THE BLOG
12/04/2014 12:48 pm ET Updated Feb 03, 2015

10 Easy Ways to Make Your Holidays Healthier

Ariel Skelley via Getty Images

The holidays are here, and with them come a plethora of opportunities to indulge. Sweets, rich goodies, and overeating are common throughout wintertime celebrations, and guilt all-too-often becomes a constant companion (not to mention indigestion, heartburn, sluggishness, gas, and a host of other issues!).

As you find yourself surrounded by temptation, it's not unusual to doubt that it's even possible to be healthy through the holiday season. Diets are sure to fail and your usual healthy habits are disturbed by holiday activities, so what are you to do?

Here are 10 easy ways to make your holidays healthier:

1. Go for a walk before each big meal.
One of the most important things you can do to stay healthy is to keep your body moving throughout the holidays.

Even if you are visiting family, are far away from your gym, or your routine is messed up and your motivation is lacking, make it a priority to bundle up and get outside. Going for a brisk 20 minute walk at least once a day will move your blood, raise your metabolism, and keep endorphins circulating.

And if your family stresses you out, going for a walk is a great opportunity to gain some clarity and time for yourself, or you can take someone with you and enjoy quality time together.

2. Take small helpings, and forgo getting thirds.
I don't know about you, but no matter how much I've eaten I always have to get a second helping. To avoid eating past your limit, take less of what you want to begin with so you have room to indulge in second helpings.

Refrain from getting thirds, and don't forget to save room for dessert! It's better to have room for dessert than to force more food into your stomach when you're not really hungry. This strategy will satisfy your urge to be gluttonous without pushing you too far past your limit.

3. Fill your plate with a variety of food, mostly colorful vegetables.
Instead of gorging yourself on turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes, aim to have about two-thrids of your plate filled with colorful savory vegetables like Brussels sprouts, squash, green beans, and beets. This way you'll enjoy your favorite dishes while still getting the many beneficial nutrients you need to feel your best.

4. Be mindful and grateful while you eat.
Focusing on the way your food looks, smells, tastes, and feels while you eat it will allow you to truly enjoy your meal so your cravings will be satisfied. Paying attention to your food as you eat will also slow down your consumption so you can enjoy it for longer, eat just the right amount, and digest better, too.

5. Don't starve yourself before big meals.
Eating regular small meals before a feast will keep your metabolism steady and prevent you from overeating due to starvation. You'll also be able to more fully enjoy the flavors of the food when you're not in survival mode from deprivation.

6. Drink at least one full glass of water between every other beverage you consume.
Remember to drink water you keep your body hydrated. Drinking a glass of water between other beverages will also help ensure that you don't consume too many excess calories from alcoholic or sweet drinks, in which you're more likely to overindulge when you are thirsty.

7. Eat Bitter.
We enjoy many flavors during our holiday meals, but the one very important flavor that is lacking in our diets is bitter.

Bitter foods like raddichio, burdock, chickory, and dandelion greens help kick-start your digestive juices so your GI tract is more ready to handle the rest of the food you're going to consume.

If you don't want to eat bitter foods there are also many herbal products on the market which can help improve your digestion. Dandelion, burdock, angelica, and fennel-seed tinctures are good options, as are pre-made bitter mixtures. Just take two dropper-fulls of a bitter tincture 30 minutes before a meal and you're ready to go!

8. Laugh. A lot.
Laughter can burn a lot of calories and strengthen stomach muscles.

Also, you'll feel great with the endorphins that kick in from a good hearty chuckle, and you'll bring joy to those around you if you can stay lighthearted when holiday stress sets in. Lastly, if you are feeling happy you will be less likely to seek comfort from food, keeping you in control of your consumption.

If you don't feel like laughing, at least smile whenever you can. Sometimes we have to smile first and allow the emotions to follow afterward.

9. Choose the more nutritious dessert options.

There are many desserts available this time of year, but some choices are better than others. It is wise to eat less of the flour and sugar-heavy desserts and instead enjoy the desserts that are made with less processed ingredients, like sweet-potatoes or pumpkin-pie that is made from scratch.

You don't have to cut out the sweets altogether, but aim to enjoy the more nutritious alternatives about 80 percent of the time you do decide to indulge.

10. Treat your cold before it takes hold.
If you feel a sniffle coming on, take measures to combat it before you get really sick. Elderberry syrup, ginger tea, and garlic are great remedies to support your immune system when you have a cold or flu.

Additional immune-boosting techniques include eating extra vegetables, avoiding processed foods, getting plenty of rest, and using the wet-sock treatment when you are starting to feel run down.

Use these 10 strategies and you'll be sure to enjoy one of the healthiest holiday seasons ever. May your celebrations be relaxing, joyful, healthy, and abundant!