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Happy and Healthy Holidays: How to have a great holiday and stay fit at the same time!

by Athletico2 Comments

The holiday season has arrived! I know I love the parties, family, and friends that make this one of the most fun times of the year.  That said, sometimes it’s hard enough to eat right and exercise under normal circumstances.  When you add holidays to the mix, many of us find exercise and a healthy diet going out the window. Let’s face it, very few of us keep up with our diet and exercise regimens perfectly while traveling and staying with family. At the same time, staying active and trying to maintain a healthier diet will give you energy, help reduce stress, and of course, help burn off some of the extra calories you may be eating.

How do I recommend you find that balance? Here are some simple things you can do/keep in mind to stay on track during this time of year.

Be the awesome guest!

  • Offer to bring things to the feast. (You don’t have to tell the hosts it’s undercover health food.  Below you will see some recipes that are delicious versions of typically high fat/calorie holiday favorites.)
  • Go sledding for some fun exercise!Help out in the kitchen and survey what is going to be served in advance.  That way, you can make a game plan of what’s a definite “must” and what’s kind of “meh.”  You won’t be crazy about everything that’s going to be served so save calories accordingly.
  • Play with the kids!  I take my niece and nephews sledding and they love it.  It’s a great hill/speed workout for you as well.  Plus, a 150 lb man will burn 468 calories an hour sledding.
  • If you are staying over, do chores.  You will be the host/hostess hero and get a great workout in simultaneously.  Here’s how many calories you would burn doing the following chores if you were a 150 lb man: shoveling snow for an hour: 414, heavy housework for an hour: 198, cooking for an hour: 180, walking the dog for an hour: 189.

Create new, fun and active traditions
Everyone’s family does things a little different on the holidays.  These differences can be stressful, or conversely, serve as an opportunity to create new ways to have fun together.

  • Find a new hiking or cross-country skiing trail for everyone to try.
  • Register for a race in the area you are visiting.  Most towns have holiday-themed 5k or 10k races. Registering as a family is a great way to get out and celebrate in a positive manner.
  • Most towns have an area that is decked out for the holidays.  Find out where that is and going walking and site-seeing together.

Sneak in your healthy habits when no one is looking! 
Not everyone is an exerciser, and some people do not react well to you wanting to get your workout done.  Here are some things you can do to avoid rocking the boat while sticking to your plan.

  • Drink water!Drink water!  Studies show people often confuse dehydration with hunger.
  • Carry healthy snacks with you and eat them before you arrive at the party starving. (i.e. apples, low-fat granola, a handful of almonds)
  • Resistance band workouts can be very challenging and are very portable.
  • Bring your favorite fitness DVD with you.
  • Wake up early! Most people sleep in during the holidays;I hit the running path. You will be surprised to see how many people are out there on Christmas morning.
  • Body-weight circuits in the yard or a local park work very well.
  • Speed walk at the mall.

Moderation and reframing expectations! 
As fun as the holidays are, they can be stressful.  Families grow in different directions and as much as you love them, you may not all be on the same page.  Here are some suggestions to help manage stress.

  • Drink moderately.  I try to drink at least a large glass of water for every alcoholic beverage.  You will become too full to drink more.
  • Accept food graciously.  Every family has the food pusher.   Accepting his/her offering doesn’t mean you must actually eat it.   At the same time, do not tell him/her that what they are offering is bad, unhealthy, etc.  No one likes the food police.
  • Thanksgiving is one meal.  If you eat too much, hit the reset button.  Do not spend the rest of your time regretting it.

Finally, the best gift you can give yourself and your family is the gift of your company. 
You will probably not eat or exercise how you normally do but this is not the end of the world!  Try to be active but do not be blind to the opportunities you have to see and enjoy your loved ones.  Even the Kenyans take down time so when they start gearing up for their next big race they are refreshed.  In parting, I would like to wish you all a great, joyous holiday season!

Healthy and Delicious Thanksgiving/holiday recipes below!!!

Smashed Potatoes with Goat Cheese and Chives
If you want to make the potatoes ahead, chill them and reheat just before serving, adding extra liquid to desired consistency. Stir in the chives just before serving. For a nice presentation, sprinkle additional chives over the top.

3 pounds peeled baking potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup (6 ounces) goat cheese
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives

1. Place potatoes in a saucepan, and cover with cold water to 2 inches above. Add 1/4-teaspoon salt; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until tender; drain. Return the potatoes to pan over low heat; add remaining 1-teaspoon salt and butter to pan. Mash the potatoes with a potato masher to desired consistency.

2. Add cheese and pepper to potato mixture; stir until cheese melts. Stir in milk; cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; stir in chives.

CALORIES 181 (32% from fat); FAT 6.5g (sat 4.1g, mono 1.9g, poly 0.2g); PROTEIN 8.9g; CARB 22.6g; FIBER 1.6g; CHOL 18mg; IRON 1.2mg; SODIUM 428mg; CALC 232mg.

Holiday Green Beans
2 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon
1 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed
2 teaspoons butter or stick margarine
3/4 cup thinly sliced shallots
2 tablespoons low-fat sour cream

Combine first 4 ingredients; set aside.

Steam green beans, covered, 5 minutes or until tender. Keep warm. Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add shallots; sauté 3 minutes. Stir in mustard mixture and green beans; toss well. Cook for 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Stir in sour cream, and remove from heat. Serve immediately.

