Five Tips for Keeping Up Your Healthy Holiday Routines this Christmas

Healthy holiday routines

‘Tis the season to relax, unwind and recoup. But it’s also the season of festivity and food, often lots of food.

You’ve worked so hard all year on your families’ health and wellbeing goals and suddenly temptation is everywhere. Parties, travel, and much needed downtime disrupt your families’ routines, and what’s more, this often goes on for weeks. You may be asking yourself; how do you maintain healthy holiday routines when everyone around you seems to be indulging?

Here are five tips to help keep you and your family on track this festive season.

1. Have a food plan

Christmas holidays are often full of extra family and social events, which means lots of opportunities to eat. It’s normal in many cultures for large quantities of food to be served at social events, and often, these aren’t necessarily the best foods for you.

So your family needs a plan that allows you to go out and have fun, while not undoing all the good work you and your children have done throughout the year. Try these simple tricks:

  • Eat close to your normal mealtimes. This will keep your blood sugar steady. This is especially important for children; hungry children often struggle to regulate their emotions and behaviour and that’s no fun when you are out and about.
  • If you know your meal will be served later than normal, have a small healthy snack at your usual mealtime and eat less when your meal is served.
  • Ask to bring a healthy dish to share when invited to a party.
  • Don’t fast for a feast – that is to say, don’t skip a meal so you can eat more when you are out. You’re more likely to overeat, so it will be harder to manage your satiety (hunger urges) .
  • Eat as mindfully and slowly as possible, starting with your vegetables and making sure you have enough protein in your meal - plant or animal proteins.

It takes at least 20 minutes for your brain, through hormonal messages from your gut, to realise you’re becoming full. Finishing eating a meal in 10 mins or less just leads to continued feelings of hunger and extra calories your body probably doesn’t need.

Remember, eat till you are satisfied rather than full. For you to appreciate this feeling of satiety really requires you and your child practicing slow mindful eating with the “20 minute rule” to finish main meals. Eating main meals together as often as possible around the dinner table sets up these healthy family mindful eating habits.

If you slip up when you’re out, remember it’s not the end of the world. Reset and get right back into your healthy holiday routines with your next snack or meal.

2. Keep your body moving every day

This time of the year is busy for many families, and it’s easy for physical activity to be bumped off the to-do list. However, being physically active is a great way to cope with all the extra pressures of the holiday season as it’s been proven to help reduce stress.

Meeting your daily recommended levels of exercise for adults (30 minutes) and children (60 minutes) has significant health benefits as it:

  • Prevents and helps manage type 2 diabetes, heart disease and blood pressure issues
  • Helps manage blood sugars in type 1 diabetes
  • Reduces the risk of developing some cancers
  • Reduces symptoms of depression, anxiety and improves sleep
  • Strengthens muscles and bones and your general physical fitness
  • Improves coordination and balance
  • Helps in losing or maintaining weight

Getting more active not only benefits your health and wellbeing, but it also brings societal, environmental, and economic benefits.

When you choose to walk to the shop with your kids instead of taking the car, you’re helping not only your family, but also the environment.

Getting more physical activity in your day doesn’t have to be all about walking around the block with your children trailing along behind you either. Try mixing it up by:

  • Having an after-dinner lounge family fun dance party or gentle yoga stretch session together
  • Doing household chores together and making it fun for all
  • Playing fetch with your dog in the backyard or nearby park
  • Having a quick game of soccer or touch football or backyard cricket

Sitting down at night after dinner and planning where you could incorporate active movement into your day is an easy way to stay on track and maintain your healthy holiday routines.

3. Catch up on some sleep

Sleep is a crucial part of the day, allowing your body and mind to rest and repair. It’s as important as having a balanced healthy diet and getting enough daily physical activity. However, in today’s busy world, getting a good night’s sleep is often overlooked.

When you’re getting enough sleep, keeping up with the demands of the holiday season is so much easier for both you and your children. So how much sleep does your family need?

As a rough guide:

  • Pre-schoolers should be aiming for 10–13 hours’ sleep a night
  • Primary school children should be getting about 10 hours
  • Older children at least nine hours
  • Adults should aim for eight hours a night

Consistently getting enough sleep helps:

  • Improve depression and anxiety symptoms
  • Prevent some cancers
  • Prevent obesity and diabetes
  • Prevent or manage heart and blood pressure issues
  • Improve memory, focus and mood

If you want to maintain your holiday routines, then sleep is your secret weapon, but ensuring you and your child are getting enough sleep takes a bit of forward planning.

It’s a good idea to think about your day in advance and consider what time you and your little one will be getting to bed. If they are going to be up late because of a family dinner, avoid booking an early morning appointment. That way, everyone can stay in bed a bit longer the next morning.

4. Reach for your water

During the holiday season, it’s often tempting to quench your thirst with a bottle of soda (or beer for adults), but good hydration is the cornerstone of achieving healthy holiday routines. When you’re well hydrated, your:

  • Skin is healthier
  • Digestion is improved
  • Bowels move better
  • Blood carries more oxygen
  • Snacking is reduced

Exercise, general movement, and even focusing on tasks are far easier when you have enough water in your system. However, with the increasing popularity and availability of bottled beverages and coffee, water is often overlooked, and many of us are dehydrated without even knowing it.

Observing the colour of your urine will tell you if you are drinking enough water, the darker yellow colour means you or your child needs to be drinking more water.

Recent studies show most adolescents and adults need at least 2 -2.5 litres of water a day (more in warmer than colder months), and for younger children, about 1.5 litres a day. A significant part of our daily water intake comes from the food we eat too.

Most bottled beverages are high in sugar or other additives and contain little, if any, nutrition. Drinking bottled beverages regularly can make you more prone to dehydration and weight gain. While having these drinks may be part of your daily ritual, if you want to stay on track for your health and wellbeing goals, ditch your bottled beverage for a glass of cold water. You will enjoy the health benefits, and your bank account will thank you too.

5. Know your hooks

Hooks are triggers that take you off track from your journey to health. Around the holiday season there tends to be more hooks than any other time of the year. This is partly because the Christmas holiday season is so long compared to others, but also because it generally involves lots of social events.

Do you:

  • Struggle to avoid that second helping if others are having some?
  • Eat when you’re tired, bored, or stressed?
  • Tell yourself this week is too busy for exercise?
  • Get stuck watching TV late at night because there is no work tomorrow?

Chances are you’re struggling with a hook. Knowing your families’ hooks, and what weakens your resolve is essential if you want to keep on track for meeting your health and wellbeing goals.

It’s a good idea before you enter the holiday season to sit down and make a list of some of the hooks you know are detrimental for your family. You can then plan to avoid these situations or deal with them when they arise.

Need help keeping your healthy holiday routines on track?

At Childhood Obesity Prevention, we understand how challenging it can be to maintain healthy practices when your daily routine is disrupted. We can help you stay on track and reach the health and wellbeing goals your family has been working towards. We have a range of support options available to suit your family, from self-guiding your journey to healthier eating habits with our book Ride to Life, through to personal consultations.