Step 1: Sidestepping Stress
For many students, finals week can be a stressful time balancing tests and end-of-the-year projects. Too often, maintaining a healthy lifestyle takes a back seat, and infrequent snacking or failure to eat full, rich meals becomes a habit. ASU Online Nutrition faculty member in the College of Health Solutions, Chrissy Barth, provides healthy hints for students navigating healthy living during stressful times. She notes that “being too busy to eat” is not the answer; students should never go four to five hours without food. Your brain needs food to perform at a high level when preparing for the end of a successful semester. Though rich in antioxidants and other benefits, several cups of coffee don’t count!
To cut sporadic snacking, Chrissy suggests eating at regularly scheduled intervals to avoid feeling ravenous later. Once on autopilot, students zoom past the point of feeling hungry and go straight to “hangry”, so preparation is key. Packing snacks for your library study session is a quick hack toward developing healthier habits.
Step 2: Satisfied, not Stuffed
Chrissy stresses to students the importance of eating mindfully; eating to satisfy hunger and not overindulge. Between entertaining family and prepping for dinner, often our first and only meal of Thanksgiving is a large feast with family and friends. By avoiding eating in preparation of the calories we plan to consume later, you can very easily fall into the trap of overeating during the holiday season.
Eating a series of smaller meals throughout the day, rather than fasting to feast, will prove beneficial for your body in the long run. Eating breakfast the morning of a large holiday meal kick-starts your body’s metabolism and prevents binging later. Exercising portion control is also a learned skill that aids in digestion and managing caloric intake.
Step 3: Seasonal Swaps
From squash and sweet potatoes to bell peppers and beets, the fall season is filled with a wide array of seasonal produce to choose from for nutritious, yet delicious holiday meals. Take advantage of the fall seasonal vegetables and ingredients by incorporating them into recipes as they’re a great way to mix up your typical diet, get good nutritional value from your meals, and make your holiday dishes more waistline-friendly.
In addition to their culinary use, the health benefits associated with seasonal spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, and turmeric span from improved digestion to inflammation reduction. Clove, for example, is widely known for its oral health benefits – providing pain relief and containing antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties for fighting oral infections, but also packs a punch in seasonal drinks like mulled wine. Ginger, on the other hand, works to digest your post-holiday meal and aids in fighting off infections, yet is most commonly known for its flavor used in teas and toppings. Sprinkling ingredients like these into dishes are seamless additions to seasonal recipes and work well to provide the nutrients our bodies need.
Swapping for seasonal favorites like these is a great way to stay on top of maintaining a well-balanced diet during the holiday season. Here are a few favorite swaps to try:
- Trade in fried turkey for grilled or baked (and try it without the skin – the process in which we cook and prepare traditional meals is just as important as the protein itself. Eliminate saturated fats and oils where you can!)
- Get good nutrients like calcium and Vitamin B by trying mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes
- Swap out green bean casserole for fresh brussel sprouts or green beans
- Scale down calories by swapping pumpkin for pecan pie - the latter is higher in sugar and carbohydrates
- Reduce your sugar intake by trying cranberry relish over cranberry sauce
- Save the sweets for dessert by trading the sweet potato casserole for a small baked sweet potato
Whether studying for finals week or heading home for the holidays, ASU Online encourages you to consider these expert-led tips this holiday and find your own health hacks to avoid falling into a rut this season. ASU provides several online degree Health and Nutrition-focused programs, including a BS in Food and Nutrition Entrepreneurship, BS in Community Health, BS in Health Education and Health Promotion, MAS in Health Informatics, MS in Nutritional Science (Dietetics), and more! ASU’s programming equips students with the skills necessary to successfully navigate nutrition, particularly around the year’s busiest times. Focus less on the post-holiday slump and more on the holidays’ true meaning.