a special feature from Rachel Graham, Health Coach*

I love the holidays! There is joy and sparkle in the air and there is nothing better than celebrating with family and friends. But…I want to enjoy this festive time without the guilt. Everyone gives an edible gift- a bottle of champagne, a box of chocolates and let’s not forget the homemade cookie platters that are so hard to resist! Everyone finds a reason to dine – with numerous holiday lunches and dinners that are crammed (oops, I mean planned) into this season.

Here are 5 ways to indulge in the season without undoing your pants (well, that’s another way to celebrate, but we will leave that story for another time!). Plus, I’ve included a great recipe for something that is homemade and definitely on the treat list.

#1) Never go to a party hungry. Don’t save up your calories for a party. If you go to a party hungry, I guarantee your judgment will be off. You will eat more food than if you ate some nuts before you left for the party.
#2) Exercise and move more. Just do something — even if it’s just for 30 minutes. Don’t underestimate the power of movement. Walk more. Spend less time on the couch. Shop ’til you drop. Do some sit-ups, squats and leg lifts during commercials. Drink water. You are probably eating more foods with salt and consuming more alcohol around the holidays, so it’s even more important to keep your body hydrated.
#3) Practice portion control. You don’t have to try everything. Take your favorites. If you can, try to make sure more than half of your plate has some veggies on it. It’s okay to say, “No, thank you, maybe later.”
#4) Edit your day. Deprivation can fuel desire. Instead of dwelling on all the holiday treats you shouldn’t have, edit your choices. Eat one cookie instead of three. Plan a healthy lunch so you aren’t tempted by treats in your office. Decide what to eat less of, more of, or what to cut, but take it day by day so controlling what you eat is more manageable.
#5) Ask for a fitness-related gift for the holidays. There are so many cool fitness gifts available. And where the mind goes, the body follows. This way you girls can: Rock that black dress; and you guys can: Rock that new suit). Wherever you are on your fitness journey, love and appreciate your body for all that it can do. No body shaming allowed. Enjoy the holidays for what they are — a time to celebrate the people in your life and all of life’s blessings — and that includes YOU.
Easy Chocolate Turtles (Adapted from Detoxinista)
Prep time:  10 mins
Total time:  10 mins
Serves: 8

• 4 Medjool dates, pitted and halved
• 8 raw pecan halves
• ⅓ cup dark chocolate chips
• ½ teaspoon coconut oil
• Coarse sea salt, for sprinkling
• Melt the dark chocolate and coconut oil together in a double boiler over the stove and set aside.
• Press a pecan half into each of the eight date halves, then top with about a teaspoon of melted dark chocolate, to cover the top and sides.
• Sprinkle with coarse sea salt, then place in the freezer to set for 10 minutes, or until the chocolate coating is firm.
• Serve immediately, or store in the fridge until ready to serve. These should last about a week when stored in the fridge, if you don’t eat them all before then!
These ‘turtles’ can be vegan if you choose a brand of vegan chocolate chips. Be sure to read the ingredient list!

*Rachel Graham, a professional Health Coach received her accreditation from Suny College. With a BA in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin and a Masters in Education from Columbia Teacher’s College, Rachel is the founder of the blog, Live Healthy NYC. A working mother, Rachel develops techniques for families, adults and children, in a ‘one on one’ environment, creating lifestyle choices and changes for a healthier individual. You can contact Rachel: Rachel@livehealthynyc.com