Healthy Holidays for Your Military Family

Healthy Holidays
(Timothy D. Hughes/DVIDS)

​The end of the year can be a particularly stressful time for anyone, especially military families. As we juggle our social calendars, school breaks, time off work, visiting family and preparing (and recovering) from the holidays, healthy eating habits can get pushed aside. The shorter daylight hours and colder weather certainly don’t help either – it’s enough to drive anyone to overindulge in those Christmas cookies (originally meant for the neighbor. Oops!)

In my experience, these last few months have taken their toll. It all starts with the bottomless stash of Halloween candy and continues to the Thanksgiving feast and associated leftovers. For many, Hannukah celebrations are winding down, and Christmas is fast approaching ... which is followed by New Years, of course, and those pesky resolutions that never seem to stick. What to do?!

While your military family is dealing with the stresses and temptations of the holiday season, remember a few simple tips to keep your mind AND body sound!

Have your cake, and eat it too!

Food is a huge part of traditions and celebrating. I always tell my nutrition clients that food is meant to be enjoyed – especially on special occasions. It’s about WHAT you eat, and also HOW MUCH of it you eat. For example, my parents make the most delectable cranberry pecan cheesecake for Christmas. There are probably about a million calories in that sucker (rough estimate). Therefore, I take just a thin slice and enter my happy place, slowly enjoying every single bite.

By taking my time to concentrate on each delicious morsel, without distractions, I feel satisfied when I’ve finished just a small slice. You don’t have to swear off your favorite treats or completely offset your health-related goals by diving head-first into temptation. Instead, try this technique, also known as intuitive eating. It just wouldn’t be the holidays without your favorite indulgence – especially if you’re flying thousands of miles to get a slice of that pie!

Party smart.

Holiday and New Year parties are everywhere you look. Everyone from the FRG, spouse clubs, friends, family and neighbors are hosting parties ... and any good party provides an abundance of food and drink. To keep in line with your health goals while also enjoying yourself (while avoiding insult to the host/hostess by ignoring her culinary efforts), try eating a healthy, high-fiber snack before the party. For example, try some yogurt with granola, an apple, or a handful of nuts. This works great for kids, too! That way, you won’t be STARVING by the time you see all the tempting sweet and salty treats (causing potential overindulgence); instead, it’ll be easier to nibble on a smaller portion of hors d'oeuvres.

Also, holiday cocktails should definitely be enjoyed, but it helps to keep track of how many you have. This goes beyond just curbing calories; it’s always a good idea to have your wits about you when you’re chatting up your spouse’s chain of command! For more party tips, check out this article written by another dietitian.

Plan ahead to snack happy. 

At times the holidays bring out the worst in us. With all the kids out of school and rampant shopping procrastination (I’m guilty) everything is bound to be a bigger hassle and take more time. It's a fact that everything is worse when you’re dehydrated and hangry. You know what I’m talking about). So whether you’re fruitlessly searching for the perfect gift for your father-in-law, waiting in line with your overly excited little ones to see Santa or fighting for that last parking spot at the mall, it’s a good idea to always have water and food handy. String cheese, crackers, granola bars, or some fruit make for great, portable mood-boosting fuel. That way, you can keep your cool while avoiding starvation or the temptation of those fragrant soft, buttery pretzels nearby. Are your spirits are being dampened by the hangry people around you? In the true spirit of the holiday, offer them a snack, too!

Now that we’re looking great in our Christmas outfits, let’s make sure we don’t burst any of the buttons! I kid, I kid. All joking aside, I wish you a very happy (and healthy) holiday season!

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