Minimize the Â??frazzle Factor’ for the Holidays

Shirley Perryman, M.S., R.D.

Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Specialist

FORT COLLINS – Although we look forward to the holidays, many of us wonder how we can fit holiday decorating, sending cards, baking and preparing special dishes, shopping for just-the-right gifts, attending parties and entertaining into our already busy lives. We often find ourselves exhausted, grouchy and sometimes with a few extra pounds because we get frazzled at this time of year. Consider these ideas to help you stay on track.

Try to keep your everyday routine on track as much as possible and you’ll be less likely to gain weight during the holidays. A study done by the National Institute of Health found that American adults gain an average of 0.4 to 1.8 pounds each year between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. If you can’t fit in your usual exercise routine, modify it and just do – something. Exercise is a stress reducer all by itself as well as an important part of a healthy lifestyle.

Whether or not you currently have an exercise routine, walking is always a good choice and doesn’t require special gear other than good shoes. Go to the mall early and start your shopping trip with a brisk walk before you’re weighed down with packages. Twenty minutes of walking can burn 100 calories for a 150-pound person. That translates into an hour of brisk walking to burn the calories in a slice of pumpkin pie.

All those festive get-togethers that include food – and typically lots of it – can contribute unwanted pounds. Set a few ground rules for yourself. Don’t skip meals or go to a party hungry. Have a healthy snack before you leave. If you drink alcohol, try a wine spritzer, which dilutes the alcohol calories with club soda. When the hostess asks you to bring something to share, choose a healthy dish. You can count on plenty of other fun food already there. Eat away from the buffet table to avoid refilling your plate. Remember that it’s the first few bites that taste the best.

Plan ahead whenever you can. Look to see how many days or hours are required for your turkey to thaw completely. A friend shared her disappointment with me when she discovered she had served a beautiful golden roasted turkey that was still frozen on the inside. To ensure this doesn’t happen to you, check out tips from the National Turkey Federation at If you’ve been asked to donate cookies, select a favorite holiday recipe, double it, and pop the extras in the freezer to share with friends and family. Put your dinner in the crock pot to cook all day while you’re shopping.

Since we spend more time in the grocery store over the holiday season shopping for ingredients for special recipes, take the opportunity to stock up on fresh fruits and veggies to keep on hand for snacking instead of reaching in the cookie jar or snack cupboard. If you’re off to the mall, take along a fresh pear or apple for snacking to avoid the food court’s higher calorie choices.

Add the word "simplify" to your holiday vocabulary. Look in your phone book for companies that provide menus and ingredients for you to assemble make-ahead meals to keep in your freezer. The process usually only requires a few hours of your time, is reasonably priced compared to eating out, and saves lots of time when you factor in menu planning, grocery shopping, food preparation and clean up.

When you just can’t figure out how to fit in that last task on your to-do list, consider eliminating it. Striving for perfection often is the root of stress. It’s okay not to make all the varieties of holiday cookies you usually do. Purchased yeast rolls can substitute for homemade rolls and save you time. Ask those coming to your party or holiday dinner to bring a favorite dish.

Finally, consider planning a little extra in your holiday budget to pamper yourself to minimize the frazzle factor. Have your groceries delivered or hire a personal trainer for a few exercise sessions to help keep you on track. The important thing is to keep everything in perspective. Make camaraderie more important than the perfect menu, gift or decoration.