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.”

  • 4 Ways to Volunteer in South Jersey this Holiday Season
    The holidays are the time for giving, and not just presents and stocking stuffers. You don’t have to have money or possessions to be able to help out this holiday season; you can give of your time and energy through volunteering! Volunteering not only helps the people and organizations in need, but it also does the volunteer good. In fact, studies have shown that volunteering boosts your mood, builds friendships, and teaches new skills while adding new experiences to your resume. It’s a great way to get the family involved in a good cause, too, and show your kids the true meaning of the season.

    Well, what are you waiting for? Check out these great volunteering opportunities in South Jersey this holiday season:

    Food Bank of South Jersey (Pennsauken, NJ)

    Who they are: The Food Bank of South Jersey provides food to local individuals in need, and educates the community via health and wellness programs. They pride themselves in valuing diversity, integrity, and respect when it comes to the service they give to the surrounding area.

    How to get involved: Here are few ways you can help:
    • Become a volunteer! You can give your time at their distribution center, partner sites, or at special events.
    • Donate non-perishable food.
    • Host a food drive! This can involve your family, your neighborhood, your place of worship, or even your office.
    • Attend one of their many events throughout the year—from cooking competitions to fundraising galas, there’s sure to be an outing that is of interest to you!
    • Buy “Just Peachy Salsa,” a brand of salsa that utilizes the 850,000 pounds of undersized—but delicious—peaches that would otherwise be annually discarded into a landfill. All proceeds from the sale of this salsa help support the Food Bank of South Jersey’s nine hunger relief programs.

    Sign me up!: To volunteer and learn more about the organization, check out their website and click the How to Help link. Their address is 1501 John Tipton Boulevard, Pennsauken, NJ 08110, and their phone number is (856) 662-4884.

    Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton (Trenton, NJ)

    Who they are: The Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton is a private non-profit organization that offers mental health, social, and crisis services to people in need. Since 1913, they have provided aid to struggling families and individuals in becoming self-sufficient while maintaining dignity in an inclusive, diverse environment.

    How to get involved: Families, individuals, and businesses are all invited to volunteer their time and efforts to contribute to the organization’s goals. Here are a few ways you can help:
    • Working in their food pantries by organizing donated items and assisting with general office duties.
    • Get involved with their Fix It program, which performs minor home repairs for seniors. No prior experience or skills are necessary!
    • Assist in disaster response efforts.
    • Help teach computer skills and literacy classes to members of the Latino community for Trenton’s El Centro program.
    • Participate in their Behavioral Health Services programs by assisting in groups, recreational activities, and general office work.
      Volunteer at one of their domestic violence Safe Houses or become a Domestic Violence Response Team (DVRT) member.

    Sign me up!: To volunteer and learn more about the organization, check out their website and click the Ways to Give link. Their address is 383 West State Street, Trenton, NJ 08607, and their phone number is (609) 394-5181.

    Volunteers of America Delaware Valley (Collingswood, NJ)

    Who they are: The Volunteers of America Delaware Valley provide community-based assistance to those in need. They currently operate 44 different programs that service individuals and families experiencing homelessness, addiction, mental illness, developmental disabilities, and those who are struggling to return to society from the criminal justice system or dealing with domestic violence.

    How to get involved: Here are a few ways to volunteer with the organization:
    • Join Team Hope! This is a group of people who receive regular e-blasts informing them of monthly events in need of volunteers. By subscribing to this email service, you can stay aware of new opportunities and choose how you would like to devote your time.
    • Teens who like to volunteer can join the Action Team! The Action Team is made up of local high school students who dedicate their time to doing things like assisting senior citizens and helping kids with their homework. Students involved in the Action Team also have to opportunity to win scholarships and other rewards.
    • If you enjoy hosting parties and would like to help a child in need have a great birthday, you might be interested in the Brightening Birthdays program! Once a month, volunteers have the chance to host a birthday party that usually lasts for about an hour. Participants also help provide small gifts for each birthday child, two craft projects, as well as a cake and decorations.

    Sign me up!: To volunteer and learn more about the organization, check out their website and click the Volunteer link. Their address is 335 White Horse Pike, Collingswood, NJ 08107, and their phone number is (856) 854-4660.