Yield:  10 servings (serving size: 1/2 cup)

CALORIES 45 (29% from fat); FAT 1.5g (sat 0.8g,mono 0.5g,poly 0.1g); IRON 0.9mg; CHOLESTEROL 3mg; CALCIUM 33mg; CARBOHYDRATE 7.3g; SODIUM 185mg; PROTEIN 1.6g; FIBER 1.5g

Chipotle Macaroni and Cheese
1 (7-ounce) can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chiles, undrained
4 cups hot cooked elbow macaroni (about 2 cups uncooked)
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup 1% low-fat cottage cheese
1 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Cooking spray
3 tablespoons dry breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 350°.

Remove 1-teaspoon adobo sauce from can; set aside. Remove 2 chipotle chiles from can; finely chop to measure 1 tablespoon. Reserve remaining chiles and adobo sauce for another use.

Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add chopped chiles, onion, bell pepper, and garlic; cook 4 minutes or until onion is tender, stirring frequently. Sprinkle with flour; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium; add tomatoes. Cook 3 minutes or until thickened. Add reserved 1-teaspoon adobo sauce, pasta, cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, milk, Parmesan, and egg; stir to combine. Spoon pasta mixture into a 2-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray; top with breadcrumbs. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

Yield:  6 servings (serving size:  1 cup)

CALORIES 324 (24% from fat); FAT 8.5g (sat 4.6g,mono 2.4g,poly 0.6g); IRON 2.4mg; CHOLESTEROL 56mg; CALCIUM 307mg; CARBOHYDRATE 39.6g; SODIUM 756mg; PROTEIN 34.2g; FIBER 2g

Sausage-and-Herb Dressing
2 tablespoons butter or stick margarine
2 (4-ounce) links sweet Italian turkey sausage, crumbled
2 cups chopped onion
2 cups chopped fennel bulb
1/2 cup chopped celery
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 cups (1-inch) cubed French bread (about 1[1-pound] loaf)
1 cup thinly sliced green onions
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 375°.

Melt the butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add sausage; cook 4 minutes or until browned. Add chopped onion, fennel, celery, and garlic; sauté 8 minutes. Stir in broth and next 4 ingredients (broth through salt), scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Remove from heat. Stir in bread, green onions, and egg. Spoon into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375° for 35 minutes.

Yield:  13 servings (serving size: 3/4 cup)

CALORIES 166 (27% from fat); FAT 5g (sat 1.9g,mono 1.6g,poly 1g); IRON 2.1mg; CHOLESTEROL 36mg; CALCIUM 64mg; CARBOHYDRATE 22.5g; SODIUM 488mg; PROTEIN 7.8g; FIBER 2g

Brined Maple Turkey with Cream Gravy
8 quarts water
3/4 cup kosher salt
3/4 cup maple syrup
3 tablespoons black peppercorns
8 garlic cloves, crushed
1 lemon, thinly sliced

1 (12-pound) fresh or thawed frozen turkey
1 cup cola
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
1 tablespoon dried rubbed sage
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 onions, quartered
Cooking spray

1 (14 1/2-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

To prepare brine, combine first 6 ingredients in a large stockpot, stirring until salt dissolves.

To prepare turkey, remove and reserve giblets and neck from turkey. Rinse turkey with cold water; pat dry. Trim excess fat. Add turkey to pot, turning to coat. Cover and refrigerate 24 hours, turning occasionally.

Preheat oven to 375°.

Bring cola and 1/2 cup syrup to a boil in a small saucepan; cook 1 minute.

Combine thyme, sage, seasoning, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Remove turkey from brine, discarding brine; pat dry. Starting at neck cavity, loosen skin from breast and drumsticks by inserting fingers, gently pushing between skin and meat. Rub thyme mixture under loosened skin; sprinkle inside body cavity. Place 4 garlic cloves and onions in body cavity. Tie ends of legs together with twine. Lift wing tips up and over back; tuck under turkey.

Place turkey on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Insert a meat thermometer into meaty part of a thigh, making sure not to touch bone. Bake at 375° for 45 minutes. Pour cola mixture over turkey; cover with foil. Bake an additional 1 hour and 45 minutes or until thermometer registers 180°. Remove turkey from pan, reserving drippings for gravy. Place turkey on a platter. Cover loosely with foil; let stand 10 minutes. Remove twine. Discard skin.

To prepare gravy, while turkey bakes, combine reserved giblet and neck and the broth in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes. Strain mixture through a colander into a bowl, discarding solids.

Place a zip-top plastic bag inside a 2-cup glass measure. Pour pan drippings into bag; let stand 10 minutes (fat will rise to the top).

Seal bag; carefully snip off 1 bottom corner of bag. Drain drippings into broiler pan, stopping before fat layer reaches opening; discard fat. Add broth mixture. Place broiler pan on stovetop over medium heat, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Combine milk and cornstarch in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk; add to pan. Bring to a boil; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Strain gravy through a sieve into a bowl. Discard solids. Stir in 1/4-teaspoon salt and 1/4-teaspoon pepper.
Yield:  12 servings (serving size: 6 ounces turkey and about 1/4 cup gravy)

CALORIES 375 (25% from fat); FAT 10.5g (sat 3.6g,mono 2.5g,poly 2.8g); IRON 3.6mg; CHOLESTEROL 140mg; CALCIUM 91mg; CARBOHYDRATE 15.7g; SODIUM 809mg; PROTEIN 51.7g; FIBER 0.2g


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  1. Tom

    Sooo easy to take a month off, eat way too much, and wait until after the holidays to start again. Thanks for the reminder to stay on track!

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