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Holiday Health Month Newsletter

The holidays are here and with them come the challenges of maintaining a healthy diet and balance.  While packed with tradition and gatherings with family and friends, this festive time of year is also extremely stressful.  This month we focus on strategies to maintain healthy eating habits and manage stress.  We would also like to wish you safe and happy holidays and a healthy new year! 

Basic Tips

The holidays are a time when it is easy to kiss your healthy eating habits good bye.  However, it is during this time more than ever we need to be aware of what constitutes a good choice and how to stay on track.  The American Heart Association has a few tips that may aid in these efforts.

  • Choose wisely, even with healthier foods. Ingredients and nutrient content can vary by brand and preparation.
  • Compare nutrition information on package labels and select products with the lowest amounts of sodium, added sugars, saturated fat and trans  fat, and no partially hydrogenated oils.
  • Watch your calorie intake. To maintain weight, consume only as many calories as you use up through physical activity. If you want to lose weight, consume fewer calories or burn more calories.
  • Eat reasonable portions. Often this is less than you are served.
  • Eat a wide variety of foods to get all the nutrients your body needs.
  • Prepare and eat healthier meals at home. You’ll have more control over ingredients.
  • Look for the Heart-Check mark to easily identify foods that can be part of an overall healthy diet.

Smart Substitutes

Baking

  • Instead of butter, substitute equal parts unsweetened applesauce.
  • Use a lower-calorie sugar substitute.
  • Substitute low-fat or skim milk instead of whole or heavy cream.
  • Instead of using only white flour, use half white and half whole-wheat flour.
  • Instead of adding chocolate chips or candies, use dried fruits
  • Use extracts like vanilla, almond & peppermint to add flavor instead of butter or sugar.

Cooking

  • Use vegetable oils instead of butter. 
  • Use whole-grain breads, rice and pasta instead of white.
  • Bake, grill or steam vegetables instead of frying.
  • Instead of whole milk or heavy cream, substitute low-fat or fat-free/skim milk.
  • Compare labels of your holiday ingredients, and choose products with lower amounts of sodium and added sugars.

Beverages

  • Instead of alcohol in mixed drinks, use club soda.
  • Mix 100-percent juice with water or use freshly squeezed juice instead of adding sugar to mixed drinks.
  • Instead of using heavy cream or whole milk in dairy-based drinks, use low-fat or skim milk.
  • Use spices and fruit, like cinnamon, cloves and cranberries instead of using sugar to sweeten cider.

Essential Holiday Strategies

No single tip or trick will help you keep off those pounds during the holiday season.  It takes a planned effort and an understanding of the unique challenges this season brings.  RealSimple.com put together a fantastic list below of 9 strategies to help .

  • Eat mindfully
    – Eat the best-for-you offering first
    – Stand more than an arm’s length away from munchie food
    – Concentrate on your meal, enjoying every bite, while you’re eating
  • Don’t go hungry to the mall
    – Plan your shopping route so you don’t pass the Cinnabon stand a dozen times to avoid the sights and smells that trigger hunger
    – Choose a proper restaurant over the grab-and-go food court whenever you can where you can sit and relax rather than be rushed and possibly over eat
  • Track what you eat
    – Weigh yourself every few days to guide your actions
    – Keep a food journal that shows you where your slip ups are occurring, knowledge is power
  • Eat before going to a party
    – Eat breakfast
    – Limit the number of high calorie foods on your plate and fill your plate with the healthier options
    – Pop a sugar-free mint to curb appetite
  • Keep healthy snacks at the office
    – Keep them out of sight but easily accessible
  • Manage portion size
    – Use smaller plates and pour drinks into tall skinny glasses
  • Control your environment
    – Eat with a small group and next to a healthy eater to increase your chances of making good choices
  • Keep up the exercise
    – If theres no time for a long workout, try bouts of 15 minutes to keep yourself moving
  • Choose indulgences wisely
    – Pick items that are special to this time of year like your mom’s cookies rather than sampling everything the season offers

5 Ways to Reduce Holiday Stress

Many people look forward to the holiday season and the start of a new year. It often provides an opportunity to spend quality time with family, take a few days off from work, or go on a winter getaway.  While the holiday season can be a fun and joyous time, it can also be very stressful. The combined effort of shopping, attending social events, and entertaining guests can quickly become too much to handle. A poll by the American Psychological Association shows that 8 out of 10 people anticipate increased stress over the holidays .  Below are 5 ways to reduce that stress from healthline.com. 

  1. Set a spending budget to reduce financial anxiety
  2. Get plenty of exercise which is a natural stress reliever
  3. Keep it simple, and do not set unrealistic expectations of yourself
  4. Take time for yourself in a time that is usually filled with guests and social activities
  5. Pick your battles with family and guests to not let other’s actions rob your joy

Manage your Stress

You may not be able to entirely remove the stress in your life, especially around the holidays. But the good news is that there are ways to control and reduce it. Here are some you may find helpful.  Below are some tips from that can help reduce your stress levels.
Breathe
That’s right. Before reacting, take a minute to pause. Breathe in and out. Let your mind take a break, so it can process what’s going on. You’ll then be better able to respond.
Set priorities
It can help to think and plan ahead, instead of reacting and rushing around at the last minute. Make a list of tasks you need to do, and prioritize what is most important, then set about accomplishing them .

Set limits
Yes , you want to tackle that extra work project.  Maybe you made promises to run errands for your family. But try to end that knots-in-your-stomach feeling. Notice when you strive to take on more than is humanly possible. Be realistic so you can head off undue pressure and stress

Exercise
We all know how exercise can improve your health. But it can also help you feel better by lowering your stress. Take a walk, run, swim, dance, do yoga. Stay active! It has a calming effect and releases endorphins which are the “feel good” hormones.

Ease your fears
The mind often worries about things that will likely never happen. Take a breath and focus your attention on the present. Ask yourself how likely it is that something you can’t handle will happen.  Live in the moment.

Talk to someone
Talking to someone you trust can do wonders for lowering stress. It may even help you solve a problem. But talk to your doctor or seek counseling if your stress becomes overwhelming.

Ease the Holiday Stress

Part of the stress of the holiday season is preparing food for guests.  You want to keep the meals delicious without spending hours or packing them full of sugar and fat.  Below are two sample recipes that can help you keep your guests full, healthy and happy.

Caprese Skewer

A simple appetizer to awake the Italian roots in all your holiday guests.

Use 2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes, 1 pound fresh mozzarella, and 1 bunch fresh basil.
Thread ingredients onto skewers.
Sprinkle each skewer with sea salt and black pepper; Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil.

 

Pumpkin Red Lentil Chili

Don’t be intimidated by the long ingredient list.  Simply dump all the ingredients into a crock pot, put it on low for a few hours and come back to a healthy, hearty dinner .

* 2 15-ounce cans kidney beans, drained
* 2 cups vegetable broth
* 2 15-ounce cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes
* 1 cup dry red lentils
* ½ of a chopped yellow onion
* 1 medium jalapeno pepper, minced
* 1 tablespoon chili powder
* 2 teaspoons cumin
* 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
* 1/8 teaspoon cloves
* 1 teaspoon kosher salt
* Assorted optional toppings such as diced tomatoes, diced onions or (if not vegan) sour cream, shredded cheddar or gruyere cheese.

  1. Add all ingredients into a 3 quart slow cooker.
  2. Cook on high for 4-5 hours or on low for 8-10 hours
  3. Serve with assorted toppings if desired.