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10 tips for healthy holidays

Posted by Chelsea Rice  November 19, 2013 12:20 PM

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NickDowning.jpgNick Downing is in his second season as the New England Revolution’s strength and conditioning coach, a position that was created with the hiring of head coach Jay Heaps. This is Downing’s second go-around with the club, having previously played for the Revs a decade ago.

In his current position, Downing is responsible for developing and enhancing the Revolution players’ speed, strength and endurance, as well as their overall conditioning and fitness in conjunction with both the coaching and medical staffs. Through an integrated approach – including weight training, cardiovascular training, plyometrics, and nutrition – Downing has created both position-specific and individual programs to help the Revs emerge as of Major League Soccer’s most fit teams.

Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations have hit the store shelves, right next to the sale-priced Halloween candy, which can only mean one thing: the holiday season is officially upon us.

It also means we’re entering a perfect storm of candy binges, holiday parties, decadent meals and all kinds of seasonal indulgences. Unfortunately, this time of year brings about a lot of poor nutritional and fitness practices, at least until New Year’s resolution time rolls around again.

With a house full of friends, family, and fatty holiday foods, it’s a challenge to stay on track. But there are ways to make healthy choices without denying yourself those delicious holiday treats.

Here are some time-tested tips for staying healthy over the holidays:

  • Plan ahead. In the weeks leading up to your holiday dinner, decrease your caloric intake by a few hundred calories a day and hit the gym an extra time or two per week to prepare for those extra indulgences.
  • Eat breakfast. On major eating holidays like Thanksgiving, many people fast all day to prepare for the big meal. Not only does this promote binging once you finally sit down to eat after starving yourself all day, but it’s also been proven that eating breakfast kick starts your metabolism. Eating something light in the morning will help you burn more calories throughout the day, and eat less at the dinner table.


  • Exercise early. The holiday season tends to get busier and busier as the day goes on, which means it becomes easier to find excuses to skip exercising. Start your day off with a workout, and you’ll be burning calories all day. Plus you won’t have to fight through a tryptophan haze.
  • Get the family involved. It’s hard to pull yourself away from family gatherings to get in some exercise time. The best way to avoid missing out on family fun is to make your workout a group activity. Play a game of flag football together, or sign up for a turkey trot. Exercising together will make memories, and keep your workout fun.


  • Curb your drinking. Family parties often mean a few glasses of wine, but it’s easy to forget that the calories in alcoholic drinks can really add up. For example, there are about 120 calories in each glass of wine. Alternate glasses of water between your alcoholic beverages, and not only will you cut the calories, but you’ll also feel much better the next morning.


  • Skip the finger foods. It’s easy to overeat when it comes to those harmless-looking appetizers, so save your appetite for the main event.


  • Load up on veggies. Once the main course begins, don’t fill your plate with stuffing and mac ‘n cheese. Begin with vegetables and lean proteins like turkey, green beans, and salad, which will leave less room on your plate for fatty indulgences.


  • Eat slowly. Taking small bites and chewing slowly will make you feel fuller faster, while shoveling it in doesn't give your body time to recognize that you're satiated.


  • Skip the seconds. Take a break before going back for another plateful of your holiday favorites. If you've taken your time eating, you should be feeling full by the end of your first helping. Let your body recognize that it’s full, and skip the extra fat and calories that come with seconds and thirds.
  • Stay on your feet. After a big holiday meal, all you want to do is to flop on the couch to watch football. But staying active after eating helps burn off a few of the calories you just packed in. Help clear the dishes. Go for a family stroll around the block. Play with the kids. Just keep moving for 30 minutes after you eat, and your metabolism will keep burning.

Remember, the holidays are a time for celebrating your family and enjoying the season, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t help going back for a second slice of pumpkin pie.

As long as you keep your goals in mind, and don’t use the holidays as an excuse to let your nutrition plan go completely off the rails, you shouldn't feel bad about indulging in moderation.

The holidays only come once a year, so enjoy the friends, family, and food that come with the season.

Staying fit is an important part of staying healthy. This blog will offer exercise tips from experts as well as share the personal journeys of Globe staff members committed to fitness. No matter your age or energy level, we invite you to join in and share your own story. How do you find time to work out? What are your daily challenges? Let us know and read along -- and together, we can all get moving.

CONTRIBUTORS

Elizabeth Comeau is a social media marketing manager at Boston.com. She will be blogging about her personal fitness journey and using a device called a FitBit to track her weekly goals and progress (see below). Follow her journey and share your own. Read more about Elizabeth and this blog.

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