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Healthy Holidays: Staying Sane this Holiday Season

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Protecting our mental health and staying sane this holiday season is just as important as protecting our physical health. Physical and mental well-being always go hand-in-hand.

The holidays are a time filled with joy, love, laughter, and family, but the seemingly endless list of to-do's can leave you feeling stressed. Mental and physical stress can not only affect our joyful demeanor, but also directly impact our health.

Large amounts of stress start a series of reactions in the body that can alter our metabolism, change the way we digest our food, change our cravings for food, and cause us to hold on to extra weight, all while exacerbating any existing health conditions we may have. Stressful rushing around can cause us to forget to consider our health when eating, can cause us to eat out more often, and can often make us forget to eat at all!

It is so important, especially during this time of year, to keep stress levels under control and to make a conscious effort to eat wholesome healthy foods. You will be glad that you did! Try these easy tips & tricks in this next article of our "Healthy Holidays" series.

Tips:


Don’t sweat the small stuff
Oftentimes things happen that are beyond our control. Don't let the little stressors take you beyond your tipping point this season.

Get organized
Try making a master to-do list for the holidays, or multiple lists based on what you have going on (i.e. Christmas gifts to buy or make, foods that you are preparing for holiday meals, guests you are inviting to your holiday party, etc.). Try tackling ONE thing at a time on your list. Having things written down will ease your mind and relieve a lot of the burden. Try this great seasonal to-do list we found from Real Simple!

Take time for yourself this holiday season
Find the time in the day, if even for five minutes, to do something that makes YOU happy. Take a short walk down the block and back when you are between projects or chores. Maybe you need a few minutes to read a book or take a hot bath. These times will help you remain calm and stress-free and remind you what this time of year is all about.

Remember to BREATHE!
Deep breathing has been proven to physically reduce stress. If you feel your pot beginning to boil over, take two minutes to breathe deeply. Start by breathing all the way in, as deeply as you can. Hold that breath for two seconds and then very slowly release the breath. Release all of the air possible from your lungs and then start again. If you don’t feel relaxed after a few of these, it may be time to take a little break. Deep breathing will relax your body and again, and perhaps remind you that the season is not all about finishing that to-do list, but more about sharing love and memories with family and friends.

Stay hydrated and stave off hunger
Remember to get enough protein in the morning to get you through the day! Staying hydrated and fed will keep you energetic and mindful as you go about accomplishing your many tasks. Take the time in the midst of the chaos to be mindful of your hunger cues and pay attention to your water consumption. We usually feel as though we are mentally exhausted, but really we are just physically depleted. Remember to keep your water bottle filled and to stop to take snack breaks between projects. Some on-the-go snacks that will help you go the distance are: trail mix and mixed nuts, higher protein fruits like bananas, any dried fruits, string cheese, peanut butter, and regular or chocolate milk.

This season, Don’t be hateful, be grateful!

Stealth Health Cooking Tip:


Did you know that there is the equivalent of nearly seven packets of sugar in a single can of your favorite energy drink? Would you ever add seven packets of sugar to your morning cup of coffee? We didn’t think so.

Added sugars are the concentrated sweeteners that are included in most processed and refined foods. The consumption of added sugars makes us less likely to consume vital nutrients that our bodies need. Not only do these sugars displace our health, but they also cause chronic illness and diabetes when consumed over a lifetime. The average American consumes almost 16% of their daily calories in the form of added sugars!

The question is, "Where are these added sugars coming from?"

Most of the added sugar in the average American’s diet comes from beverages like soft drinks, energy drinks, and sports drinks. Also, it doesn’t have to be sweet to contain sugar! Condiments, sauces, dressings, and bread are also usually very high in added sugar.

It’s time to break the cycle!

Some greats tips to reduce your daily intake of added sugar are:

  • Read the ingredient list - Look for a short ingredient list where sugar is not near the top. Sugar can come in all different forms. Look for words like: “sugar”, “syrup”, “fructose”, and any word starting with “dex” (i.e. dextrin, dextrose).

  • Read the Nutrition Label - Let’s face it, most of us read nutrition labels, but don’t really understand what they mean. When analyzing sugar content use this quick trick. It will help you put into perspective how much sugar you will be consuming with each bite.


   4g sugar = 1 tsp sugar = 1 packet


 

Putting your servings in terms of packets may help you visualize the added sugar content of your food. This is a great tool!

  • Try “Unsweetened” - Items like canned fruit, non-dairy milks, oatmeals, and cereals may contain lots of added sugar. By purchasing the unsweetened option and adding your own natural sweetener at the table (like honey or whole fruit), you will dramatically reduce added sugars. Remember, the added sugars in products are usually very concentrated, so you are less likely to add as much sugar at the table.

  • Replace with Healthy Fats and Protein - To help curb those sugar cravings, try replenishing with foods that are high in healthy unsaturated fats and protein. These fats and proteins take time to break down and allow us to keep our full feeling for longer. These types of food will keep our blood sugar levels steadily rising and falling instead of the sharp and jagged jumps you see when snacking on sugary products. Nuts and seeds, avocados, hard-boiled eggs, and oatmeal are good options.

  • Get in the KNOW and learn to enjoy your desserts! - Learning to avoid sneaky added sugars will make you more aware of your general daily intake. Paying attention to those things will start you on a path to a healthier you! Making dessert a treat that you give yourself in moderation will make you more appreciative of how delicious it is! Learning to reduce your overall added sugar intake will make you feel good about indulging when the time is right.


 

Holiday Stealth Health Recipe:


Condiments and salad dressings can be sneaky contributors to our overall sodium and added sugar intake. Try these homemade recipes for your favorite dressings.

Homemade Ranch Dressing


Ingredients:

1 cup               milk or buttermilk
1 cup               light or olive oil-based mayonnaise
3/4 cup           nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1 tsp.               lemon Juice
1 tbsp.            ranch seasoning
Directions:

Thoroughly mix together all ingredients.

Refrigerate before serving. Use as a salad dressing or dipping sauce.

Dressing may keep for up to two weeks.
Ranch Seasoning Ingredients:

1 part               dried dill
1 part               black pepper
2 parts             salt
2 parts             onion powder
2 parts             garlic powder
4 parts             dried parsley

Make bulk seasoning and store in an air-tight container in a cool dark place. Use it conveniently to make more dressing as needed.

Basic Homemade Vinaigrette


Ingredients:

1 tbsp.             oil (olive, canola, sesame, walnut, almond, or a mixture of a few)
1 tsp.               vinegar (apple cider, white or red wine, balsamic, rice wine)
1/2 tsp.            sweetener (honey, agave, maple syrup, brown sugar, preserves or jams)
1/2 tsp.            mustard (ground, Dijon, spicy, honey)
2 pinches         herbs (thyme, basil, rosemary)
1 pinches         seasoning (salt, pepper, garlic, onion, paprika)
Directions:

Combine all of your desired ingredients into a small sealable container.

Shake to mix ingredients thoroughly before serving.

Can be refrigerated for up to three weeks depending upon ingredients.