Health Matters | Plan Ahead for a Healthier Holiday Season

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Plan Ahead for a Healthier Holiday Season

Be of good cheer. You don’t have to stick to nonfat eggnog, carrot sticks, and sugar-free sugar plums as you celebrate the holidays. Go ahead and indulge in a few favorites but use some restraint. You can cut back on calories without cutting back on the fun. Here are five ways to enjoy the holiday without depriving your family or yourself:

1. Prepare for parties
Parties are a big part of the holidays. There is a lot of excitement and plenty of temptations on the table. Whether it’s a family gathering, a neighborhood party or a special event, talk with your family about ways to manage their eating. Explain what is and isn’t good for your children, and talk about portion control. Try having a healthy snack before leaving for the party so that you don’t arrive hungry. An empty stomach and a full holiday table are a sure recipe for overeating.

2. Be a healthy role model
It’s hard to limit sweet treats for your children if they see you hanging around the dessert table. Lead by example, and eat in moderation so that your children will do the same.

3. Make wise choices
Holiday parties usually feature a table filled with indulgent foods and desserts. The temptation can be overwhelming for anyone. Now is the time to give yourself a little freedom. Choose the one treat you like the most. Or, put a small taste of several items on one plate.

4. Focus on fun, not food
Food has always been a large part of holiday celebrations and always will be. However, those parties don’t have to focus on cookies, cakes and candy. Make sure that your celebrations include activities that don’t involve food or sugary items. Enjoy party games or make holiday crafts. You can also teach the kids how to enjoy healthier holiday foods by letting them help you in the kitchen. If they help prepare healthier food, they will be more interested in eating healthier food.

5. Don’t stress out
The holidays are filled with demands, and you have a lot to do. You are rushing to holiday parties. The in-laws are coming to town for the week. You have to clean the house, drop off the kids, decorate the tree, and cook the turkey. Are there enough hours in the day? No! Curb the craziness and reduce your stress by making a schedule for the whole family to follow so everyone can share the work and enjoy this special time of the year. Also, make sure to get enough sleep and, if needed, learn when to say “no.”

  • Healthier Holiday Swaps
    Thanksgiving is a time to count our blessings and indulge in some good old-fashioned comfort food. It’s one of the few times during the year when many people don’t think twice about going for second helpings of homemade mashed potatoes and turkey. These indulgences, while delicious, can temporarily derail your healthy eating habits. However, a few healthy Thanksgiving “swaps” will help you enjoy your favorite holiday foods while keeping your healthy habits going strong.

    Instead of rubbing the turkey with butter, which is heavy in saturated fat, season it with fresh herbs and lemon juice instead. Fresh chopped thyme, sage and rosemary all work well with turkey. Add a bit of kosher salt and a tablespoon of olive oil to round out the flavors. Remember, no matter how you season your turkey, it should always be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees for safety.

    Try using whole grain bread crumbs for your stuffing. Whole grains contain more fiber than their white bread counterpart. If using a store-bought chicken or vegetable broth in your stuffing recipe, opt for a low-sodium variety. If you’re considering stuffing your turkey, err on the side of caution: bacteria like salmonella may be transferred from the raw turkey to the stuffing when placed inside the bird. For food safety, consider cooking your stuffing in a separate dish.

    They are a family favorite, but mashed potatoes can be filled with calories. For a lighter take, try using skim or 1% milk instead of whole milk. Season them generously with pepper and a bit of salt. Some people like to add sour cream into their mashed potato recipe. Use Greek yogurt instead – it gives a similar creaminess with less fat and more protein. You can even substitute half of your potatoes with cooked cauliflower. Just blend both together when mixing.

    What would Thanksgiving dinner be without a delicious slice of pie for a sweet ending to the meal? When choosing between apple and pumpkin pie, go with the pumpkin. Pumpkin pie contains fiber and vitamin A. In order to lighten up a pumpkin pie recipe, use evaporated skim milk in place of heavy cream or half and half.

