8 healthy hacks for Hanukkah

Living Well

This week, people around the world will be celebrating Hanukkah with family, food and fun. But during this 8-night festival of lights, it's important that fitness doesn't take a holiday, either! Let's go through a few tips to making your happy Hanukkah a little healthier, as well!

TIP #1: Bake those latkes instead of frying them

What would the holiday be without latkes - crispy, golden-brown potato pancakes fried in oil? Now, while the frying oil is used to honor the traditional Hanukkah story about the miracle of the oil in the temple, we're going to mix things up. Instead of frying those pancakes, why not try baking them?

To get the same texture, place them on a baking sheet and brush with light oil -- we still need to honor the miracle, after all! After 15-20 minutes (turning once for all around crispiness), you'll have amazing latkes, with way less fat.

If you really want to push the envelope, try making vegetable latkes to get some added nutrients. Here's a recipe we love from Kosher.com.

TIP #2: Sneak in a workout with HIIT!

Family celebrations can cut into your workout routine. To get in your daily sweat, grab a short window of time (15-20 minutes) and perform a high intensity interval training (HIIT) workout. Studies show that HIIT workouts can burn just as many, if not more, calories as continuous longer runs.

These workouts consist of short interval cycles of intense activity bursts, followed by less-intense aerobic activity. Examples include alternating sprints with walks/lower-paced runs.

TIP #3: De-stress to digest

Sometimes holidays bring on stress. When the body is under stress – the "fight or flight" system kicks into gear slowing down digestion. To avoid that "pit in your stomach" feeling after eating too much, take a few breaths to help de-stress post-meal.

One technique recommended by experts is a breathing exercise where you inhale for a four-count, hold for seven counts, then breathe out for eight counts. Do this 3-4 times, then see if you're a little more relaxed throughout your body. If that doesn't do the trick, there's no shame in admitting you overate, and getting a little help from an antacid.

TIP #4: Get stretching!

To avoid those achy tired feet from standing and visiting relatives this holiday get stretching! Before stepping out to your celebration, grab a step and stretch your calf! Stand tall holding onto the handrail with the balls of your feet on the edge of a step and drop the heels down to feel a stretch along your calf. Hold for 30 seconds, then relax.

(Of course, if your feet remain tired and achy, perhaps FSA-eligible insoles can help, too!)

TIP #5: Stay hydrated

Parties can leave you a bit fatigued. Studies show one way to keep your energy going is to stay hydrated. Keep a water bottle nearby as a reminder to drink water throughout the day.

Experts recommend drinking at least eight (there's that number again!) glasses of water daily. You may need more depending on factors like exercise.

TIP #6: Remember portion sizes

Eight nights of candle-lighting can lead to eight nights of splurging . One way to help trim some calories is to cut down on portion sizes. Making sufganiyots (Israeli donuts)? Lower your fat and calorie intake by opting for mini versions of these doughy treats, instead. This is solid advice for all of your holiday eating. You likely won't notice the difference (and if your Hanukkah celebrations are anything like ours, you won't ever feel hungry, either).

TIP #7: Sneak in some strength work

Avoid straining muscles while lifting Hanukkah decorations and dishes. One way is to be mindful of your posture! Think of keeping your rib cage stacked over your pelvis and your ears in line with your shoulders and hips.

Then, squeeze your shoulder blades down and together (don't shrug) 10 times. There, just like that, you did some strength work without anyone even knowing. For maximum benefit, do this 3-4 times a day to help counter slumping at the holiday table.

If the cause of your muscle pain runs a little deeper than posture, consider getting some assistance from some pain relief products, too!

TIP #8: Dance!

Download a few Hanukkah songs and get dancing! It's not only a great way to enjoy the festivities but also a fun way to bond with family and friends while burning a few calories in the process!

References:

High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise and Fat Loss. (2011). Journal of Obesity. doi:10.1155/2011/868305

Weil, A., Dr. (2016, May). Three Breathing Exercises And Techniques. Retrieved December 6, 2017, from https://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/body-mind-spirit/stress-anxiety/breathing-three-exercises/

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