    The Salvation Army (Union, NJ)

    Who they are: Founded in 1865, the Salvation Army is a faith-based organization with a mission statement focused on helping the less fortunate without discrimination. They strive to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and provide support in a compassionate, hopeful environment.

    How to get involved: There are several ways you can support the Salvation Army’s mission of “doing the most good."
    • Volunteer your time and talent by filling out a volunteer application form on their website, and making yourself available to assist in various events throughout the year.
    • Simply make a monetary donation online.
    • Donate clothing, furniture, household items, or a non-antique car by calling 1-800-SA-TRUCK (1-800-728-7825), or visit website and click the Volunteer link. Their mailing address is P.O. Box 3170 Union, NJ 07083, and their phone number is (908) 851-9300.

  • 2 Ways to Volunteer in Greater Baltimore this Holiday Season
    The holidays are the time for giving, and not just presents and stocking stuffers. You don’t have to have money or possessions to be able to help out this holiday season; you can give of your time and energy through volunteering! Volunteering not only helps the people and organizations in need, but it also does the volunteer good. In fact, studies have shown that volunteering boosts your mood, builds friendships, and teaches new skills while adding new experiences to your resume. It’s a great way to get the family involved in a good cause, too, and show your kids the true meaning of the season.

    Well, what are you waiting for? Check out these great volunteering opportunities in the Greater Baltimore area this holiday season:

    Shepherd’s Clinic (Baltimore, MD)

    Who they are: Shepherd’s Clinic is a non-profit organization that provides free comprehensive care to the uninsured in Baltimore, and it relies on volunteers to run all areas of its operation. Many of the clinic’s volunteers are doctors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, counselors, social workers, nurses, nutritionists, yoga instructors, massage therapists, acupuncturists, stress reduction instructors, smoking cessation instructors, students, professionals, retirees, and patients.

    How to get involved: The clinic needs volunteers from many professions and skillsets, including the following:
    • General Practitioners and Specialists
    • Nurses
    • Counselors
    • Case Managers
    • Instructors for exercise, yoga, smoking cessation, and more
    • Nutrition
    • Counselors
    • Massage Therapists
    • Acupuncturists
    • Administrative Staff
    • Vegetable and Landscape Gardeners
    • Handyman
    • Risk Management/EmergencyPreparedness
    • Advisor
    • IT support

    Sign me up!: To apply to volunteer and learn more about the organization, check out their website and click the application page link. Their address is 2800 Kirk Ave, Baltimore, MD 21218, and their phone number is (410) 467-7140.

    Health Partners (Waldorf, MD)
    Who they are: Health Partners is an independent, non-profit organization that provides health and dental care along with clothes to Charles County and the surrounding area.

    How to get involved: Help is needed in the following areas:
    • Administrative and general office work
    • IT help
    • Fundraising
    • Facilities maintenance and support
    • Grounds keeping
    • Physicians
    • Dental care professionals
    • Nurses

    Healthy Partners asks for commitments of as little as two hours per month and is accommodating with individual schedules.

    Sign me up!: They have two locations: 3070 Crain Highway, Waldorf and 4375 Port Tobacco Road, Nanjemoy. Their phone number is (301) 645-3556 and you may access the volunteer form on their website.
  • Tips to Keep Kids Safe During the Holidays
    The festive holiday season is a time of joy and excitement for children, but it can also pose dangers for little ones. Potential hazards—such as kitchen appliances, candles, and festive decorations —may cause injury to curious children. You can ensure that a child’s holiday season remains merry and bright with some education and proactive measures. Likewise, you can make your home a safe place for the children of your visiting friends and family.

    Be on the lookout for and educate children about these potential dangers:

    Fires are common occurrences year round that can lead to devastating damage, but fires are especially common during the holidays.
    • Fireplace – Set up a sturdy screen in front of the fireplace when in use, even with glass-enclosed fireplaces since the glass can become hot enough to catch nearby flammable items on fire or burn the skin.
    • Candles – Watch out for unattended candles near children, and keep lit candles away from curtains or other flammable materials. Also monitor the candle’s burning progress as candleholders or low-sitting decorations may catch fire as the candle burns low. Consider using electric or battery-operated candles instead.
    • Lights strands – Always check your light strands—even new ones—for broken bulbs and frayed wires before use, and be careful to not overload power strips or extension cords.