    Portion control is also important. Take smaller servings of everything you really want, eat slowly, and savor each bite. It is not about how much food you eat. It is about how much you enjoy the food. This can help lighten up a heavy meal without sacrificing taste or wrecking your diet.
  • Seven Tips to Boost Your Mood During the Holidays
    For most the holidays are a time for thankfulness and celebration, however, for some the holidays cause anxiety and depression. The holidays can be a very busy time of year and may bring unwanted stress due to high expectations, tight budgets, crazy in-laws, and other holiday hazards. If you find yourself feeling a little down during this time of this year try these tips to help boost your mood:

    Pull back the curtains and get some sunshine when you wake up. A University of Toronto study found that people who are exposed to the most light, especially in the morning, are in better moods all day long and get a better night’s sleep. Don’t let a cloudy day stand in the way. Researchers also found that an hour of bright indoor light can boost your outlook on life.

    Get out of that chair and get moving. Countless studies show that exercise helps our brain release endorphins, which make us feel excited and satisfied. Work off some of those calories by taking a walk around the block. Researchers also found that people who exercise outdoors feel more energetic and are more likely to maintain the routine.

    Start your holiday planning early, that way you won’t feel so stressed and pressured come holiday time. Plan your feast and do your shopping a little early so that when relatives and friends show up you can sit back and enjoy the company without any added stress.

    Listening to music can help improve your mood, lower blood pressure, and reduce stress. The right music can change attitudes, so load your MP3 player with songs that make you happy. Crank up your favorite holiday songs, and don’t be afraid to sing along. One study found that singing may actually improve immunity by increasing antibodies that fight sickness. Remember that the next time you belt out a few tunes in the shower.

    Take a few seconds to look at some of your favorite pictures. The holidays are a great time to pull out the old photo books and reminisce with family and friends. They can be anything from baby pictures to favorite vacation photos. Great memories will help boost your mood whenever you are feeling down.

    A good deed goes a long way in improving your mood. Research has found that volunteering makes people happier because it helps them appreciate the good things in their own lives. Whether it is donating money, joining a charity walk, or volunteering at a community food bank, helping others helps you feel good about yourself. The holidays are a great time to show your support and help people less fortunate have an enjoyable holiday season too.

    Sure holidays are all about tradition and celebration, but don’t stress yourself out trying to top last year’s shindig. Whether it’s a simple gathering of family, or a holiday party, try to enjoy the company. Remember that the holidays are less about table toppers and napkin holders, and more about togetherness.
  • Plan Ahead for a Safe Road Trip
    Summer is almost here. Before you pack for a road trip, it is important to be sure your family and home are safe and secure. While this season is one for fun and relaxation, it is also one of the riskiest travel times of the year, and preparing for a road trip can be one of the most stressful parts of your vacation. Nearly 75% of all Americans who take summer vacations plan to drive.

    Here are a few ways to prepare for a road trip that will enhance your overall summer travel experience:

    If you or any family members take medications, be sure a supply is packed for the duration of your get-away. However, do not leave your medicine in a hot car. Heat can affect some medications. Also make note of your physician’s name and phone number, and bring your health and dental insurance cards along—just in case!

    If you are headed to the beach or another sunny destination, be sure to pack sun protection. Bring plenty of sunscreen, floppy hats and UV-resistant clothing. And, don’t forget to pack your sunglasses.

    Be sure to suspend delivery of your mail and home-delivered newspapers, and ask a trusted neighbor, friend, or relative to drive by your residence a few times while you are away. They will be able to ensure there are no packages on your doorstep that would signal you are away. It is also wise to put a few lights inside your residence on timers so they will give the appearance that someone is home.

    When packing, the car can fill up quickly. Try not to take more than you need. It is also advisable to ensure the car’s load is evenly balanced.

    Be sure to familiarize yourself with your travel route. Relying solely on a GPS can lead to dangerous last minute turns and lane changes.

