Stay healthy over the holidays with these expert tips

We talked to registered dietitians and a personal trainer to get their best tips for staying active and eating healthy over the holiday season.
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There's a certain lethargy that sets in during the holidays. Marathon Netflix sessions start winning out over workout sessions, your willpower dissolves when it comes to second helpings and, hey, what's one more cookie?

It's normal to indulge over the holidays, but it doesn't mean you have to turn into a sedentary glutton.

We talked to registered dietitians and a personal trainer to get their best tips for staying active and eating healthily over the holiday season.

Squeeze in movement

Exercising over the holidays doesn't have to mean hitting the gym. Walking briskly around a mall, vigorously cleaning the house or even parking at the edge of the mall parking lot can be great ways to squeeze in exercise when you're time-strapped over the holidays, says Nanci Guest, a personal trainer and registered dietitian based in Toronto.

Stick to your routine

Are you a morning runner? An avid squash player? An evening walker? Stick to your regular routine, says Abby Langer, a registered dietitian based in Toronto. This will help your body bounce back after indulgent holiday meals. But if you keep eating crap, be warned: exercise won't save you, she says. 

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Never eat sugar on an empty stomach

Sugary treats do a number on your blood sugars which, when they crash, leave your body jonesing for more quick sugar, says Desiree Nielsen, a registered dietitian based in Vancouver. If you want a cookie or candy, eat it after a meal, or at least have a handful of raw almonds first so you don't end up munching candy all day like a crazed sugar monster, she says. 

Eat what you love

Don't deprive yourself of the foods you love, says Langer. If grandma makes a delicious cake you look forward to all year, eat it! But, when it comes to the calorie-heavy items you don't even like — those ubiquitous bland Christmas cookies? Just say no, she says.

Be a healthy host

When you want to convince others to eat healthily, presentation is key.  Choose different coloured fresh fruits and vegetables and serve healthy yogurt based dips, says Mahsa Esmaeili, a Richmond Hill-based registered dietitian. Don't forget to serve foods people might actually be happy to eat. 

Choose beverages wisely

If you're going to drink alcohol, choose drinks that are lower in calories, such as white wine spritzers, light beer or creamy drinks made with almond milk instead of whipped cream, says Shauna Lindzon, a Toronto-based registered dietitian. Drink plenty of water — a good rule of thumb is to drink a glass of water between each alcoholic drink. 

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Carry snacks

If you're stuck at the mall, you're unlikely to have quick access to healthy options. Fight the temptation to buy French fries by carrying healthy snacks with you, says Esmaeili. Choose a high protein, low sugar protein bar, fresh fruit or a bag of trail mix. 

Be discerning at the buffet

When you approach the buffet table, take a look at everything available, said Guest. Then, pick your favourites and fill the rest of your plate with healthy options such as vegetables. Once you've done that, back away, otherwise you'll be temped to go back for more, she says. 

Forgive yourself

If you overindulge, move on, says Langer. There's no point beating yourself up for enjoying a big meal, nor is it a good idea to deprive yourself the next day. Instead, get back into a healthy eating and exercise routine the next day and realize that one rich meal won't cause you to pack on the pounds, she says. 

Katrina Clarke is a Toronto-based journalist who writes about relationships, health, technology and social trends. You can find her on Twitter at @KatrinaAClarke.