teens holiday food healthy

Ensuring A Healthy Holiday Season

Ensuring A Healthy Holiday Season

Cari Coulter Thiede, RD, LD

Did you know that it’s totally possible to stick to a nutritious eating plan throughout the holiday season?  While this time of year may present additional challenges to a healthy lifestyle, by engaging in some pre-planning and establishing how you will address any challenges you may face, you can prevent yourself from getting off track.  To make the planning process simpler, here are some simple questions you can ask yourself, along with some possible “answers”.    

  1. How will my schedule/location change over the holidays?  Most young people will experience some major changes to their schedule over the holidays when school is out of session.  Many people are also traveling and staying for various lengths of time at different locations.  If your schedule or location is going to be altered at some point over the holidays, it is important that you prepare for the challenges that may accompany these changes.  Will it mean being more or less busy?  Will your access to food change?  You may need to plan to do some extra grocery shopping or to establish travel friendly meals and snacks.  You may need to investigate the food options at any places you will be visiting.
  2. Will my responsibilities around meals change over the holidays?  Are you used to eating prepared meals at school but will be responsible for making one or more meals and snacks while you are home during holiday break?  Or will you be traveling somewhere where another person will be responsible for making meals and you’ll have less decision-making power about what your food options are?  If you are going to start having to make meals you are not accustomed to making, consider researching some recipes or meal ideas and make sure you do some grocery shopping right away.  If you’re going to be staying somewhere, consider offering to bring food or go shopping while you’re there. 
  3. What kinds of holiday events/meals will I be attending?  Most people attend several gatherings during the holidays.  Getting as engaged as possible with the menu planning and food prep can help ensure that there are healthy options on hand during the meal or event.  A host will rarely turn you down if you offer to bring something!  If they do, and you know that the number of healthy options will be limited, consider how you will handle this.  Will you eat in advance instead?  Or, will you decide to eat what is offered and make the healthiest choices possible? 
  4. Will the weather impact my ability to stay active?  It can be difficult to stay active when it’s extremely cold and/or snowy outside.  You may also be used to getting physical activity at your school gym, which will not be accessible during holiday breaks.  Consider purchasing a short term membership at a gym at home (most will offer one for students).  Or, if you are going to be traveling, plan to stay active during your trip through vacation related activities or by finding alternative ways to exercise wherever you’re staying.  Gym memberships or online workout streaming services are great gifts to request!
  5. Do I have any holiday related traditions that do not support a healthy lifestyle?  Many of us are accustomed to focusing the holiday season around food, most of which is on the unhealthier end of the nutrition spectrum.  Consider modifying your traditional food or activity choices to ones that are more appropriate for your healthy lifestyle.  Instead of hosting a cookie exchange with your friends, consider asking everyone to bring a healthy holiday dish for everyone to try and exchange recipes for.  Or, instead of having a food themed get-together, consider inviting friends and family to do an activity that is not centered on food.  You can get everyone together to wrap donated presents for a children’s hospital or local shelter or to have a healthy breakfast before running a turkey trot.  These types of activities are fun, good for you, and even help others in your community!