor.
In light of these considerations, it is essential to eat nutritiously and care for yourself in a multitude of ways throughout the holiday season and the New Year.
Take a minute to record everything you enjoy about the holidays, such as time with family and friends, and/or time off from work/school. Then, turn that list over and enumerate anything causing you nervousness, anxiety, or even dread. For example, the weather may affect travel plans, holidays with the in-laws can be strained, and financial problems can affect the budget available for gift purchasing.
Now examine both lists and start planning ahead by making a holiday healthy prevention plan of action. Note events or parties that you regularly enjoy, and make an effort to attend them, while selecting 'stressful' events with a little more time and thought. Examine favorite holiday recipes to determine what substitutions can make the food healthier; visit the following links for additional ideas:
Four Easy Ways to Avoid Feeling Like Santa Clause Come January
20 Simple Steps to Improving Your Diet
When examining the stressor list, determine if there are activities that can be moved to the 'enjoyed' holiday list with sufficient planning. For example, if finances are a strain, make a few phone calls to family members or friends about picking names from a hat for gift giving and determining a 'suggested gift amount.' This way, one need only purchase one gift, and pay a reasonable price. Note that such changes often benefit other family and friends, who also experience financial stressors during the holidays.
Moreover, keep a calendar of events to make sure evenings and afternoons are not over booked, and schedule time for yourself and/or the holiday activities you enjoy. Schedule regular physical activity, including activities that can involve family and friends, such as a mini run/walk/wheel around the neighborhood, where home-made medals and prizes could be distributed to participants. Outdoor winter activities such as sledding, ice skating or playing in the snow can involve the entire group as well. In addition to planning healthy recipes, have pre-cut and cleaned vegetables and fruits available in order to consume 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Also, drink plenty of water (eight 8-ounce glasses) to assist your body in managing holiday stress.
Included are a few reminders from the American Heart Association’s Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations. Try incorporating these recommendations into a daily routine all year long.
- Balance calorie intake and physical activity to achieve or maintain a healthy body weight.
- Consume a diet rich in vegetables and fruit.
- Choose whole-grain, high fiber foods.
- Minimize your intake of beverages and foods with added sugar.
- Choose and prepare foods with little or no salt. Limit sodium intake to 1,500 mg per day.
- If you consume alcohol, do so in moderation.
- Limit intake of saturated fat to 5-6% of energy and reduce intake of trans fat.
- choosing lean means and vegetable alternatives
- selecting fat-free (skim), 1%-fat, and low-fat dairy products; and
- minimizing intake of partially hydrogenated fats.
If baking is a holiday tradition, look at modifications to recipes. Plan to eat a meal or snack before baking to prevent tempting tasting and sampling, and consider offering gifts of fresh fruit instead of high fat baked goods. Be sure to have healthy options for dessert as well, such as a low fat or non-fat egg nog, fruit-filled gelatins, and possibly low sugar desserts for individuals with elevated blood glucose levels. There are a variety of food items that can be placed on the menu to prevent the holiday blues. Prepare healthy salads, low sugar, or low fat desserts; offer plenty of water at each meal; serve whole grains, and reduce added fat (such as butter to vegetables or thick cream sauces) to dishes. When eating away from the home, continue to make healthy choices to assist in your healthy prevention plan of action, choose beverages without added sugar, select fruits and vegetables as main entrees, have a small snack before heading out the door to prevent overeating, and most importantly, continue to be physically active throughout the holiday season.
Have a wonderful and healthy holiday season by reducing your holiday stress by drinking plenty of water while shopping, traveling, wrapping gifts, cooking, cleaning, etc., and have fruit and vegetables for meals or snacks to keep the body and mind healthy.
Here are a few healthy recipes to use during the holidays.
- 1/2 cup cucumbers
- 1 cup nonfat sour cream
- 1/2 cup sweet red peppers
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh cilantro
- Squeeze excess moisture from the cucumbers; place them in a small bowl.
- Stir in the sour cream, peppers, garlic, and cilantro.
- Chill until needed.
- Serve with pita bread, pita chips, whole grain crackers, or whole grain tortilla chips.
Butternut Squash Casserole
- 1 medium butternut squash
- 2 clove garlic
- 1 small onion
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs
- 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper
- 3 tablespoon Parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to350°F.
- Cut squash in half lengthwise and remove seeds.
- On a rimmed cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil, place squash with the rind facing up.
- Bake for 45-60 minutes, until very soft.
- Let cool for 5 minutes and scoop out the insides, being careful not to include the outer skin.
- Place the squash in a casserole dish.
- Sauté garlic and onion in the olive oil, and mix into the squash.
- Stir in bread crumbs, pepper and salt.
- Sprinkle cheese on top and cover the dish with foil or a lid.
- Bake at 350°F for 10 minutes (or longer if ingredients have cooled).
- 3 cup rolled oats
- 1 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup butter
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2 eggs or 4 egg whites
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 2 cup dried cherries (non-sugar coated)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- In a medium bowl, combine the oats, flour, cinnamon, cardamom, baking soda, and salt.
- In a large bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter, brown sugar for 3 minutes, or until light and fluffy.
- Beat in the eggs and almond extract.
- Beat in the oat mixture, a little at a time, until well-blended.
- Stir in the cranberries.
- Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls about 2' apart onto ungreased baking sheets.
- Bake for 10 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Cool on a rack for 2 minutes.
- Remove to the rack to cool completely.