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NCHPAD - Building Healthy Inclusive Communities

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Wishing You a Happy - and Healthy - Holiday Season


Staying healthy during the holidays? Is that even possible...or enjoyable?

The National Institutes of Health report that Americans gain about a pound during the winter holiday season. A pound may not sound like much, but this extra weight accumulates through the years and may be a major contributor to obesity later in life. Remember, obesity doesn't occur quickly; pounds accumulate slowly over time.

During the holiday season, maintaining healthy habits can seem downright daunting. Between shopping, family obligations, and lack of sleep, many people throw up their hands and give in to all kinds of indulgences, only to be filled with regret later.

We all know that there are benefits of a healthy lifestyle. Maintaining healthy habits, such as eating right and exercising, can lower the risk of some forms of cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. For wheelchair-users, health benefits can also include a decreased incidence of pressure sores, urinary tract infections, and urinary stones.

It's no secret that once you let healthy habits slide, it's difficult to get back on track. As the holiday season draws near, it's important to have a plan for how to stay healthy. Without a plan, you are bound to be disappointed. Here are some tips for creating your plan.

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Holiday Parties

Many people believe that they should skip eating earlier in the day before going to a holiday party that evening in order to 'save' calories. However, going to a party hungry can set you up for disaster. On the day of a holiday party, eat a healthy breakfast and lunch. This will help to keep you from feeling ravenous at the party and you'll be better able to control your cravings.

Avoid standing next to the buffet table. Take a small plate and choose one or two items as your indulgences - and take small portions of them. Fill the rest of your plate with healthy items, like veggies.

Being in social settings around friends and family has been shown to cause people to eat more. In a study conducted at Pennsylvania State University, researchers found that dining in a group caused the average person to eat 44% more calories than they normally would eat alone. Be aware that when you are socializing, it's easy to lose track of what and how much you're eating.

Holiday Spirits

The holidays are a festive time and alcohol is often a part of the celebration. However, too much alcohol can be disastrous when it comes to following a healthy diet. Alcohol can be a double-edged sword - not only does it contain unneeded calories, but it also encourages you to eat more. It does this by lowering your blood sugar, causing you to feel hungry.

Alcoholic drinks contain a lot of calories. Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram, compared with 4 calories per gram for carbohydrates and protein and 9 calories per gram for fat. In addition to the alcohol itself, mixers, like soft drinks, juices, and even tonic water, are calorie-dense.

If you plan to enjoy a holiday cocktail, remember to avoid drinking on an empty stomach so that alcohol will absorb more slowly into your bloodstream. Also, pay close attention to your alcohol intake and remember to drink plenty of water.

Healthy Cooking

Many holiday recipes are full of fat and sugar. However, don't be afraid to lighten up your traditional recipes. You'll be surprised that you (and your guests) won't even know the difference! The following table from Mayo Clinic offers excellent suggestions for recipe ingredient substitutions.

If your recipe calls for:

Try substituting:

All-purpose (plain) flour

Whole-wheat flour for half of the called-for all-purpose flour in baked goods

Note: Whole-wheat pastry flour is less dense and works well in softer products such as cakes and muffins.

Bacon

Canadian bacon, turkey bacon, smoked turkey, or lean prosciutto (Italian ham)

Butter, shortening, or oil in baked goods

Applesauce or prune puree for half of the called-for butter, shortening, or oil

Note: To avoid dense, soggy, or flat baked goods, don't substitute oil for butter or shortening.

Butter, margarine, shortening, or oil to prevent sticking

Cooking spray or nonstick pans

Creamed soups

Fat-free milk-based soups, mashed potato flakes, or pureed carrots, potatoes, or tofu for thickening agents

Dry bread crumbs

Rolled oats or crushed bran cereal

Eggs

Two egg whites or ¼-cup egg substitute for each whole egg

Enriched pasta

Whole-wheat pasta

Evaporated milk

Evaporated skim milk

Fruit canned in heavy syrup

Fruit canned in its own juices or in water, or fresh fruit

Fruit-flavored yogurt

Plain yogurt with fresh fruit slices

Full-fat cream cheese

Fat-free or low-fat cream cheese, Neufchatel or low-fat cottage cheese pureed until smooth

Full-fat sour cream

Fat-free or low-fat sour cream, plain fat-free or low-fat yogurt

Ground beef

Extra-lean or lean ground beef, chicken, or turkey breast (make sure no poultry skin has been added to the product)

Iceberg lettuce

Arugula, chicory, collard greens, dandelion greens, kale, mustard greens, spinach, or watercress

Margarine in baked goods

Trans fat-free butter spreads or shortenings that are specially formulated for baking

Note: If ingredient lists include the term 'partially hydrogenated,' it may have up to 0.5 grams of trans fat in one serving. To avoid dense, soggy or flat baked goods, don't substitute diet, whipped, or tub-style margarine for regular margarine.

Mayonnaise

Reduced-calorie mayonnaise-type salad dressing or reduced-calorie, reduced-fat mayonnaise

Meat as the main ingredient

Three times as many vegetables as meat on pizzas or in casseroles, soups, and stews

Oil-based marinades

Wine, balsamic vinegar, fruit juice, or fat-free broth

Salad dressing

Fat-free or reduced-calorie dressing or flavored vinegars

Seasoning salt, such as garlic salt, celery salt, or onion salt

Herb-only seasonings, such as garlic powder, celery seed or onion flakes, or use finely chopped herbs or garlic, celery, or onions

Soups, sauces, dressings, crackers, or canned meat, fish or vegetables

Low-sodium or reduced-sodium versions

Soy sauce

Sweet-and-sour sauce, hot mustard sauce, or low-sodium soy sauce

Syrup

Pureed fruit, such as applesauce, or low-calorie, sugar-free syrup

Table salt

Herbs, spices, fruit juices, or salt-free seasoning mixes or herb blends

White bread

Whole-wheat bread

White rice

Brown rice, wild rice, bulgur, or pearl barley

Whole milk

Reduced-fat or fat-free milk

Table Source: Mayo Clinic (http://www.mayoclinic.com)

Enjoying a healthy holiday season now will set you up for continued success in the New Year!



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