Try replacing high-calorie cocktails with apple cider flavored with cinnamon sticks.
Step back from the high-calorie foods and stop stressing about missed workouts. Grab the family, and have fun with these healthy ways to celebrate the holidays.
Recipe Redo Competition
Everyone is looking for ways to lighten up favorite holiday foods without sacrificing traditional flavor. Create a competition within your family to see who can creatively adapt the most delicious dish. Assign everyone a recipe and give them the challenge of making it healthier. This might be by reducing the calories or saturated fat, increasing vitamins and minerals, or using fewer processed ingredients. Select a healthy reward for the person who creates the best dish.
Get Your Friends Moving
This time of year offers many opportunities to connect with friends. Instead of meeting for lunch or for happy hour, find ways to make your quality time beneficial to your physical health and emotional health. Sign up for a walk or run to support your favorite charity. Volunteer to pick up donations in your neighborhood or to make and deliver healthy holiday meals on bike or foot. The time together will allow you to catch up, incorporate activity, and feel good about helping others.
Create a Holiday-themed Workout
Get your workout in as a family and get into the holiday spirit. You don’t need much space to create a circuit workout, and if the weather is tolerable, bundle up and take it outside. Think of all the ways you can incorporate the holidays into the session. Play upbeat holiday music. Use a string of garland as a jump rope or as a marker on the ground for a side-to-side hop. Let a heavier, non-breakable wrapped gift serve as a weight to hold during lunges or squats. Make it fun and let each family member create a station. Do each exercise for 60 to 90 seconds, and then switch until you have completed a 20 to 30 minute workout.
Host a Party to Help Others
Invite friends over for your traditional holiday party, but change the focus of the afternoon. Grab the boots and coats and help shovel snow for neighbors who are unable to do so, or volunteer to help put up holiday decorations. There are many people who can use assistance this time of year, and the activity will help you burn calories.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predict that at least 1 in 3 people will develop type 2 diabetes in their lifetime. By gaining a better understanding of type 2 diabetes, you can take the necessary steps to reduce your risk.
Blood Glucose and Type 2 Diabetes
Blood glucose, or blood sugar, is the amount of sugar in your blood. It serves as a primary source of energy for the body. When you have type 2 diabetes, blood glucose increases above normal levels, a condition called hyperglycemia (high blood glucose).
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps blood glucose get from your blood into your cells. With type 2 diabetes your body doesn't use insulin well, often called insulin resistance. The pancreas increases insulin production to help lower the rising blood glucose, but eventually it cannot make enough. As a result, blood glucose levels increase to dangerous levels. When left untreated, this can cause many health issues including blindness, kidney failure, foot complications, heart disease, and stroke.
Difference Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes
Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are not the same. With type 1 diabetes, there is a lack of insulin available because the immune system attacks the pancreas and the cells that produce insulin are destroyed. While type 1 diabetes can develop in adulthood, it is much more commonly diagnosed in youth. There is currently no way to prevent type 1 diabetes. Research shows type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed. While both diseases can be related to family history and genetics, type 1 diabetes results from an autoimmune disorder, while type 2 diabetes is often linked to unhealthy behaviors like a sedentary lifestyle.
How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Being overweight and a lack of physical activity are believed to be major contributors to the insulin resistance that leads to type 2 diabetes. Research shows that losing weight and getting active can cut your risk in half. A moderate weight loss of 10 to 15 pounds, or just 5 to 7 percent of your body weight, is enough to reduce your risk. Regular exercise improves your cells’ sensitivity to insulin, helping glucose move from the bloodstream to cells throughout your body. As a result, this helps promote healthier blood glucose levels and reduces your risk for diabetes. Just 150 minutes of exercise per week has shown to reduce risk. Choose a combination of moderate intensity activities, such as walking and strength training.
The holiday season is around the corner and while you may not be ready to start celebrating, now is the time to plan how upcoming celebrations will fit into your healthy lifestyle. This time of year is notorious for commitments that interfere with exercise and for overeating unhealthy foods. By making a plan to overcome these obstacles, you will stay on track to meet your health and fitness goals.
Make a list of your favorite seasonal foods.
There are special holiday foods that you can’t get any other time of year. Depriving yourself will only make you feel miserable and increase the chances that you will give up and overindulge. Instead, decide how you will incorporate these foods into a healthy eating plan. Make a list of your must-have foods and estimate when these foods will be available -- pecan pie at Thanksgiving, Grandma’s cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning? When you plan for special treats, you can alter your food intake around this time so that you don’t go overboard on unhealthy fat, sugar, or calories.
Set exercise goals.
Think about what the holiday season really looks like for you. You might be someone with few commitments, who only needs to alter your exercise routine for light travel right around the holidays. Or you might be a person with a packed schedule from Halloween to New Years. Plan your exercise accordingly and set goals for what you’d like to accomplish over the next two to three months. Make these goals achievable. It’s okay to drop your workouts to three 30-minute sessions for a few weeks. Maybe home videos are a better option than a trip to the gym. Set an exercise goal for each week and incorporate healthy, non-food rewards for when you achieve each.
Draft a schedule of your regular commitments.
