Even health nuts overdo it on pumpkin pie, after-dinner couch naps and “It’s a Wonderful Life” marathons this time of year, but a pair of ASU professors say a bit of planning and opportunism can help anyone have a healthier holiday season.
School of Nutrition and Health Promotion professors Jennifer Huberty and Christopher Berger share some tips with ASU Now from their areas of expertise to help you eat well, stay active and de-stress. Huberty specializes in yoga and mindfulness, and Berger’s focus is healthy air travel.
Here are their suggestions:
At the airport:
“Always bring food,” Berger said, noting that although airports have healthy options, it’s often easier for travelers who are in a rush and looking for something cheap to grab a snack that’s high in saturated fat and sugar.
He suggests durable foods, like citrus fruits and granola bars, and items that won’t get smashed in your suitcase or create a lot of weight.
Also, a little water goes a long way.
“It goes without saying, but stay hydrated,” Berger said. “When you get up to the altitude modern airliners fly at, the air is really dry. And there’s clearly a connection between perceptions of fatigue and being hydrated. You’re not just jet-lagged, you’re probably dehydrated.”
An easy way to feel like you’re still indulging without paying for it later?
“Make an effort to think about healthier alternatives to traditional recipes,” said Huberty, “especially in terms of fillings. There are lots of options for substitutions, and a good resource for that is Pinterest.”
And when it comes to leftovers, just say no.
“If you want to splurge on a traditional meal, don’t eat the leftovers. Eating that way for one day is not a big deal,” she said. “It’s the leftovers where the weight gain comes in.”
Huberty suggests cooking smaller quantities or donating leftovers.
At the airport:
In terms of a climate-controlled environment for moderate exercise, an airport is great, Berger said. Pack a pair of walking shoes and spend that layover burning calories. Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport, and many like it, even have designated walking trails.
“And you can always find room to stretch,” he added.
“When you have family at your house, or even if you don’t, stress can throw off your routine,” Huberty said.
But maintaining a healthy level of physical activity is key. She suggests making it a habit to take three, 10-minute walks every day when you have spare time. If you can’t seem to find any, encourage group walks after meals, or just get up a little bit earlier in the morning for a solo stroll.
Huberty is also a big proponent of yoga, which requires only enough space to move comfortably. (See the video below, in which she demonstrates some basic yoga poses that can be done anywhere, even by beginners.)
At the airport:
One thing there’s a lot of at airports: space. So if what you need is a couple minutes to yourself to maintain your sanity, Berger says to just “go find a gate that’s not being used.”
“It’s a great place to do yoga or meditate so you can be more relaxed for your flight,” he said.
Back at the ranch, Huberty says it’s important to take time out for yourself.
“Find a quiet room, spend some time alone and decompress,” she said.
Also, breathing exercises can help with relaxation and calming anxiety, and they can be done anywhere. There’s even a handful of apps for that.
Huberty also says yoga is as good for the mind as it is the body.
For those interested in accessing more yoga instructional videos, Huberty is a research partner with Udaya.com, which offers a library of more than 400 classes, fitness programs and health and wellness challenges. Use the coupon code ASUxUDAYA for a discount.