NEWS | Dec. 7, 2010

Staying healthy through the holidays

By Greer Gowen Health and Wellness Center dietitian

Its holiday time and "Jingle Bells" is playing throughout the stores to help you get in the Christmas spirit. However, you may find yourself saying "Bah humbug" and wishing you could hibernate until January 1. With work responsibilities, holiday parties, shopping, decorating and holiday visitors, you are suddenly questioning how you will be able to eat at least one nutritious meal, not fall off your regular exercise routine, and of course, get in your eight hours of sleep. But don't become a scrooge yet. With a little planning, you will soon be joining your neighborhood carolers in a rendition of "Deck the Halls".

Keep off the holiday pounds

· Don't go to a party hungry: Have a light snack before arriving at the party so you don't attack the buffet table allowing more time to socialize with friends and family.
· Monitor your portions: Moderation is key so treat yourself to small portions of food.
· Avoid fast food: Make a little time to pack meals for on-the-go or have a restaurant in mind that offers healthy menu items.
· When preparing a food, have substitutes available for the high calorie and high fat ingredients. For example, substitute two egg whites for one whole egg or applesauce for oil when baking.
· Alcohol, egg nog, and holiday punches can wreak havoc on a diet, so hydrate with water, unsweetened tea, diet soda, or hot cider.

Fit for the holidays

· Don't be a couch potato: Do sit-ups, push-ups, squats or lunges during commercial breaks.
· Take a brisk walk with your family while you are viewing the neighborhood light displays.
· Wake up an hour early for a brisk walk, run or bike ride.
· Increase your time management skills and schedule at least three exercise sessions in your week. Get out of your exercise rut and take a class you have wanted to try.
· Make an exercise date with friends and family instead of a dinner or coffee date.

Time out for rest and relaxation

· Place a priority on sleep. Adults require at least eight hours of sleep in order to function optimally throughout the day.
· Set a regular bedtime and wind down your day at least 30 minutes before your scheduled bedtime. Try taking a warm bath, light stretching or breathing exercises to help you sleep more soundly throughout the night.
· Turn off the TV and computer: The light and noise will disrupt your sleep patterns and keep you from getting a full night's rest.
· Make your to-do list before going to bed and then put it away until the next day.
· Tryptophan containing foods, such as turkey, tuna, pumpkin, almonds, walnuts, or eggs, can promote sleep.

The holiday season is one of the deadliest ones on the road due to those who choose to drink and drive. Plan ahead and always designate a driver to make sure everyone gets home safely.

Have a safe and happy holiday!