Healthy Holidays

The holidays are a time for family, friends, food and great conversation, but what will you bring to the table? While you're gathered for the holidays, consider talking to your family about getting active and eating well. Reflecting on your health habits and making necessary changes can help you live longer and spend more time having fun with your family.

While it may seem impossible, you can eat healthy during the holidays. Eating healthier is one way you can boost your mood, have more energy and prevent or delay conditions such as type 2 diabetes. Try these tips for healthy holiday eating:

  • Make healthy food or ingredient swaps.
    • Swap fried turkey for grilled or roasted turkey.
    • When baking, choose a healthier flour like 100% whole wheat instead of all-purpose, bleached flour. You can also swap half of the oil in a baking recipe with unsweetened applesauce.
    • Make a green bean casserole but hold the casserole. Consider lightly seasoning and cooking your greens instead of baking them into a dish with cheese, butter and milk.
    • Add more fresh vegetables to your plate. Think about filling your plate with mostly vegetables but remember not to dress them up with too much sauce or butter. Consider seasoning with herbs and spices instead. 
    • Have fresh fruit for dessert.
  • Choose less processed foods and ingredients. Try including more whole foods (fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes) instead of processed foods. For example, swap the sweet potato casserole with marshmallow topping for roasted sweet potatoes sprinkled with spices like cinnamon and cloves.
  • More protein, lower carbohydrates. Your body digests protein slower than carbohydrates, making you feel fuller for longer and having less impact on your blood sugar levels. Try loading up on ham for more protein, and when you are going to eat carbohydrates, you can make low-carb swaps like mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes or a walnut-based stuffing instead of a bread-based stuffing.
  • Eat smaller portions. Instead of skipping your favorite foods, try eating smaller portions. You can prepare food in batches of individual portions or pack up leftover food soon after you’re done eating so you’re not tempted to go back for more. Using a smaller plate can also help you manage portion sizes.
  • Start a healthy recipe challenge with your family members. Find recipes that are low in sugar, carbohydrates, fat and/or processed ingredients and see who can make the tastiest one! You can learn new cooking techniques and get recipes from books, articles and videos.

Be sure to make time for physical activity during your holiday get-togethers, too. Start small by walking a little more or just moving around the house. Here's a few more ideas:

  • Take a walk or hike before and/or after a meal. It’s a great way to get some fresh air and have bonding time with loved ones. It also helps with digestion!
  • Park farther away. When prepping for the holidays, you may need to make several trips to the grocery store. This is a perfect opportunity to get moving by parking farther away from the store’s entrance.
  • Split the family into groups and do a lip-syncing dance contest. Show off your dance moves and get the body moving while lip syncing to your favorite songs.
  • Before the day ends, work together to clean up the house or yard to get ready for the next celebration. You may want to just lay back and let all that tasty food sit, but this is a perfect time to get up and get moving! Play some music and dance around while you clean up the kitchen or pick up the yard.
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