If you’re looking for healthy holiday tips for seniors, you’ve come to the right place. Overindulgence is common during the holiday season, and many revelers enter the New Year a few pounds heavier, vowing to lose the weight with newly-formed resolutions.
Instead of trying to recover from holiday habits in the new year, you can be proactive about healthy eating this holiday season. Read on for the top healthy holiday tips for seniors from Amy Batti, a registered dietician with Chicago Methodist Senior Services.
Tip #1: Bring on the Vegetables
“As a dietician, vegetables are kind of my jam. So, I have to plug them wherever I can,” Batti says.
If you know there will be no vegetables served at your holiday dinner, you may want to consider bringing a healthy appetizer or vegetable side dish to the festivities.
Tip #2: Eat Your Veggies First
Before you enjoy the roasted turkey, glazed ham, savory stuffing and sweet potato pie, have a serving of vegetables. This makes sure you eat your veggies before becoming too full. Because vegetables tend to be high in nutrients and fiber, they are a winning combination for overall health.
Tip #3: Savor Each Bite
It takes about twenty minutes for your brain to get the signal that you are full. Remembering to pace yourself and savor each delicious bite means you’re more likely to stop when you have had enough.
Tip #4: Assess Your Fullness
Batti recommends asking the question throughout your meal, “Am I still enjoying this?” If yes, continue to eat. If the answer is no, you also have the option to take a break and reevaluate the need for more later on. “Some [people] even set a timer for thirty minutes and see if they are up for more when the timer goes off,” explains Batti.
Tip #5: Eat Regular Meals
While it’s a popular strategy for holiday eating, skipping breakfast and lunch to “save” all your calories for dinner typically leads to overeating. Instead, Batti recommends eating a balanced breakfast with fiber in the form of fruits and vegetables and a light lunch.
Tip #6: Eat What You Love
Most of us find it extremely easy to eat something just because it’s there. Try to be picky with your holiday dinner. Focus on only eating the foods you truly enjoy and skip the foods you’re not crazy about. And, don’t eat something just because it’s a “holiday” food.
“If eggnog doesn’t excite you, just skip it,” Batti advises.
Tip #7: Balance Cocktails with Water
If you’re going to imbibe, balance your alcohol intake by drinking water in between. This will ensure you stay hydrated and don’t get overly intoxicated. You can also slash alcohol calories by using seltzer water as a mixer for hard liquor.
Tip #8: Resist the Food Coma
After a heavy meal, it’s tempting to take a snooze on the couch. Batti says, “Get your walk on!” Walking is one of the healthiest habits you can have during the holidays. Studies show that taking a brisk 15- or 20-minute walk after a meal helps ease digestion and stabilizes blood sugar levels.
Tip #9: Embrace Winter Activities
In addition to walking, Batti recommends other healthy holiday tips for seniors, like participating in winter activities such as sledding, skiing or ice skating. These are things the entire family can enjoy. Even more laborious “chores” such as shoveling snow have a positive effect in terms of calorie burn and working your muscles.
Tip #10: Enjoy Dessert
There will likely be endless assortments of cakes, cookies, pies and other sweets at your holiday meal. If you want to taste every dessert in attendance, consider having a small sampling of each.
“Dessert is a beautiful thing,” Batti says. “Enjoy it, just be being mindful while eating it.”
Tip #11: Ditch the Guilt
Healthy holiday eating can make people anxious, but Batti advises not getting too worked up. This should be a time of celebration and also relaxation.
“If you do happen to eat more than planned during the holiday season, don’t beat yourself up,” she says. “More importantly, don’t let a slip become a fall. If you do go overboard, don’t get stuck in a food rut. Try to get back to your healthy eating habits as soon as you can.”
Bonus Tips for People with Diabetes
Batti encourages people with diabetes to eat as close to the times they’re accustomed to eating in order to keep blood sugar steady. If the meal is served later than normal, eat a small snack at the usual meal time and then eat a little less when lunch or dinner is served.
“I do encourage avoiding or limiting alcohol,” Batti says. “If you do have an alcoholic drink, I recommend having it with food. Alcohol can lower blood sugar and interact with some diabetes medications.”
Listen to an interview on healthy holiday tips for seniors with Amy Batti, a registered dietician with Chicago Methodist Senior Services,here.