Swap holiday food traditions for holiday fitness traditions

‘Tis the season when all good health, fitness and weight loss bloggers share their tips and tricks for “making holiday treats healthier”, “staying on track with your workouts” and “avoiding seasonal weight gain”.

There have already been so many fantastic posts written on the topic, that I honestly don’t feel the need to write yet another. (If you haven’t yet had your fill, I’ve included links to some of my favourites at the bottom of the page :)).

Instead, I’d like to share my thoughts about creating healthy holiday traditions.

holiday fitness traditions

I grew up in a family with many wonderful holiday traditions, many of which revolved around food.

My mom, aunt and grandmothers were enthusiastic bakers, creating dozens upon dozens of our favourite holiday treats; Nanaimo bars, Hello Dollies, shortbread, sugar cookies, peanut butter marshmallow treats, Bits and Bites, pecan pie, cranberry tarts, almond bark and plum pudding. I have fond memories of the three-tiered dessert plate that they’d happily fill and place on the table after each and every holiday get-together. Because we had a large social circle, there were many such celebrations!

On Christmas eve there was always an after-church meal of cheeses, cold meats, pickles, breads, pop, chips and wine.

And Christmas day? A decadent brunch of ham, bacon, fresh fruit, home-made muffins, quiche or scrambled eggs, croissants and toast with a few hours of recovery before the traditional turkey dinner was served. Always accompanied by at least three difference versions of bread stuffing (my mom’s, each of my grandmother’s and sometimes my aunt’s as well; my family loves its stuffing!).

New Years Eve and New Years Day were a repeat of Christmas. More food, more alcohol, an attempt to ‘finish up the holiday baking’ and a lot of pushing away from the table completely stuffed.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the memories that I have of my family’s holiday traditions. I’m just choosing not to replicate them in their entirety with my own family.

We’re working on swapping holiday food traditions for holiday fitness traditions.Creating memories around activity rather than food.

When my children are adults, in addition to recalling their favourite Christmas treat, I want them to fondly remember the experiences we created for them at holiday time.

Of course we still enjoy holiday baking (in moderation, and the children participate fully in the process; I’m not the Grinch, you know…)

holiday fitness traditions

and a turkey dinner with all the trimmings (although only one of my three children eats stuffing so I only prepare one kind…).

But we also enjoy a broad range of  holiday fitness traditions including:

  • evening walks around the neighbourhood to see the lights (we started this tradition when the children were so small that the youngest could be carried in his Baby Bjornn and the middle child was still in a backpack; they would often fall asleep on these walks, mesmerized by the beauty of the lights)

holiday fitness traditions

  • the annual Santa Skate (instead of taking them to the mall and lining up for hours to sit on Santa’s lap, we all enjoy an afternoon of skating with friends, family and Santa at our local skating rink)

holiday fitness traditions

  • a Christmas Eve-day trip to the pool (indoors of course; there’s nothing better on a cold, blustery day than playing in the warm water. And since we’re unlikely to have snow over Christmas, the water slide substitutes for sledding around these parts)
  • a trip up a local mountain for a winter wonderland hike or snowshoe or toboggan or ski (the best thing about living in Vancouver? The ability to spend the day on a snowy mountain, then drive back down to sea level and head to the beach!)

holiday fitness traditions

  • and this year, we’ll even be able to kayak over the holidays (no not in Vancouver, silly, somewhere much farther south…)

Try creating some holiday fitness traditions with your family. I promise that if you combine them with the tips and tricks shared by the bloggers below, you’ll have a happy and healthy holiday!

  • Evil weight gain doesn’t stand a chance from the ever-energetic Gigi Eats Celebrities
  • Healthier holiday treats from my friend and fellow personal trainer Pamela at Thrive Personal Fitness (I love that she shoots straight from the hip and says “Say no to the crap”)
  • A thought-provoking post about our society’s difficulty with Eating In Moderation from  Heather, who blogs at Dietician on the Run (Enjoy the quotes from Malcolm Gladwell and Seth Godin!)
  • Some great suggestions for taking time and reducing holiday stress by Gifting Yourself from Carla at MizFitOnline (not writing a ‘how to avoid holiday weight gain’ post is my gift to me!)
  • No-Bake Gingerbread Pumpkin Snowballs – they’re grain free, that makes them healthier, right? Just one recipe in a series of Healthy Holiday Recipes that Fit Foodie Lee is sharing with her readers.
  • And a post I wrote 2 years ago about Finding Holiday Balance by Making Less More

Does your family have any holiday fitness traditions?

Share your best tip for staying healthy and fit over the holidays!


