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December 2009 metroWELLNESS: Tips for a Healthy Holiday Season

With the Approaching Holiday Season and All of It's Trappings...

Dawn Obermiller, Creighton University wellness coordinator offers the following tips to stay healthy and happy through New Years Day and beyond:



  • Forget about perfection.  Happy endings seen on TV specials dont typically run true to life.  Unforseen situations will come up, like an unplanned late workday, or a traffic accident on the shortest route home or running out of time to bake that extra batch of homemade goodies or family arguments.  Know that problem resolution doesnt happen in 30 minutes so expect and accept imperfections surrounding your holiday plans. 
  • Be realistic.  Find new ways to celebrate the holidays together.  As families change and grow, traditions should change as well.  Hold on to and make the most of only the most important family rituals that you can, like a special food or family activity, but understand that some might not be possible. 
  • Learn to say no.  Say yes only to what you really want to do and can comfortably handle to avoid feeling resentful and overwhelmed.  Believe it or not, people will understand if youre unavailable for certain projects or activities.
  • Dont abandon healthy habits. Just because its the holiday season, dont feel pressured to eat or drink to excess.  Before attending parties and social events, decide how much and what types of foods and beverages you can consume. If you have a healthy snack, party foods such as sweet treats or plates of cheese may tempt you less. Get plenty of sleep and schedule time for physical activity.
  • Take a breather.   During the hectic holiday season, you may not have a lot of time devoted only to yourself.    Find a quiet place without distractions, even for a quick 10 minutes, may calm and refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do.

Jennifer Yee, volunteer strength and conditioning coach with Creighton Universitys Department of Exercise Science, says it more important than ever to remember and embrace some of the cardinal rules of smart eating:

  • Eat only when hungry.  When eating at home, take smaller portions than usual; go back for more if you are still hungry.
  • When eating out, ask for a to-go box at the beginning of the meal and put half of the food in the box before you start eating.
  • When snacking, dont eat from a large container (a big bowl of popcorn or a large bag of chips, for example). Instead, remove the amount you will eat and put the container away before you start.
  • Eat at home. Studies show that meals consumed at home are usually lower in calories than restaurant meals.
  • Dont eat in front of the television. Studies show that people eat larger amounts and less-nutritious foods in front of the tube.
  • Eat smaller but more-frequent meals to avoid becoming ravenous between meals, which can lead to eating too much too fast.
  • Include at least one non-starchy fruit or vegetable serving in every meal or snack.
  • Choose whole grains over refined grains (whole-grain bread versus white bread) because whole grains are more nutritious and satisfying.
  • Avoid beverages with empty calories such as soft drinks and juice drinks, which are mostly sugar.
  • Avoid fancy blended, sweetened coffee drinks and instead choose a latte with nonfat or low-fat milk.

Rita A.Frickel, R.D., dietitian with The Cardiac Center of Creighton University, recommends that you:

  • Plan your holiday meals as if they were an expense account.  Prioritize the foods you REALLY enjoy and pass on those ordinary foods that you can eat year round.  My mantra is love it or leave it. (For example, I will readily bypass the mashed potatoes so that I can enjoy the stuffing since I only eat stuffing  for the holidays).
  • Fill up on fiber fruits and vegetables.  Keep the relish plate or a fresh fruit platter out between meals and folks will snack on that rather than the candies, pies or other desserts that may be left out.
  • Shave calories by making simple swaps when preparing your holiday foods.  Nearly all recipes can be modified by reducing either fat or sugar.  For example, products with a creamy texture that calls for cream cheese, Sour cream, cream, half and half or evaporated milk can be modified immensely by using the reduced fat or fat free version.  For example dips can be made with low-fat or fat-free cream cheese or sour cream, pumpkin pie can be altered by using skim evaporated milk and substitute Splenda for all or part of the sugar, and potatoes can be mashed with fat- free half and half. 
  • Listen to your body.  Eat when you are starting to feel hungry and push away from the table when youre satisfied!!!  Remember that it takes approximately 20 minutes for your brain to receive the signal that you are full, so eat slowly.

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