Monday Medical: Health for the holidays
Shopping, travel, parties, family visiting, children’s activities, end-of-the-year obligations — the commitments this time of year may seem endless. You may find your usual routines disrupted, and when this happens, it’s easy to let good health habits slide.
Rather than completely abandoning your exercise, sleep and healthy eating habits for the holiday season, hold on to the thought that exercise can help metabolize those extra calories you may be picking up. Exercise also can help you to sleep better and keep your immune system strong. I really like this mantra from a personal trainer, “Move your feet before you eat.”
Design physical activity and exercise routines into your holidays. Even if it’s just a 10-minute walk during a work break or a short walk around your neighborhood, do it every day. Recruit a friend or co-worker whom you can depend on to do it with you so you both will be less likely to stop exercising. Once the snow starts falling, enjoy skiing, whether it’s the downhill or cross-country version. Go for a snowshoe or try ice skating.
On especially busy days, exercise first thing in the morning so that it’s done and there’s no excuse to keep you from doing it later in the day. Plan for workouts that you can do while traveling; choose a hotel that has a gym or swimming pool. Always pack a pair of walking or hiking shoes; there is sure to be a place to walk, whether it’s a hiking trail or at an indoor shopping mall. Rent, buy or borrow an active video game (Wii Fit, Dance Party, Zumba). Engage others to join in the fun. Just remember the mantra, “Move your feet before you eat.”
Now, after you move your feet, the challenge is what do you choose to eat? Most of the traditional holiday foods are high in saturated fat, sugar and calories. However, you don’t have to sabotage your healthy eating habits during this time.
Choose the special holiday foods that you really enjoy and pass on the foods you can get anytime of the year to save calories. Have that slice of your favorite pecan pie, but watch portion sizes. Cut your portions in half so you can enjoy your favorite holiday dish without overstuffing yourself.
The Internet is filled with healthy recipes, so try something new. If you are entertaining, most likely your guests will appreciate the calorie savings, too.
Here are some meal modifications to consider:
• Focus on fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains.
• Remove the skin from the turkey before slicing and putting it on the table.
• Season sweet potatoes with orange juice instead of butter and brown sugar.
• When a recipe calls for sugar, cut the amount by 1/3; it will not affect the taste.
• For baked goods, sauces and soups, use evaporated skim milk instead of higher-fat cream.
• Limit frying and sauteing in too much oil or butter. Use a cooking spray, broth or water to saute meats or vegetables.
• Roast, bake, broil or steam meats and vegetables.
Limit temptations by keeping candy dishes and cookie platters out of sight when you are not entertaining. Try substituting fruit and vegetable trays for holiday treats at work. Cut back on drinking alcohol as it often leads to overeating.
Savor the season and what it means to you. For your health, slow down, focus on friends and family, and “move your feet before you eat.”
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