People often ask, “How important is it to maintain some kind of routine over the holiday season?” Eating well, getting enough sleep and keeping active is always important but it becomes even more so during the holidays. Holiday parties, children’s activities and shopping make the holidays a busy time. It is easy to become tired, stressed out and run down. Maintaining a routine can help to prevent burnout and keep the holidays festive. Read on for strategies for navigating the holidays.

Navigating Food
While it may be tempting to skip lunch to “save calories for later,” it is not a good idea. Skipping meals can lead to overeating later in the day. Hunger can make you irritable, tired and moody and does not help you feel “festive.” It is important to maintain a steady energy supply by eating small nutritious meals and snacks every two to three hours. Meals and snacks that contain lean protein, healthy fats and whole grains will keep you feeling satisfied longer and can prevent binging on less nutritious options. Eating small regular meals is especially important for children with smaller tummies and greater energy needs. Maintaining a healthy diet can also help boost your immune system and fight off infection.

The holidays should be enjoyed and that means sometimes overindulging in treats. Don’t beat yourself up if you “slip up” and have a few too many mincemeat tarts for your own good. Healthy eating is about moderation, not deprivation. If you do indulge, enjoy it and move on. Get up and get moving the next day and you will find it easier to return to your usual healthy routines.

Navigating Fun
The busyness of the holidays can make keeping active more challenging. Children and adults alike will feel better and more energized with fresh air and fun play. Make some time for active and fun play every day. This might include going for an after-dinner walk to see the lights, having a snowball fight, sledding, going for a hike or bike ride, spending an afternoon swimming or skating at the rec centre or getting the kids together to rake up then jump in leaves. Having fun while being active is a wonderful way to instill fitness into your family’s everyday living.

Navigating Sleep
Evening events, the excitement of the holidays and opportunities to sleep-in make keeping to your usual sleep/wake routine challenging. We all know the fall-out of a poor night’s sleep! Aim to keep your children’s bed and wake times within 30 minutes of their usual time. This will keep you and your children well rested and make it easier to get back into your usual routine in January.

Navigating Spending
It is easy to get wrapped up (pun intended!) in holiday spending. The average Canadian spends approximately $800 on presents alone (not counting grocery bills, host gifts, wrapping paper, postage and parties). Stave off overspending by first figuring out what you can afford versus what you think you need to spend, consider making homemade gifts, give the gift of your time or talent, or organize a get-together in lieu of store-bought gifts.

However you and yours celebrate the holidays…eating well, being active and getting enough sleep is a gift we can give ourselves.

Areli Hermanson, RD, is a mother of two busy, lovely boys. She looks forward to spending time with family and friends over the holidays and throwing several snowballs at her kids.
Jane Barclay, RD, is a mother of two almost-adult children. She will be working on finding balance and routine with her own family over the holidays.