  1. Those are awesome swap ideas! 🙂
    PlumPetals recently posted…LostMy Profile

  2. this whole entire WHOLE ENTIRE post made me smile.
    Miz recently posted…Adult peer pressure.My Profile

  3. I love these ideas! It really shows much fitness is a way of life. We definitely walk around and check out the lights! I love skating and tobogganing and we try to do a family walk on Christmas day.
    Danielle @ Labelsarefortincans recently posted…Staying Sane During a Busy WeekMy Profile

    • It really doesn’t take that much planning to add a bit of movement to the holidays, does it Danielle?

  4. Thanks so much for the mention! Glad the post resonated with you 🙂
    Heather @ Dietitian on the Run recently posted…Eating in Moderation: Timely holiday thoughts from Seth Godin & Malcolm GladwellMy Profile

  5. I’m glad that there are still some food traditions you keep, and being active along with them is very important! I don’t support the title of this post because I don’t think there’s any need to swap anything. I think that one can pair food and fitness traditions just fine. I myself love taking an evening walk on Christmas Day or a few days before because we go to FL for Christmas and it’s warm enough there to walk outside and stroll and enjoy the decorated homes!
    Caitlin recently posted…I Hate PantsMy Profile

    • Caitlin, thanks so much for your comment. Title not withstanding, I think we have a fairly similar perspective! And my intent was certainly not to suggest that food traditions should be abolished in their entirety (did you see the photo of my daughter sprinkling cookies with abandon 🙂 ). I do, however, have many clients for whom holiday food traditions are triggers for over-eating and emotional eating. Often times, just suggesting other ways to be happy with their families is a great help to them over the holidays!

      • Oh I definitely know that wasn’t your intent! In fact I don’t think the title matches the content – the content has a good balanced view! You’re also definitely right that for some people holiday parties can be triggers for overeating or binging just like for some they can be triggers for restriction. Unfortunately there are a lot of different ways to make those kinds of events too much about the food and not enough about family just as you said!

        • Gotcha! Sometimes we forget to think about the way somebody else may interpret our words; perhaps ‘Balancing holiday food traditions with holiday fitness traditions” would be a better title!

          • Sounds perfecto to me 🙂 or maybe even “mixing food traditions with fitness” to stick with “mixing” and a baking theme 😉 that’s just me being a punster though haha
            Caitlin recently posted…I Hate PantsMy Profile

  6. While my family loves cooking and eating we so also LOVE to be active and make sure to work out every day – We actually don’t even think about it, we just DO IT!!!!! 😀 And thank YOUUUUUUUUU for linking to me! I LOVE YOU xoxo!
    GiGi Eats Celebrities recently posted…Evil Weight Gain Doesn’t Stand a Chance!My Profile

    • You are so welcome! I LOVE reading and watching your posts (even if I don’t comment all the time); you have some a freakin’ fresh perspective on things!

  7. Great ideas! I love the neighborhood walk and the ice skating. And an active vacation always creates memories.
    Coco recently posted…Holiday Gift Guide For Fitness EnthusiastsMy Profile

  8. I love these fitness traditions! We go on a lot of family walks, especially during the holidays. We also go on a “holiday lights walk” every year in a big local park.
    Andrea@WellnessNotes recently posted…Curried Carrot Soup: A Conscious Cleanse RecipeMy Profile

    • Andrea, we have a wonderful park that we like to visit at Christmas time too. Seeing millions of Xmas lights on a cold, dark evening is pure magic!

  9. These are some great ideas for ‘new traditions’! Every year we make an attempt to find out where we can harvest pine nuts in our area … I say attempt because different trees/groves have crops in different years, and at somewhat different times. So there is always alot of strategising, walking, hiking, and sometimes fording creeks or snowshoeing involved … and not always pine nuts. It’s always fun though, especially on the years when we ‘strike it rich’!

    • You can harvest pine nuts? Funny how that’s one of those foods I just never imagined where they came from! Sounds like a fun tradition; my kids love geocaching and scavenger hunts!

  10. LOVE LOVE the first pic!!! Love the whole post! Like you, it was all about food when I was young – that was what we surrounded ourselves with…. this is a great post to get people to make memories on what it is all about really – family, friends & fun! Yes to that!!!! Balance in Life too – got to have some cookies – well, I do! 🙂 Hey, cool comment from Jillian on your post!!!
    Jody – Fit at 56 recently posted…30+ Years of Holiday Weight ManagementMy Profile

  11. I love this idea Tamara! I’ve been thinking a lot about how we create traditions for our kids.
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted…Holiday Gift GuideMy Profile

  12. The healthiest holiday tradition I partake in is kindness. I try to partake in that during the other 11 months of the years as well 🙂

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