My favorite healthy holiday traditions include time spent around the kitchen table playing games with family members…cousins, siblings, nieces, nephews, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. We used to spend hours on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day playing board games at both my grandparents’ houses. You may be wondering how this is a healthy holiday tradition? It nourished my spirit. It renewed my mind and it was FUN. It’s easy to forget the multidimensional aspects of health.
However, It seems like so many holiday traditions also involve high calorie foods. And I’m certainly not one to condemn eating sweets in moderation. However, I also know that too many sweets or rich foods can leave me feeling completely yuck! I feel my best when I have a sense of moderation in all aspects of my life, including food.
This holiday season make it a point to foster healthy holiday traditions. Focus on what renews your body, mind, and spirit. And here are a few ideas to get you started.
Healthy Holiday Traditions
1. Sign your family up for the Turkey Trot or Jingle Bell Run 5K.
Take it a step further than a causal walk. Most towns have some sort of Thanksgiving 5K and at least one 5K sometime around Christmas, too. Plan your food ahead of time so that you have time to get out and run/jog/walk a race with your family. You will be surprised at how much fun you have! And I promise the food will taste EVEN better after a 3 mile run.
2. Involve the whole family in preparing the dinner.
Don’t let the meal preparation fall to just one or two! Get your husband and kids in the kitchen, too. When the whole family is preparing food with holiday music on, it’s sure to be much more fun for everyone. Or perhaps, depending on the family situation, the ladies can cook and men can clean up (while us ladies look at the shopping ads 😉.) I’m thankful my husband is so actively involved in the kitchen, especially since I’m pregnant this holiday season. I had a blast watching him make pie crust for his first time this year…flour and complete joy were flying everywhere.
3. Enjoy seasonal outdoor activity.
Depending on where you live, add some outdoor recreation to your holiday season. Ice skating, sledding (those uphill walks are AMAZING physical activity), skiing, or even simply walking in the chilly air. Pack a thermos of hot soup, pure apple cider, hot tea, or homemade hot chocolate for a special treat.
4. Enjoy the lights and decorations
Bundle up and head downtown, to the mall, or wherever you can see the sights in your town. There is definitely something festive about being a tiny bit chilly while you enjoy Christmas cheer with your family. Plus it’s an opportunity to get some walking in.
5. Head to the bowling alley.
If you have any extra time over the holidays and are looking to stay active, grab your family, partner, or friends and head to the local bowling alley. Focus on bowling and not the snacks frequently found at the bowling alley (fries and coke.)
6. Take a walk after your holiday meal.
A quick 2 mile walk after Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner will help with the digestion of food and foster healthy, active habits for you and your family. If you know that you won’t do it after your holiday dinner, make a plan to fit it in in the morning. In fact, walking even a little bit every day is a great way to ensure you are staying active all holiday season!
7. Bake some goodies! Yep, I said it, now read on before you write me off.
Being healthy doesn’t mean giving up long cherished family traditions. Go ahead and bake those cookies with your kids! There are plenty of healthier baked good recipes out there like my whole wheat lemon cranberry scones. If you want to make Grandma’s old faithful cookie recipe – go ahead, but use it as a lesson in moderation. Health is, after all, not just food alone but multidimensional.
8. Bring a healthy dish to dinner and parties.
Here I am, stating the obvious. Be sure to check out these Healthy Thanksgiving Recipe ideas, all of which work great for Christmas as well! Of course, always start your day with a healthy breakfast which can easily be done with my new Real Food Breakfast Guide that you can sign up for at the end of the post.
9. Build a gingerbread house.
Again, perhaps this surprises you. You may be thinking, “doesn’t this involve candy?!” Again, this is another opportunity to practice moderation. You can also enjoy healthy snacks along side a bit of candy while you build the gingerbread house. And if you saved back some extra Halloween candy like Jennifer Hunt, RD in her article, “What To Do With All The Candy?!” it’s a perfect time to repurpose some candy towards something besides being eaten.
10. Foster thankfulness and remember the purpose of the holiday.
Whatever you do this holiday season, remember to foster an attitude of thankfulness. What a special time of the year that we can celebrate thanksgiving, the joy and meaning of baby Jesus, and shower our family with love. It’s so easy to get caught up in the hustle and busyness of this season and not truly think about it’s meaning. So, if there is one thing you can do this holiday season that I know will benefit your health, it’s to renew your spirit. Whatever that looks like for you this year, I pray you take the time to do it.
For me, it’s taking extra time to remember why we celebrate. It’s spending time with family, including lots of my favorite board games. And this year, it’s going to be snuggling my new little bundle of joy!
Starting Healthy Holiday Traditions
I hope this gives you some ideas of a few healthy holiday traditions you can start with your family this year. I truly believe it’s possible to enjoy the season, the food, family, and still stay healthy. Focus on listening to internal cues, such as when you’ve had enough, and being satisfied with a smaller amount. Sometimes, the best thing we can do for developing moderation is to take a step back and evaluate why we enjoy those Christmas cookies so much.
As you replace some of your holiday eating with increased physical activity, you may also find yourself feeling more in touch with your mind, your emotions, and your body. I would love to know a favorite healthy holiday tradition you enjoy with your family or plan to start this year!