Staying Healthy and on Track During the Holiday Season

Debbie Archer | School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences

The holiday season finds many of us preparing grocery lists and coordinating family gatherings, Teresa Henson, Extension specialist-program outreach coordinator for the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff’s School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences, said.

“Between the hustle and bustle of shopping and prepping for big feasts, we can quickly get stressed and lose sight of the reason for the season itself,” Henson said. “The holidays allow us to reflect on the things we are most thankful for. And although being thankful is great we still need to remember to stay healthy, which means portion control and physical activity.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend the following tips for eating healthy and staying on track during the holidays.

1. Holiday-Proof Your Plan

You may need help to control what food you’re served, and you’re going to see other people eating tempting treats. Meet the challenges armed with a plan:

  • Don’t skip meals to save up for a feast. 
  • Invited to a party? Offer to bring a healthy dish along.
  • If you have a sweet treat, cut back on other carbs (like potatoes and bread) during the meal.
  • If you slip up, get right back to healthy eating with your next meal.

2. Outsmart the Buffet

When you face a spread of delicious holiday food, make healthy choices easier:

  • Have a small plate of the foods you like best, and then move away from the buffet table.
  • Start with vegetables to take the edge off your appetite.
  • Eat slowly. It takes at least 20 minutes for your brain to realize you’re full.
  • Avoid or limit alcohol. If you do have an alcoholic drink, have it with food. 

3. Fit in Favorites

• No food is on the naughty list. Choose the dishes you love and can’t get any other time of year, like Aunt Edna’s pumpkin pie. Slow down, savor a small serving, and count it in your meal plan.

4. Keep Moving

• You’ve got a lot on your plate this time of year, and physical activity can get crowded out. But being active is your secret holiday weapon; it can help make up for eating more than usual and reduce stress during this most stressful time of year. Get moving with friends and family; for example, consider going on a walk after a holiday meal.

5. Get Your Zzz’s

• Going out more and staying out later often means cutting back on sleep. Aim for seven to eight hours per night to guard against mindless eating.
“Staying healthy and on track is very important,” Henson said, “but remember to enjoy yourself, your friends and your family during this precious holiday season.”

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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