The holidays can be stressful, especially when it comes to eating healthy. But before you let the holidays ruin your wellness plan, Cheryl Wooster of Balanced Bodies - an Asheville-based wellness company - offers advice for celebrating the holidays with a healthy mindset that includes some holiday indulgence, as well.
Wooster uses her health coach training with the School of Applied Functional Medicine, Institute of Integrative Nutrition, and Food Matters to combine functional medicine and health coaching to help people balance their health, increase energy, improve cognitive function and manage specific health needs.
“This time of year can be easier to get sick,” said Wooster. “Many people are eating inflammatory foods that they may not typically eat, and they don’t get optimal levels of nutrients. Often people are spending much more time indoors, during the winter months, as well… I encourage people to open up their windows for 30-60 minutes per day to cycle in fresh air. When we think of toxins we often think of factories or pollution from our cars. However, our homes are often full of chemicals and toxins. Think about cleaning supplies, personal care products, etc. Simply opening the windows for a bit of time each day helps to cycle out some of the toxins and bring in fresh air.”
Other recommendations Wooster makes for managing healthy habits during the holidays include:
1.) Set up dates with friends and family that aren’t alcohol and treat-centered. Think: Gentle hikes, walks, meeting for tea and enjoying each other’s presence and conversation.
2.) Turn off technology and spend time with your family. Limit your screen time - step away from Netflix and step into card games, dog walks, time with those you love.
3.) Keep healthy snacks accessible: Stock up on veggies and fruit and chop them right when you get home. Have avocados and hummus on hand for healthy dips and bites right at your fingertips.
4.) Make sleep your priority. This is when our bodies rest and repair and is one of the best ways to set yourself up for success in eating healthy and diminishing those cravings.
5.) Swap soda out for Zevia, Zevia out for Seltzer, and Seltzer out for Water. Wherever you’re at is fine, just start with what feels doable to you.
6.) Engage with people that lift you up. Laugh, smile and spend time with those that make you feel GOOD. The holidays can be stressful, so spend time with people that take away from that stress, not add to it.
7.) Aim to fill at least half of your plate with vegetables.
In addition to holiday health, maintaining health during the winter adds another layer of stress to the body.
“The winter months can greatly impact many people’s mood. This can be for many reasons - like the stress of the holidays, an abundance of festive gatherings filled with inflammatory foods and sugars that one may not typically eat and, most commonly, lack of exposure to sunlight, which results in low levels of Vitamin D,” said Wooster. “In the winter months, not only are we outdoors significantly less, but the sun is farther away in the sky making it harder for our body to absorb optimal levels of our friend, Vitamin D. It’s especially important to eat Vitamin D rich foods this time of year - such as wild caught salmon, mackerel, cod liver oil and eggs.”
Wooster recommends supplementing with Vitamin D3 over D2, in addition to increasing Omega 3s.
“The typical diet is high in Omega 6s, which are inflammatory, and low in Omega 3s, which are anti-inflammatory...Omega 3s are critical in reducing inflammation and can help with everything from improving cardiovascular health, arthritis, allergies, increasing poor cognitive function, treating digestive disorders, to depression.”
Whether you’re able to set down your phone and snack on vegetables alongside goodies, or spend more time outside absorbing Vitamin D and connecting with friends and families, just a few modifications throughout the season can help maintain balanced health during the holiday season and winter months.