    The holidays can be a hectic time filled with trips to the store for presents and ingredients for your staple dish. Traffic increases in many areas during this time of year which may lead to more accidents.
    • Parking lots – Crowded parking lots are especially dangerous during the busy holiday season. Teach your child to watch for vehicles before crossing a road or parking lot as well as vehicles preparing to back out of or pull through parking spots.
    • Familiarize yourself with your route – If you are trekking to a new part of town to patron a specific store, it is wise to know your way around ahead of time. Relying on GPS may lead to potentially dangerous last-minute turns and lane changes.
    • Intoxication – Be aware of other drivers, since Christmas and New Years’ Eve are times of higher alcohol consumption. Similarly, don’t drink and drive; your child’s life is in your hands. Also, teach your children the importance of not riding with an intoxicated person.

    Poisoning is a year-round concern, but the holidays present an increased risk of poisoning for little ones:
    • Plants – Keep poisonous plants like mistletoe, Jerusalem cherry, holly, and poinsettias out of children’s reach.
    • Food – Make sure raw meats are cooked thoroughly and that foods that need refrigeration are left out at room temperature for no longer than two hours. It is also important to familiarize yourself with safe food storage procedures to prevent any illness you may get eating that delicious leftover ham sandwich. For a reminder, you may visit our blog post here.
    • Alcohol – Children may pick up unattended drink containers and consume the leftover alcohol, which can lead to alcohol poisoning due to their small size. Always store alcohol out of reach and do not leave alcoholic drinks unattended.
    • Keep Medications Up and Out of Site - Young children visiting your home may be curious about bottles of medication. Ensure safety by making sure all medication is stored in a secured cabinet and out of sight and reach of little hands.
    • Unlocked cabinets – If your home is not child-proofed, secure unlocked cabinets that may contain cleaning products or laundry supplies if your holiday visitors includes children. If you are visiting another home with your little one, remind curious children to not explore the house.
    • Prevention is key, but in case of emergency, call the Poison Help Line at 1-800-222-1222.

    As a general rule: if an object can fit in a child’s mouth, it’s too small for him or her to play with. Some common choking hazards include:
    • Small parts – Button batteries, Legos, and gift tags are just a few of the items that can easily fit in a toddler’s mouth.
    • Plant pieces – Tree needles can cut a child’s mouth and hurt his or her throat if swallowed.
    • Foods – Holiday treats such as popcorn and peanuts can be a choking hazard to small children. Keep these out of reach and offer children safe treats instead.

    Burns can happen in a matter of seconds and range from an uncomfortable blister to serious damage to tissue.
    • Kitchen – Hot plates, stove tops, and pans can cause burns, so make sure to keep hot items out of a child’s reach, use the back burner when possible, and turn pot handles away from the front of the stove. Actively watch your child while they are in the kitchen; it is very easy for a child to reach for a yummy cookie off a hot sheet while your back is turned. For optimal safety, keep children out of the kitchen.

    Other accidents
  • Shopping safety – Teach your kids to be cautious with strangers and agree on a location to meet up if they get separated from you during shopping.
  • Tree safety – Anchor artificial Christmas trees to the wall or use a sturdy tree stand for real trees so they can’t be knocked over. Keep small, breakable ornaments away from the bottom branches to prevent children from playing with them or putting them in their mouths.
  • Safe decorating – The holiday season often means lugging out boxes of decorations and turning your house into a winter wonderland. While garland on the railing and nutcrackers on the steps may make your house look out-of-a-magazine, both pose potential fall hazards. While decorating, prioritize safety over aesthetics to prevent potential injuries.
  • Cuts – Many holiday decorations are fragile and may break if dropped; make sure glass decorations and delicate kitchenware are out of your child’s reach. Knives and other sharp utensils should be put away in a safe location.

  • Many of these potential accidents may require medical attention, which can be tricky during the holidays when many healthcare providers are open limited hours. Luckily, Patient First centers are open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., every day – including holidays. For those who are traveling, Patient First operates centers in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. To find a center near you, please visit our location page.

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