    When traveling long distances, it is important to take frequent breaks to help maintain focus and prevent fatigue. Getting out of the car to move around can also help avoid blood clots in legs and minimize lower back pain.

    If you are traveling with pets, be sure they are secured appropriately and never let them loose in the vehicle. They, too, need breaks outside the car to run around, eat, rehydrate, and answer the call of nature. Treat them just like you would treat a human member of the family. Never leave them unattended in a hot vehicle.

    With a little planning, your summer vacation can be a happy, healthy getaway for you and your family!

  • Plan Ahead with Meal Prep
    Everyone is busy in the back-to-school bustle, and sometimes there isn’t time to cook a proper dinner. Before you opt for a frozen meal, try preparing meals for the week on the weekend!

    We’re all guilty of throwing away the bag of soggy salad mix forgotten in the back of the refrigerator, but preparing your meat and produce early can save time, money, and your favorite foods!

    Here are some tips for preparing a week of healthy meals and snacks:

    1. Cook a large portion of meat and put it in a covered container in the refrigerator. You can use chicken, lean beef, or turkey, and all you need to do is reheat and add to your favorite sides, stir fries or pastas.
    2. Cook a large box of pasta or quinoa and put it in a covered container in the refrigerator. Just add sauce for a quick meal!
    3. Hard-boil eggs for a grab-and-go breakfast or salad topping.
    4. Give all your produce a thorough wash and start chopping. Grill a portion of the vegetables for meals, and then put the raw pieces into plastic containers for snacks.
    5. Make Mason jar salads. Put your dressing on the bottom, firmer vegetables in the middle (think cucumbers and carrots), then lettuce on top. As long as the lettuce and dressing do not touch, the salad will stay fresh for days!
    6. Cook a double portion of your favorite soup and freeze half to stash in your freezer for up to six months!
    7. Crock pot meals cook while you are away and are an easy way to save time while making a delicious, fresh meal. Prepare the ingredients needed to make your favorite dish and set them aside in a container. Then, just put the ingredients in the crock pot in the morning and head on with your day. By the time you get home, you’ll have a hot, home-cooked meal waiting for you!
    Having a supply of prepared, healthy meal options makes it easier to reach for salad rather than the take out menu. Take a couple hours out of your weekend to make your favorite meals your you and the family and stay on the healthy track for the rest of the week!
  • Traveling with Diabetes During the Holidays
    The holidays are a time for family and thankfulness. Unfortunately, for the almost 29 million Americans with diabetes, holiday travel may bring concerns about meals and diabetic supplies. However, by planning ahead, everyone can have an enjoyable, stress-free holiday season!

    1. Keep your routine: Letting go of the daily grind is one of the best parts about the holidays, but don’t leave your care routine behind! Take into consideration time changes and adjust your schedule accordingly to keep your care routine consistent.
    2. Pack extra: Pack twice the amount of diabetic supplies you expect to need, in case of travel delays. Also, remember to bring snacks and glucose tablets with you in case your blood glucose drops.
    3. Wear identification: It is important to wear some sort of medical identification that says you are diabetic, especially if travelling in an area with a language barrier. If you are going to a country that does not speak English, purchase a universal bracelet or necklace.
    4. Bring a cooler: It is often difficult to find healthy snacks on the road. Pack a small cooler with sliced veggies, fresh fruit, and other diabetic-friendly snacks. Also, slide a few bottles of water in the cooler as an alternative to sugar-sweetened beverages.
    5. Pack more than your passport: Pack all documentation for your prescriptions, as well as insurance cards and physician’s contact information. It is also a good idea to search and write down the names, phone numbers, and addresses of nearby hospitals and clinics that can provide diabetic care in the event of an emergency.
    6. Pack a carry-on: If you are arriving to your destination via plane, pack all your medications and medical information in a carry-on to prevent being separated should your luggage get lost. Also, stow away some healthy snacks in the event of delays or a lack of options for your in-flight meal.

    To learn more about diabetes and how to manage your diabetes, visit the CDC’s website.

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