Five Holiday Tips to Stay Healthy and Budget-Conscious

Healthy Holiday in Christmas and New Yearby Emily Newhook

It’s easy to let yourself go during the holidays: shelling out to expedite last-minute gifts, overspending on specialized holiday recipes and eating anything shaped like a Christmas tree for two months can take a serious toll on your health and your bank account.

Financial and dietary shortcuts often go hand-in-hand, especially as our normal standards for well-being bow to hectic holiday schedules.

We make excuses, pledge to resolve our dwindling checking accounts or faltering diets via strict New Year’s resolutions, and spend the entire month of January recovering.

Here’s how to make sure your wallet and your personal health remain intact through the New Year.

1. Merge Fitness and Family Time:

Plan a family-wide scavenger hunt to get your loved ones off the couch, or take in neighborhood Christmas lights on a group walk rather than piling into the car.

Research free holiday celebrations in your area – tree lighting ceremonies, festivals, etc. – and then coordinate activities around those.

If you’re an avid fitness lover, urge your family to participate.

Crazy about yoga? Run a mini-class on Christmas morning. Maybe your uncle is a die-hard crossfitter; have him lead a short workout of the day or body-weight circuit right before dinner.

This is also a great way to share parts of your everyday life with family members you may not see much outside of the holiday season.

2. Create Healthy Homemade Gifts

Make holiday favors like layered recipes in a jar – think everything from soup to baked goods. These types of gifts are thoughtful, easy to make, and cheaper than commercial gifts because you can buy the ingredients in bulk.

Even better, you can tailor them to healthy recipes to ensure that your gift recipients eat well for the rest of the winter – minestrone soup, protein cookies or spice-rich quinoa dishes are all great options you can prepare en masse and on the fly.

3. Eat Like It’s the Holidays…on the Holiday:

The term “holidays” is plural, which can insinuate that any point in time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is fair game for eating whatever you want and letting exercise fall by the wayside.

Refrain from bundling this time into one big free-for-all, though – outside of parties and the holidays themselves, stick to your normal fitness routine and budgeting practices religiously.

Many people find that regular physical activity encourages them to eat healthier, if only because they need quality foods – not sugar cookies – to fuel their workouts more effectively. This goes for party days, too: if your company plans an extravagant lunch or cocktail party, have a nutritious, filling breakfast in the morning to curb your appetite.

4. Perfect a Single Recipe

Just because you’re headed to a million holiday parties doesn’t mean you need to craft just as many unique dishes.

Make it easy on yourself. Pick two simple, delicious recipes you love – one sweet, and one savory – buy the ingredients in bulk and prepare one every time a gathering rolls around. (This is especially helpful if you’re making something that utilizes one or two specialty ingredients – flour and sugar are pantry staples all year, but peppermint extract? Not so much.)

You’ll save money and become an expert at preparing one or two great dishes in the process. For dishes that require fruit or vegetables, try buying frozen – a recent study conducted by the University of Georgia revealed that some varieties of frozen produce actually pack more nutrients than their fresh counterparts.

If you’re not a kitchen wiz, buy a case of your favorite (affordable) wine –  a great backup plan whenever your holiday schedule calls for a last-minute party contribution.

5. Clean Out Your Fridge

Plenty of people close out the holiday season with cluttered cabinets full of half-used ingredients. If you’re headed straight to the grocery store from work – without time to check your reserves at home – you could end up buying ingredients you already own.

Alternatively, you might skip buying another carton of heavy cream – only to find that the one at home went bad a week ago.

Before the holiday craze sets in, throw out the rock-hard bag of brown sugar, take stock of your spice rack, and set items that are running low at the front of each shelf as a reminder to use and replenish them soon.

Organizing your kitchen will also give you a better sense of where everything is located, saving you precious time when you start throwing it all together.

(Emily Newhook  is a community outreach coordinator for MHA@GW at The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services. Outside of work, she enjoys writing, film studies and powerlifting. You can follow her on Twitter @EmilyNewhook.)

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We provide resources to eat and live healthy on a budget.

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