Most people attend the same parties year after year and travel to the same family reunion. Get these commitments on your calendar and include other tasks like gift shopping and baking. Next, add your exercise sessions to the calendar. Add some longer workouts in the weeks before you know things will get busy. Follow that up with a list of options for how you will stick to healthy eating throughout the coming weeks.
Prepare make-ahead meals.
Often the problem with the holiday season isn’t that you indulge in high-calorie foods a day or two. It’s when this pattern lasts for several weeks that the pounds pile on. Save your splurges for special occasions and prepare healthy meals to have available when you are too busy to cook. Most foods will stay fresh up to two months in the freezer. Bean soups and stews, vegetable lasagna, vegetarian burgers, cooked poultry, and sauteed greens all freeze well and can be thawed for an easy, healthy meal when your schedule gets out of control.
Decide what you will skip.
It might be passing on the cookie tray in favor of a slice of pie, taking a break from an evening exercise class to squeeze in an early morning session, or eliminating a task that causes you stress every year. In order to enjoy a healthy holiday, you have to make trade-offs. Not having every dessert available will save you hundreds of calories. You may miss your regular workout group, but successfully completing your workout is better than skipping it at the last minute due to a schedule change. Some old traditions need to be let go to make room for new, healthier ones. Spend some time thinking about what you will cut out of your holiday season to make it healthier and happier.
Put the plan into action.
A healthy plan will do you no good if you fail to put it into action. Start now by making every meal a healthy one and sticking to your regular workouts. When the parties and commitments begin, you will have several weeks of healthy habits established going in. Use your calendar, set reminders on your smartphone, and ask friends and family for support. All of these steps will make a healthy holiday a natural part of your lifestyle.
A moderate amount of stress is motivating, but it can quickly increase and have a negative impact on health. While you can't always cut out stress completely, controlling stress and incorporating activities that reduce it are key to maintaining good health.
Find a Pet
From petting a dog to watching fish swim in an aquarium, animals have been shown to have a calming effect on humans. It doesn't have to be your pet, visit a neighbor or spend some time with the office cat. Research shows that as little as five minutes of interaction can lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Pets have also been found to improve heart health by reducing risk factors for heart disease, such as lowering blood pressure. Time with pets has also been found to decrease depression and lower anxiety.
Meditate for Five Minutes
Meditation doesn't take a big time commitment. Simple, deep breathing and clearing your mind for a few minutes can calm you. Regular meditation has been shown to lower heart rate, promote normal blood pressure, and reduce levels of stress hormones. It also helps to clear your mind, which can lead to creativity. Set a timer, sit quietly in a place with no distractions, breath deeply, and relax.
Think About Your Happy Place
A short meditation practice, called visualization, can distract you from a stressful situation and has been found to promote muscle relaxation. Thinking about a peaceful scene in nature or at the beach, or even picturing yourself accomplishing a goal, are all forms of visualization. Simply meditate on your personal happy place. If you don’t know where to start, guided visualization can help. Listen to a CD or find an app for your Smartphone. It only takes a few minutes and guided visualization has been found to decrease blood pressure and reduce levels of stress hormones.
Laughing is unlike other methods for reducing stress because it causes an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. As a result, an increase in breathing rate sends more oxygen to the muscles. It’s a response similar to what happens when you exercise. Once the laughing ends and your breathing and heart rate return to normal, you feel relaxed, refreshed, and energized.
Cooking more of your own food is one way to control what you eat. When you know how much salt, fat, and other ingredients are added, you can better track your intake to meet your fitness goals. While healthy cooking isn’t as complicated as it may seem, it is easy to fall into a few traps. These cooking mistakes may affect your view of healthy foods and prevent you from maximizing the nutritional value of your meals.
You don't experiment with reducing cooking oil
Follow the recipe the first time you prepare a dish. If it becomes a favorite, try experimenting. Many stovetop recipes for sautéed vegetables use two tablespoons or more of oil. While sometimes this is necessary, other recipes cook just fine with less, which will save you 120 calories per tablespoon you are able to reduce.
You salt before you taste
Many recipes save adding the salt for the final step, after the food is fully cooked. Do you toss in all the salt before giving it a taste? Everyone's preferences for salt are different, and as you decrease your sodium intake, it's likely that your taste buds will be happier with much less. Try adding half the salt suggested by the recipe, and then taste the food. You may find that extra salt isn’t necessary.
Your oven over-bakes
Sometimes the reason you don’t like a food is simply because it hasn’t been prepared correctly. Fish can easily over bake and become tough, roasted vegetables can cook unevenly, and cakes using fruit purees in place of fat or alternative flours can dry out. By getting to know your oven, you can work around these obstacles to make healthy foods that taste delicious. Calibrate your oven temperature and identify hot spots that tend to overcook food. You can learn to lower temperatures when necessary and rotate pans to always get the best results.
You don't weigh and measure
Unlike baking, cooking doesn’t always require an exact balance of ingredients, but a little too much freedom in your technique could mean extra calories. Adding oils and sauces to pans without measuring, not portioning out an appropriate serving of pasta, and tossing in extra toppings like nuts and seeds can cause your final dish to contain more calories than listed by your recipe. Use your measuring tools to ensure you don’t turn an otherwise healthy dish into a high-calorie meal.