Dr. Aaron's Blog

Staying Healthy over Christmas

December 9, 2014 All by Aaron Van Gaver


The Christmas season consists of several weeks of goodies and treats culminating with an abundant feast at the end of the month. The increased consumption of sugary, rich deserts and dishes, as well as alcoholic beverages can negatively impact your health. It is a hard time of year to abstain from sampling gingerbread treats at work or avoid that eggnog latte. However, there are few simple ways to maintain a healthy body and avoid gaining a few pounds over the next month. These include your food choices and cooking practices as well as a few exercise tips.

When it comes to food, it may feel overwhelming to change how you approach your Christmas dinner. It does not have to be! If you are planning on cooking or baking yourself, try incorporating more green vegetables into your meal such as Brussels sprouts (a Christmas favourite for many), or any of collards, spinach, or kale. Avoid the typical mashed potatoes, and instead use sweet potatoes or yams. These are less sugary and won’t spike your blood sugar. Roasted vegetable dishes are a delicious addition to a Christmas feast and can include mushrooms, zucchini, yams, and squash. Mushrooms can support your immune system and squash contains many vital nutrients. If you insist on the traditional stuffing use whole grain bread over white and use coconut oil for sautéing.

If you are attending a dinner, avoid large amount of mashed potatoes or completely abstain. Try to choose one dessert. If you simply cannot decide between pecan and pumpkin pie, take a little of each instead of two full helpings. If you know that your grandma believes the only vegetable is potato, offer to bring something like Brussels sprouts.

If these are just too many details, keep one thing in mind – make your meals colourful!

Food is only one piece of the puzzle. When it comes to staying healthy over the holidays, exercise and body movement is key. I know it’s tempting to relax with a bag of chips and Netflix, but even going for a 20minute walk each day can make a world of difference. It may seem like there is no time, so when you are at your family dinner suggest a walk to catch up with relatives as opposed to staying seated in the living room. We are fortunate in Vancouver to enjoy temperate weather throughout the holidays. We do not have the excuse of -20C weather to stay inside.

Finally, as mentioned in the Huffington Post article, take the time to eat each meal. Try not to multitask work with breakfast or lunch. This can be tempting especially at such a busy time of year, but I encourage you to enjoy a few minutes uninterrupted to enjoy your meal. This can greatly improve your digestive processes.

While it may seem daunting to maintain a healthy weight throughout the holiday season when you are inundated with festive food and drink, take a few of these minor steps to keep your body balanced.