Family Health Healthy Living

4 ways to go counterculture this holiday season

Do you always get excited about the holidays, only to feel disappointed? Too much focus on the superficial glitz of gifts, too much stress, and way too much of mom’s new recipe for pie can all weigh you down.

Not looking forward to a repeat this year?

“Then go counterculture,” said Dr. Richard Sams, a family medicine physician at Augusta University Health. “Be intentional about savoring the good things about the holidays—and that’s not necessarily what popular culture tells you that you should enjoy.”

Popular culture says: Eat as much as possible.

Going counterculture says: Make your calories count.

Holiday movies and television shows love to depict the head of the household, overstuffed, groaning and belt undone. That’s our model of eating at the holidays, but maybe it’s time to change that model.

Instead, this year, if you’re going to go high-calorie, make sure those are really delicious calories. In other words, don’t load up on anything ready-made or processed; choose only the best, homemade items that are full of flavor. Also, just like you budget your spending, budget your calories. If you know you’re going to have a calorie-laden dinner, eat lightly that day (or even the day before if you really want to go all out).

Popular culture says: You must have turkey, stuffing, candied sweet potatoes and more, or it’s not the holidays.

Going counterculture says: Sneak in some clean-eating principles so you can enjoy the holidays knowing that the foods you love are just a little healthier than they used to be.

Look, we all know that the holidays are a time to celebrate and indulge. And that’s the way it should be. But adding some clean-eating principles can make that indulgence feel better, both mentally and physically. Clean eating involves choosing whole foods, a large variety of fresh fruits and vegetables—especially seasonal offerings—as well as legumes, nuts and seeds. Sams also recommends eating less dairy and meat.

For example, if you serve appetizers, mix up a delicious fruit bowl, offer a vegetable tray and put out hummus and flatbreads. At the holiday table, use whole-grain bread instead of white when preparing stuffing; roast up seasonal vegetables as a side, glazed with some olive oil and herbs; or turn holiday squashes like pumpkin into a hearty soup. Also, don’t be afraid to mix things up and try some new recipes.

Popular culture says: After your holiday meal, spend the next several hours lying down on the couch.

Going counterculture says: Make a new tradition, and go for a walk.

Maybe you’re too busy spending time with family to hit the gym during the holidays. But that doesn’t mean you can’t stay physically active. Bring the whole family on a walk after dinner. You’ll burn off some of those calories and make some new holiday memories.

Popular culture says: The holidays are all about the food and gifts.

Going counterculture says: Refocus on the things that matter.

We all love eating delicious food and opening nice gifts. But don’t let those be your only source of satisfaction, or you may be disappointed. Instead, apply your mindful approach to eating to the rest of the holidays. Articulate what you are grateful for at Thanksgiving, and joyfully boycott Black Friday. Keep in mind the real meaning of the season, focus on the relationships, eat intentionally and stay active. If you do, you’ll experience more of the peace and joy that is meant to overflow during this special time of year.

Get healthy for the holidays
Is it time for a checkup? Get it done now so you can jump into the holiday season feeling your best. To make an appointment with a primary care physician at Augusta University Health, call 706-721-2273 (CARE), or visit

About the author

Augusta University Health

Based in Augusta, Georgia, Augusta University Health is a world-class health care network, offering the most comprehensive primary, specialty and subspecialty care in the region. Augusta University Health provides skilled, compassionate care to its patients, conducts leading-edge clinical research and fosters the medical education and training of tomorrow’s health care practitioners. Augusta University Health is a not-for-profit corporation that manages the clinical operations associated with Augusta University.